Thanksgiving is hands down one of my favorite holidays. The older I get, the more it has overtaken Christmas as my fave. It truly is the quintessential family day. And though this year’s celebration will of course be different, that still doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy some great Thanksgiving wines.
As someone that buys a few pricier wines to lay down and enjoy on special occasions, I can tell you that Thanksgiving is not the day to crack them open. Seriously, this is not the day to pull out those first growths or grand crus. I have those wines at times when they can truly be the star. What I look for in Thanksgiving wines is something that can play well with others. After all, the food is the star and you don’t want your wine upstaging, let alone competing with, the myriad of flavors that are found on the table.
One of the most important characteristics I look for in Thanksgiving wines is acidity. That, and of course I look for a wine that I like. I’m hardcore traditional when it comes to the Thanksgiving feast (don’t roll up with something new!) so we have the turkey, the ham, the cornbread dressing, the dirty rice, the sweet potatoes, the macaroni and cheese, the mustard greens, and on and on. All of that stuff is heavy! This is why we need lighter-bodied, acid-driven wines that will lighten the load and cleanse the palate. But its not just acid. Balance is your friend here and you want a little richness and body in the wines as well. Lower alcohol wines are even better! I don’t know about y’all, but it tends to be a long day and we start imbibing pretty much when we get up! Here are a few picks of Thanksgiving wines that can handle whatever you throw at them.
If you go by my mantra, bubbly goes with everything! Sparkling wines cut through the heaviness of dinner and cleanse the palate readying you for the next bite. And they are festive too! As I mentioned above, I like a little “body” with mine and don’t go for the Brut Nature or Zero Dosage types for a meal such as this. Brut or Extra Dry wines are my my picks.
Faire La Fête Brut Rosé ($20) – Hailing from Limoux, which is where sparkling wine actually originated (not Champagne), this one gives you champagne quality at a fraction of the cost. Strawberry cream and biscotti with vibrancy and an easygoing roundness. I’m also a fan of the traditional brut. Purchase from here.
Ferrari Brut Rosé ($36) – A fellow blogger recommended Ferrari sparkling wines to me years ago and I’ve been drinking them ever since. Smooth, round, and fresh with almonds and mandarin. I love this with so many things, even pizza! If you can’t find locally, it’s almost always easy to find on wine.com.
Medici Ermete Quercioli Secco Reggiano Lambrusco ($10-15) – For those looking for a touch more sugar (and for folks like me that want lower alcohol), look no further than Lambrusco. I’ve been singing the praises of these quite food friendly wines for some time now and producer Medici Ermete is one of the best in the business. The prefect combo of acidity + lower alcohol. People in Houston should check with Roma which is where I got mine.
But not just any white wine. Don’t bring the over-oaked buttery stuff, but I also personally don’t want the tooth tingling zingers that I’d reserve for oysters. And this is coming from an acid head! Again, I want acid, but I also want something with some structure and body.
DeLille Cellars Chaleur Blanc ($38) – This has become one of my fave white wines period, after a visit there several years ago. This wine is so versatile, that it’s even fabulous with gumbo! And and was one of my wines of the year for 2019. Rich and nicely textured and balanced by bright acidity, it will love just about anything on the table. I’ve purchased at both Spec’s and Total Wine.
Nik Weis Urban Riesling, Mosel ($14) – Don’t be that person that misunderstands Riesling. It’s not all sweet, and even if it is, so what?! It hurts my heart when people shy away from Riesling with a bit of residual sugar. A delicate, sweet(ish) wine balanced by high levels of acidity is one of the most gorgeous and intriguing sips ever. But if you’re adamant, there are bone dry versions as well. Seriously, if there was ever a classic Thanksgiving wine, it would have to be Riesling. In fact, Riesling is one of the best food wines, period, IMHO. I have this particular one at least once a year as it’s an easy peasy drinker and what a classic Mosel Riesling should be. Light-bodied with delicate fruit and minerality. I buy mine locally at HEB while grocery shopping.
Nik Weis St. Urbans-Hof Wiltinger Kabinett Riesling ($20) – Big brother to the Urban Riesling above, I was thrilled to get this one as a sample to try. This Nik Weis steps it up a notch and comes from older vines in the well-known Wiltinger village in the Saar Valley. Juicy fruit, subtle spice with bright acidity a little more weight than the sibling Urban above. Apparently this one can be found at HEB as well. And for more info about how to know what to look for when buying Riesling, check out my article here.
‘Rosé All Year’ is very much a thing and that becomes so apparent during holiday meals. Straddling the fence to help the undecided voters, it’s hard to ever go wrong with the pink stuff.
Big Table Farm Laughing Pig Rosé ($32) – There is nothing I don’t like from Big Table Farm and that includes their rosé. Though they have a Chardonnay that almost brought a tear to my eye. I got this one from local shop Vinology, but I also buy wine directly from their website. With a little more oomph than some of the lighter Provençal wines, it’s full of wild red berries and a little orange and lemon zest.
Kruger Rumpf Spätburgunder (Pinot Noir) Dry Rosé, Nahe ($19) – In addition to the always lovely Riesling, other German Wines have been catching my fancy more and more, including the rosé. Just like Riesling, these are such food friendly wines as I got to see first hand in a recent tasting. Gorgeous mineral notes along fresh watermelon, raspberry, honeydew, and lemon. One of those true sleeper finds on wine.com.
Minuty Prestige Rosé ($27-30) – Another one of those annual purchases for me, Château Minuty is an iconic Provençal producer. And while I’ve bought their “M de Minuty Rosé” at Wine.com, Target, and a couple of other places, this was my first experience with the Prestige rosé, which was sent to me as a simple to try. It seems to have a little more fruit intensity and is a little rounder than the “M” and instantly makes me want to put it on the dining room table. This one may kick the “M” to the curb! Available at Wine.com.
One of the classic go-to wines, and with good reason, Pinot Noir is often touted as one of the quintessential Thanksgiving wines. Plus, it’s a great option for the red wine lovers. You know those people who claim not to like white wine.
Gary Farrell Pinot Noir, Fort Ross – Seaview ($75) – I’ve long been a fan of Gary Farrell Pinot for years, and a recent opportunity to do a comparative tasting of their Pinots from a variety of vineyards was a real treat. I gained such an appreciation for their deft hand at Pinot. And I love the Fort Ross – Seaview for Thanksgiving because of its structure. Surely even the “big red” lovers can’t balk at this one! Purchase on their website.
Gryphon Crest Spätburgunder (Pinot Noir), Baden ($15-17) – Since I’m loving on Germany, I had throw in a Spätburgunder, which is the German name for Pinot Noir. The Gryphon Crest provides tremendous value and is the lightest bodied of the Pinots on my list. It has all the red fruits – cherry, raspberry, and cranberry and also provides some rich black fruits as well. Silky smooth with earth and mineral notes round out this dangerously easy sipper. Another great find on wine.com.
Soléna Estate Grand Cuvée Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley ($30) – One of the few positive things about this year’s pandemic is that local restaurants here in Houston are able to provide their wines to go! To go y’all! Like curbside wine! I’ve bought the bulk of my wine from local restaurants and mom and pop shops this year as they’ve certainly been hurting. As he knows I’m a big fan of Willamette Valley, local somm Sean Beck of Backstreet Cafe recommended this one and he’s never steered me wrong. If Backstreet is out, you can also get from wine.com. Tart cherries, mushroom, and a touch of cola. Love, love this one.
And of course, it’s hard to ever go wrong with Beaujolais. But not the Nouveau. Go for Cru Beaujolais instead. For more, check out my Beaujolais primer here.
For me, these reds are as heavy as it gets for Thanksgiving. I save my Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and other bolder wines for another day. Hoping you all enjoy your holiday meals even though they make not look the same as in past years. Let’s just count our blessings. Cheers!
Note: Cover photo courtesy of Shutterstock