It is that time of year again: leaves are changing, the air is crisp and Thanksgiving menus are being planned. In the wine business, this is our Super Bowl. We love nothing more than pairing wines with our guests’ cuisine and in November, we get to shine.
Each year, we start looking for wines to introduce and start collecting labels to fit even the most difficult requests. Some attributes we consider:
1. Low ABV: You’re most likely going to be drinking all day so the lower the alcohol, the more you can have! Plus, high alcohol will be overbearing to most of the flavors of the season.
2. Zero or neutral oak: Too much oak can clash with most foods.
3. Low tannins: Tannic wine can be overpowering and tend to dry our mouths. They pair well with rich, fatty steaks, not delicate white meat.
4. Wines that are “likable”: we want to make sure that all palates at the table are happy! Going to extremes can not only overwhelm but also turn off people who may be less adventurous.
Here are some of our favorite wines to complement your Turkey Day.
Whether you’re drinking Cava, Prosecco, or Champagne, sharing a meal with your favorite people is a time to celebrate and nothing does it better than bubbles. Sparkling wine is the perfect aperitif with your charcuterie board, but also a compliment to many Thanksgiving staples.
Dry sparklings carry a ton of acidity and are perfect for buttery mashed potatoes, but also match fried dishes. The efflorescence works to both cleanse your palate and soften salty items. Look specifically for Brut Nature or Extra Brut wines, these have the lowest sweetness level (bone dry) and have a ton of acidity. Consider something like a Brut, especially for creamy desserts.
A wine to try is NV Mata i Coloma ‘Cupada No.18’ Brut Nature Reserva Cava. This Spanish sparkler is made from Macabeo, Xarel-lo, and Parellada, the classic grapes of Penédes, and is farmed organically with all estate fruit. The producer is small, only making around 500 cases of his Cuveés. The wine is complex and dry with minerality that reflects the limestone soils. The acidity is clean and high with notes of white flowers and citrus.
For Champagne, consider NV Champagne Philippe Gonet Blanc de Blanc ‘3210’ Extra Brut. The name tells the story of this classic wine: aged three years on the lees, two terroirs, one variety (Chardonnay), zero dosage. The nose has a beautiful brioche bouquet with hints of apricot and lime zest.
The darling grape of Sommeliers is popular not only because it’s delicious but also for food versatility. Chenin hails from the Loire Valley in France in familiar regions like Vouvray, Anjou, and Savienneres, but it has also found a home in South Africa and California. Again, chenin possesses acid, which is quintessential in foodability and can be vinified both dry and sweet. This grape would perfectly complement stuffing or dressing. Chenin would not be overpowered by herbs like sage or thyme.
One favorite is Kumusha Chenin Blanc from Breedekloof Valley, Western Cape, South Africa. Winemaker Tinashe Nyumudoka described this wine as “sunshine in a glass” and we couldn’t agree more. The palate is bright and vibrant with great acid, melon, and papaya fruit notes.
Another Chenin to try is Vigneau-Chevreau Cuvee Silex Sec, from Vouvray, France. This wine is as classic as it gets. From a fifth-generation winery that converted to biodynamics nearly 20 years ago, this wine is named for the flinty soils that give it a great mineral palate but also has notes of green apple and pear.
One of the most overlooked for Thanksgiving is rosé. Fall makes people think that rosé goes away with your white pants, but the holidays are a perfect time for pink. Again, ripe acidity and low tannins are important and rosé has both, plus they tend to be lower in alcohol. These attributes help to complement the riches of dishes like green bean casserole and sweet potatoes.
One to consider is anything from Taval. This region in the Rhône Valley, France produces darker wines, which leads people to think it’s sweet when in actuality it makes a more complex palate. Try Domaine Lafond ‘Roc-Epine’ Tavel Rosé. This grenache-based wine hails from one of the oldest estates in the region. It is complex and flavorful with a touch of Asian spice that makes it so perfect for yams.
Another option is Flora and Fauna ‘Idlewild’ Rose from Mendocino, California. This co-fermented blend of Nebbiolo, Dolcetto, and Barbera is produced naturally and has become a favorite recommendation for its foodability. It has structure and acidity with vibrant notes of raspberry, wildflowers, alpine herbs, and orange peel.
When we start to think of red wines for Thanksgiving, it’s important to look back at the rules. We need good acidity, low ABV, and low tannin but also drinkability. Big California cabernets or rich Tempranillo from Rioja would overpower turkey and also add to that need for a nap. Instead, look for softer varietals that hail from cooler climates. Pro-tip: Chill your reds for an hour before serving for even bigger compliments.
Pinot Noir is the number one pairing wine for Thanksgiving but consider Gamay as an alternative. This grape is most well-known from Beaujolais, France but has found a home in Willamette Valley, Oregon. Gamay has range: light to medium bodied, complex, soft, aromatic and fruity, low tannins, and rarely high in alcohol. They join the conversation by matching cranberry sauce yet talking turkey.
A great option is Anne-Sophie Dubois ‘Les Cocottes’ from Fleurie, Beaujolais, France. Anne-Sophie Dubois is known for her crushable Beaujolais. The Beaujolais Cru of Fleurie, where she organically farms, produces some of the best food-friendly gamay. ‘Les Cocottes’ is loaded with flavors of tart cherries, pomegranate juice, and white pepper
Another Gamay perfect for your holiday is Evening Land ‘Seven Springs Vineyard’ Gamay Noir. The cool climate of Oregon has proven to be a perfect match for Gamay and this one produced by Rajat Paar’s Evening Land is one of the best. The wine is unapologetically complex yet refreshing. Its juicy red fruit gives way to crunchy dried herbs and a punchy finish.
Remember, talk to your local wine merchant. Ask them what they are drinking. Thanksgiving is about bringing people together. The wine should be the easy part so when planning, always have on hand more wine than you think you will need. A good rule of thumb per drinking person.
Happy Turkey Day!