Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Unexpected Thanksgiving Wines

It's almost Thanksgiving, and we all know what that means. Sure, turkey is great, whatever. But it really means wine.

One of the most challenging things about picking a wine at Thanksgiving is finding something that will play well with all the myriad of flavors involved. Sweet, savory, spicy, acidic, and fatty goodness are all signs of a celebration, but there is never one wine to rule them all!

Don't choose something expected, like a Beaujolais, this year - pick a surprising wine and impress everyone!


Bubbly is my favorite choice for Thanksgiving. The flexibility is just too perfect, and it adds to the air of celebration. It also leaves the option of mimosas for those who aren't really into the idea of having a glass of wine.

Via Gloria Ferrer
Gloria Ferrer Extra Brut: At about $20 a bottle this bubbly is easy to find and never disappoints. This producer is the California arm of famed Spanish Cava producer Freixenet. They make excellent non-vintage bubbly at a reasonable price. I would recommend this not only for its flexibility, but the depth of flavor is tough to beat in its own right. They also make an excellent Brut Rose for anyone who likes it pink!

Jeaume Serra Cristalino: If I have any occasion that calls for bubbly and I am on a tight budget This is my go-to. Big family? Shallow Wallet? No Problem! They have an extra dry, brut, and a rose, but I dig just the standard brut. This is not a bottle that will change your life, but it is pretty impressive for the under $10 category!

Via Bleasdale.
Sparkling Shiraz: When you think of sparkling reds, many people think of cheap Lambrusco and cringe a little. Thankfully sickly sweet and boring is not a requirement for sparkling reds. I find that in Memphis, a sparkling Shiraz can be hard to locate. Some brands to look for that are a little more common are Bleasdale and Paringa. These wines are super flexible for pairing and the weight of them can appeal to the crowd that only drinks reds. I love using these with a Thanksgiving feast!

Via Dr. L.
Dr. L Sparkling Riesling: This ticks two boxes in my Thanksgiving checklist. It is slightly sweet and deliciously bubbly. On top of that, it is usually very easy to find. Earnst Loosen does Riesling so well, and this is probably my favorite glass of bubbles for Thanksgiving!


Off-Dry Riesling: When you are dealing with such a variety of flavors, just a touch of sweetness in your beverage can make all the difference. The problem you run into looking for wines like this is that they rarely say that they are off-dry on the label. Some producers have opted to using a graph on the label showing the level of sweetness. Some wines to look for include Kung Fu Girl from Charles Smith, one of the Kabinett offerings from Donhoff, Monchoff Spatlesse, Foris Vineyards Riesling from Oregon, and if you can't find any of those, Chateau Ste Michelle makes a bottle that is actually labeled off-dry that's passable.

Via Hugel.
Gewurztraminer: Often considered the bastard of the wine world. This ancient grape variety really gets a chance to shine at the Thanksgiving table. It can be made a little sweet to fully dry, but it's aromatics are what takes center stage in this context. It can be spicy and complex, and it offers a great option when you just don't know what will fit. My favorite examples are from Alsace made by producers like Hugel and Zind Humbrecht, but there are many good options from elsewhere. And while it isn't that exciting, if you just need a magnum bottle, Fetzer makes a cheap one that I have used at Thanksgiving more than once.


Pinot Noir: It isn't my top choice but it is practically canon in wine retail to sell Pinot at Thanksgiving these days. And I do love good Pinot. If I am going for a Pinot at the Thanksgiving table though I like the acidity to really pop. Willamette Valley Vineyards Whole Cluster Pinot Noir does this quite well. It is so light in the glass you might almost think you just poured a rose.

Beaujolais: Cru Beaujolais, the more serious cousin of Beaujolais Nouveau (too expected and usually not that good), is something I would call one of my top picks for a red at the Thanksgiving table. I lean toward selections from Morgon or Fleurie for this purpose. They tend to be somewhat lighter than some of the other Crus and that acidity and regional character really come through. They also tend to be really great values when feeding a group.

Amber here - I've never met a Malbec I didn't like, but this one surprised me! It's also easy to find!
Malbec or Shiraz: Some people who come to Thanksgiving may be hardcore Cabernet enthusiasts who always want the biggest and boldest of reds. I find that South American Malbecs and Aussie Shiraz often satisfy this group at Thanksgiving without taking too much away from the flavor of the feast. The tannins can be a little softer and rounder but the flavor is often big and bold.

Whatever wine you choose, have a great Thanksgiving!

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