Wines

Picking the Right Wine for Thanksgiving

Picking the Right Wine for Thanksgiving
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This time of year, people inevitably start asking for Thanksgiving Day wine suggestions. The typical answer is Pinot Noir or Cote du Rhone, a reasonably priced French blend, because both are easy-drinking and work great with food.

But as entrepreneurs you never do what’s typically recommended, so why start now?

Venture down some different wine aisles this Thanksgiving. Your guests will appreciate you’re inventiveness and it’ll help get the conversation going.

There are few evergreen things to remember though.

  • Don’t break out the expensive stuff. Odds are good the majority of your guests wont appreciate your vintage Burgundy so save it for another day.
  • Pick low-alcohol wines because, let’s face it, you need to be able to drink all day with your mother-in-law sitting across the table.
  • And with that, you’ll need a bunch of bottles on hand and so let’s try to be price-conscious.
  • Finally, regardless of what you pour with dinner, it’s always nice to start your guests with a glass of bubbly. Whether its Champagne, Prosecco or Cava, it all works, so your budget can decide. A glass of bubbly prepares the palate for all the food to come. Plus, it’s pretty darn festive and generally puts people in a good mood. So at least the day starts off on a good note.

Related: Wine Ring App Lets Your Taste Shape Your Ordering

Pick a Red: Try a Good – Not 'New' – Beaujolais.

“Pinot Noir and Cote du Rhone may always be the Thanksgiving go-to's, but try a Cru Beaujolais this year,” suggests Jessica Norris, wine director at Del Frisco's Double Eagle Steak House in New York.

Beaujolais, which is also a small area in France just south of Burgundy, is made from the Gamay grape. “Think of Gamay as Pinot Noir’s little-sister grape,” says Norris, who was recently included in Wine Enthusiast's list of America’s Top 40 under 40 Tastemakers list.

And the Cru wines, or the higher-quality versions, “have soft tannins, lush cherry flavor and a touch of spice, and will pair well with turkey and a variety of sides,” says Mike DeSimone and Jeff Jenssen, a.k.a. the World Wine Guys, who are wine, spirits, food and travel writers. Plus, these wines are lower in alcohol.

The problem is that Beaujolais has gotten a bad name thanks to the annual release of Beaujolais Nouveau, which basically means "this year’s wine.” The Nouveau wines are harvested every September, bottled and shipped worldwide to your favorite wine store by mid-November. 

They’re fine and fun but don’t have the complexity you need for dinner. So instead, pick a bottle that says “Cru” or “Villages” on it. And look for bottle from the villages of Moulin a Vent, Fleurie or Brouilly.

“I think it will kill -- in a good way -- the turkey and fixins',” says Norris.

And the best part is they’re all around $20.

Related: Popping the Cork on Champagne

Pick a White: But Try a Different Grape.

Often people assume red wine should be served with the Thanksgiving meal but don’t overlook your whites. They’re light, refreshing, easy all-day drinking. 

Just try new ones.

Like a Chenin Blanc. South Africa is the largest producer of the Chenin Blanc grape. The first Chenin Blanc grapes were found in France but South Africa basically owns it now because it grows so beautifully there.

The wines are light-bodied, like a sauvignon blanc, but thanks to the land and wine-production methods, they have more zest than the French versions. South African Chenin Blancs are slowly getting the attention they deserve, but for now, they’re still really under-valued.

Consider the 2014 Mulderbosch Chenin Blanc Steen Op Hout for a mere $13. The wine sort of has a green hue. You can smell the minerality and taste the fruit on the back end. This is an easy bottle to drink (or finish).

Or Ken Forrester’s The FMC Chenin Blanc2013, which retails for closer to $30. It's rich and weightier than the Mulderbosch, but it's crisp and has a long finish. Forrester is a wine icon in South Africa and his wines were even served at Nelson Mandela's 85th birthday party.

Added bonus: Both wines are screw tops, which makes opening bottles all day a breeze.

Otherwise travel across the ocean to Italy and meet some more new white grapes.  Italian whites are often overlooked because of the over-powering Brunellos, Barolos and Super Tuscans. But their whites are so refreshing.

Consider Frescobaldi Ammiraglia Massovivo Vermentino Toscana IGT at around $20. The Vermentino grape is one of my favorites and while the Marchese de’ Frescobaldi family also is know for its reds, their property in southern Tuscany is banging out this beautiful white wine that will work with everything from the vegetables to the required pumpkin pie.

Arnaldo-Caprai Grecante Grechetto dei Colli Martani DOC, also around $20, is made from a lesser-known grape called the Grechetto. It’s typically used in blends and dessert wines, but the Arnaldo-Caprai winery in Montefalco – which is basically smack in the middle of the country – has decided to go bold and produce a single varietal with it.  Again, great with food, full of minerality, a fun alternative to your typical Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.

So go be adventurous. Try something new. The holidays often become stressful but picking out wine shouldn’t be.

Related: Why Large-Format Wines Are a Good Bet