Thanksgiving Wine Strategies

Thanksgiving tableIf you are trying to find the very best wines to pair perfectly with your traditional Thanksgiving dinner, we have one piece of advice: Give up. If your family puts turkey, stuffing, sweat potatoes, gravy and cranberry sauce on the table all at once and just lets everyone dig in, then you simply cannot pick one wine that will “pair” – meaning enhance and be enhanced by – the huge range of flavors and textures on everyone’s plate.

There’s a certain freedom in knowing you’ve already “failed” to pick the perfect pairing wines for Thanksgiving: instead, you get to pick out what you want to drink! The only caution: traditional turkey day foods can make some wines taste bad, or at least a lot less good than they should. For the most part red Bordeaux varietals (Cabernet, Merlot, Malbec) and oaky wines in general (including Chardonnay) get a little beat up by cranberry sauce and sweet winter vegetable casseroles.

We’re here and ready to help you pick out wines that will make your Thanksgiving as tasty and fun as can be, so don’t hesitate to ask us for help. And, if you’re looking for a little general guidance, here are a few different wine strategies along with selections for each.

Light and Refreshing
If you feel Thanksgiving dinner is almost too much of a good thing, lighter, more zippy wines can help keep you refreshed and going strong through all the big flavors. Wines with good fruit but a bit less alcohol and a bit more acidity do the trick here. For whites consider a zippy Pinot Grigio or Riesling, perhaps with a little touch of sweetness from Germany or dry examples from Austria. For reds, cool-climate Pinot Noir will certainly shine, whether from France, Oregon, or even high-elevation coastal California sites. And, of course, Gamay from Beaujolais is a classic. See our Light and Refreshing Recommendations here.

Thanksgiving redGo Big or Go Home
You’ve got a lot of big flavors on the table, so why not put equally big flavors in your wine glass? While it’s best to avoid a lot of oak – trust me: oak and cranberry are not a happy match! – you can still find plenty of heavyweight choices that will go toe-to-toe with the food. For whites, Alsace or Oregon Pinot Gris are classic Thanksgiving choices, but we’ve had just as much fun with big, later-harvested Grüner Veltliner and even buttery Chardonnay. And rich, creamy, spicy Gewürztraminer is always fun.

For reds, Bordeaux varietals – Cabernet, Merlot, Malbec, etc. – don’t usually shine, but richer California Pinot Noirs will do well, as will Zinfandel, Spanish Priorat, and even Brunello di Montalcino. We’ve drunk all of those over the years, but Chateauneuf du Pape remains our favorite big wine for the big bird. See our Big and Bold Recommendations here.

Champagne Pink PourBring on the Bubbles
When in doubt, drink fizz! Especially sparkling wines that have a bit of richness or even nuttiness to complement the fine fruit and refreshing bubbles. Top-notch Cava and even sparkling Grüner Veltliner work great here, as do Champagnes with a little toasty oak or a bit of pink color. There are plenty of great choices here, but none better than Jean Vesselle Brut Oeil De Perdrix NV! See our Best Bubbly Recommendations here.

American Classics for the Classic American Meal
It’s an American holiday, so drinking American wines makes a lot of sense! For reds, Pinot Noir from California or warmer vintages/sites in Oregon is always a great choice, and Zinfandel is a classic Thanksgiving match. And, don’t forget “Rhone Ranger” blends featuring Syrah, Grenache and more! For whites, Oregon Pinot Gris certainly works, as does spicy Gewürztraminer and low or no-oak Chardonnay. And, don’t forget the bubbles! See our All-American Recommendations here.

Make Aunt Martha Happy
Most families have at least one person at the Thanksgiving table who is an infrequent wine drinker who can be challenged by some traditional Thanksgiving wine selections. Given them a glass of something soft, fruity, and possibly even a tad bit sweet and watch them smile! If you think they’d like something on the drier side, try a good value, no-oak, Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, Gamay or Pinot Noir. On the slightly sweeter side, German Riesling is often recommended, and it can work but can also be a tad too acidic for some. A richer Gewürztraminer is great, as are white blends that include a touch of viognier and/or muscat. And, it’s hard to go wrong with fizzy Moscato or the utterly addictive semi-sweet, semi-sparking, red Fracchia Voulet. See our Easygoing Recommendations here.

Save Your Money for Black Friday!
Maybe you’ve got quite a crowd for turkey day or perhaps you’re saving up for a bit of Black Friday binge shopping. Sometimes you need a bunch of delicious Thanksgiving-friendly bottles at a budget price. We’ve got you covered with everything from crisp Pinot Grigio to gutsy Cotes du Rhone and beyond. See our Best Value Thanksgiving Recommendations here.

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Finding Value in Sablet’s Soils in the Rhone

Sablet

Sablet, France

Chateauneuf du Pape, Gigondas, Vacqueyras, Lirac – the big names of France’s Southern Rhone region turn out some of the most exciting Grenache-based red wines in the world. But with growing fame comes growing prices, so value seekers need to get off the Rhone’s main wine path a bit and explore some of the Valley’s lesser-known villages, vineyards, and vigneron.

Which is why we were at the bi-annual Rhone Valley wine show in Avignon last March: looking for value. We found it in Ventoux, Vinsobre, Plan de Dieu and – in this case – in the slightly obscure Cotes du Rhone Village of Sablet.

The name refers to the village’s sandy soils (Sablet = Sand) dotted with patched of clay, a soil pattern shared with Gigondas which rises up just to the south of Sablet. As in Gigondas, Sablet’s soils drain water very, very, quickly, forcing vines to drive their roots deep into the earth in search of water and nutrients. It’s a touch warmer here than in Gigondas, giving more ripeness and supple textures but still showing better than average minerality and power.

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Meeting Winemaker Pablo Hocht and the Avignon Rhone Show

Young Pablo Hocht, assistant winemaker at St. Cosme in Gigondas, has done a brilliant job of capturing and celebrating Sablet’s potential – if on a micro-scale! – in this luscious 2013 Cotes du Rhone Villages Sablet.

We’ve tasted a lot of Rhone reds made with less care and delivering much less pleasure but still somehow selling for $30+. The value in this satisfying, honest, and just plain delicious red is off the charts. Get some while you can.

 

Dom De Creve Coeur CdR Villages Sablet