Essential Wines for Thanksgiving

BY Montana Rae

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The Turkey Day table delivers a wild spread of flavor, texture, and tradition. Whether you’re celebrating with family or friends, everyone has their way of creating a unique holiday experience. Here are four essential wine styles that have a place on every Thanksgiving table.

When selecting wine, it’s best to have a few options to enjoy with the feast. So many things are happening on that table – savory, salty, sweet, veggie, creamy dishes, and more. Finding just one wine that pairs with everything is next to impossible. Instead, we provide options to fit your budget and palate.

Lees-Aged Sparkling Wines

Gruet Blanc de Blancs | New Mexico | Under $20

Schramsberg Blanc de Blancs | Napa Valley | Under $50

These wines tend to be very high in acid, a component that's friendly for food pairing, as it cleanses the palate with every sip.
Gruet Blanc de Blancs

The holiday meal calls for the rich, layered, toasty profile found in lees-aged sparkling wines. Unlike the fruity, summery style of Prosecco,  wines made in the traditional champagne method age in the bottle with the dead yeast, or “lees,” cells left behind by the fermentation. These dead cells impart a rich texture and yeasty aromas of brioche or toasted bread to the wines. Wines aged in contact with the lees can age in a wine cellar for years or even decades.

Sparkling wines like Prosecco don’t age in contact with lees, and the resulting wines are fruity and fresh with none of the complexity of bottle-aged wines. They are intended to be consumed young and don’t improve with age.

These wines tend to be very high in acid, a component that’s friendly for food pairing, as it cleanses the palate with every sip. Thanksgiving is an excellent time for outstanding domestic bubbles.

Off-Dry Riesling

Disruption Riesling | Columbia Valley, Washington | Under $20

Château Montelena Potter Valley Riesling | Mendocino, California | Under $50

 High in fruity natural acidity, typically low in alcohol, and able to age for decades in the bottle — Riesling has it all.
Château Montelena Potter Valley Riesling

Riesling [reese-ling] is the Queen of Grapes and is one of the world’s most versatile white grapes. The wines come in various styles, from refreshingly bone-dry to lusciously sweet. High in fruity natural acidity, typically low in alcohol, and able to age for decades in the bottle — Riesling has it all. Not to mention, it’s one of the most classic wines for Thanksgiving.

If super sweet wine isn’t for you, give an off-dry Riesling a try with the feast this year. It’s the ideal wine for the flurry of flavors happening on the table. It works with the sweet stuff, the savory bites, the veggies, and the turkey. Few wines are better equipped to stand up to the range of flavors the meal presents.

Turkey Day aside, Riesling is superb with spicy Asian dishes. The subtle sweetness of an off-dry style provides a necessary reprieve from the intense spice of the dish, and the acidity keeps me coming back for another bite. If pairing Riesling with Thanksgiving doesn’t make you a convert, at least give it a shot next time you order Pad Thai.

Bold Rosé

Château Trinquevedel Tavel Rosé | Rhône Valley, France | Under $25

Tiberio Cerasuolo d’ Abruzzo | Abruzzo, Italy | Under $30

A bold, dark rosé is a beautiful compromise between white and red wine and can transform your tasting experience with a touch of tannin, intensity, and complexity you won’t find in a pale pink wine.
Tiberio Cerasuolo d’ Abruzzo

A bold, dark rosé is a beautiful compromise between white and red wine and can transform your tasting experience with a touch of tannin, intensity, and complexity you won’t find in a pale pink wine. While many options exist, two styles to hone in on are the wines made in Tavel in France’s Southern Rhône Valley and the Italian category known as Cerasuolo.

Tavel is unusual as the region produces only rosé made from a blend of grapes. The wines are deep in color, full in flavor, and showstopping with a massive variety of food pairings. In Italy, The word ‘Cerasuolo’ means cherry-colored. If you love red wine and rosé, these bottles offer the best of both worlds.

These wines are an opportunity for poultry to shine. Duck, quail, chicken, and, of course, your Thanksgiving turkey are all outstanding when paired with these serious rosés. The wine has an effect similar to the cranberry sauce. The rush of tangy fruit and acid recharges the palate and keeps you returning for another bite.

Cru Beaujolais

Maison l’Envoyé Gamay NoirMorgon, Beaujolais, France | Under $20

Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais | Fleurie, Beaujolais, France | Under $30

Made of the Gamay grape, the wines of Beaujolais are more fruity and less earthy than Pinot Noir.
Maison l’Envoyé Gamay Noir

Made of the Gamay grape, the wines of Beaujolais are more fruity and less earthy than Pinot Noir – the often favorite red for Thanksgiving.

The word “Cru” in French refers to an area of recognized quality. The Beaujolais region has ten Crus, each with its unique style. The wines are serious yet playful. They benefit from aeration and are lovely with a slight chill. A winemaking technique called carbonic maceration is used, resulting in fruit-forward wines with lots of punchy, lifted flavor.

It’s not Beaujolais Nouveau — the wines that hit the US market every November around Thanksgiving. Those wines are made from grapes harvested the same year as they are released and are intended to act as a preview of the current vintage. They are fruity, light, and forgettable.

Thanksgiving dinner aside, Cru Beaujolais is a charcuterie lover’s dream wine. The mild tannins and juicy fruit flavors work beautifully with salty, cured meats and cheeses, nuts, olives, toasts, and tapenades.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Montana Rae

Montana Rae is a CMS Certified Sommelier and WSET Level III residing in Denver, Colorado. She offers private wine tastings, classes, and dinners at clients’ homes and businesses around Colorado, as well as product recommendations, tips, recipes, and more through her company, The Wine Ship. Montana is also a commercial real estate broker specializing in sales and leasing of restaurant and retail spaces in Denver. Contact Montana at montana@thewineship.com and follow her on Instagram @montana.rae.sommelier

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