I literally received 5 calls yesterday from family and clients about what wines they needed to buy for Thanksgiving. On edge, they were flummoxed about getting the perfect wine for the holiday, especially since many of them were not having a big crowd and wanted to buy something a little more special (since they didn't have to buy a mag of PG for Aunt Betty to have with her ice cubes).
Ok, Wine Rule Number 1 for Thanksgiving is...
there is no rule.
Drink what you like.
Actually, I lied - there is a rule - no big tannins - unless you are cooking the traditional Thanksgiving Day Steak.
Stick with wines that have juicy acidity - both whites and reds, have youthful fruit flavors, and are not crushing your palate with tannins.
That would typically mean wines like Pinot Noir - and any of the Pinot Noir categories / regions: Burgundy, Russian River Valley, Willamette Valley, Central Otago - are my favorites. Really though, Pinot Noir from ANYWHERE is going to be fine. See my recent picks below.
Other reds include - Zinfandel, Gamay, Syrah, Sangiovese
For white wines, I like something that has juicy acidity, fresh fruit - especially apple and pear fruits, perhaps a little touch of oak but not too much, and often slightly lower alcohol - so think traditional wine regions or producers that emulate that style. Grapes for me include Chenin Blanc, Riesling, Pinot Gris and sometimes Chardonnay. Think Burgundy, Alsace, Loire, Willamette Valley and cooler regions of California, such as Santa Barbara. Italian whites will mostly works as well, but I would probably be shopping in the northern regions and for similar varietals as listed above - especially Pinot Gris/Grigio from Alto-Adige or Collio.
Pink wine always work on my table, and for Thanksgiving these are great choices as they are flexible with food selections, and are super easy to drink if you have a mix of drinkas at the table. Pretty much EVERYONE makes a Rose these days, so the world is a source. I often go by color when picking Rose - lighter pinks are of course often lighter and more refreshing - darker pinks are more full in flavor. For Thanksgiving - I would pick something a little darker and robust from say Spain or a New World region, although French Provencal Rose are still quite the rage.
Here are some picks I have tried recently. Go for these or similar selections should be on your list...
Look for wines from Burgundy - a good choice for moderate prices is to go with a producer such as Drouhin or Jadot - maybe not the most exciting wines but certainly reliable - especially at the village level.
For a little more exciting and interesting pick, find a good producer from Nuits-St-Georges or Savigny-Les-Beaune, such as Daniel Rion or Pierre Guillemot.
For Pinot Noir from the USA, check out everyday priced wines like Castle Rock 's Russian River Valley, which should only be about $15, all the way to Hartford Court's RRV, which will be a bit more but also offer more intensity and richness. From Oregon, try the King Estate Estate Pinot for a truly top-level wine.
Can't leave off the Beaujolais, and 2020 was actually a pretty great year for the Nouveau, so find some fresh wines and enjoy. My three best so far are from Brune, Dupeuble and Tete. These are all great, and you should definitely stick with key importers such as Kermit Lynch for classic Beaujolais producers. Want a little more "serious" wine, pick other wines from these guys from any of the recent past vintages, and from Crus such as Morgon, Moulin-a-Vent or Fleurie.
Also, you might find (although rare) a Beaujolais Blanc - better known as Char-do-nnay. Easy drinking and will be basically just like a Macon-Village style. Dupeuble has a good one. No oak.
South Africa and the Loire make the best, and I like wines from both regions for the holidays. South Africa will almost always be a little drier, while the Loire examples from Vouvray and Montlouis will be more fruit driven. Lots of opportunities in each region - I recently had the Terre Brulee from Tania & Vincent Careme - outstanding, with juicy acidity, a touch of citrus and apple, plus good mineral feel. Just may be a little hard to find. Grab a selection form a neighbor winery and you should be in good hands.
Choices again. Germany is King, Alsace makes great ones, the US makes very drinkable styles.
Dr Loosen from the Mosel in Germany is my go-to. Trimbach and Hugel in Alsace. And right now, my little sneaker of a wine from the US is A to Z's fresh and fruit driven Riesling from Oregon.
Always remember, though, that food and wine pairing is not too hard and that MOST wines go with MOST food fairly well. Once you learn a few tricks then the magic can happen and you make some truly outstanding pairings. Thanksgiving is a pretty easy one as there are a lot of different things on the table, but all of them work well with acid- and fruit-driven wines. Obviously if you want to dive into the cellar and pull some older Bordeaux or Burgundy - please let me know where to show up! Happy Day!
ABOUT THE Author
Brian Mitchell runs The New England Wine Academy, and is responsible for the content of this blog. With 30 years of drinks industry experience, Brian has learned a few things, but everyday he is learning more. This blog helps to bring that knowledge to you.