Thanksgiving is an interesting holiday for me. I often wish to skip right over it and go right into celebrating Christmas (yes, I'm that person who pulls out the Christmas sweaters & blasts Mariah Carey on Nov. 1st). The one thing that has kept me engaged with Thanksgiving the last couple years has been the opportunity to experiment with wine & food pairings. Everyone pulls out their best recipes to showcase at the dinner table & I get tasked with bringing some great juice to accompany the meal. Now the question presented is: how do you choose wines for a smorgasbord of foods with different, rich flavors, textures & cooking methods? I've got you covered with a few of my favorite grape varietals to bring to the holiday dinner table.
As I may have mentioned in previous posts, I'm not a huge Chardonnay drinker. This is only because I've been burned so many times by some overly buttery, vanilla cotton candy Chards. But not all Chardonnay drinks like liquid butterscotch candy. The type I LIVE for are acid driven, racy, and have a structured backbone of minerality to the finish----that's my kind of Chardonnay. I prefer a white Burgundy or Chablis during this time of year. Both see significantly less time in oak (Chablis's typically are fully vinified in stainless steel to show off all those fresh fruit characteristics), and this aids in preserving the innately beautiful textures of Chardonnay without overdoing it with excessive oak integration. A California Chard can also be an option, but look for one with stainless steel aging or neutral oak aging.
TCW Recommendation: Bacchus Chardonnay $18
An Austrian grape varietal that we often refer to as "Gruvy" here in the wine world. This white wine has a unique character on the palate that veers towards an Asian aesthetic (lychee & lemongrass come to mind in past iterations of the wine I've had). It possesses a mouthwatering acidity & lushness to the palate that allows it to be a great alternative to Sauvignon Blanc, and aids in it being more food friendly. Gruners will show best when paired with a sage rubbed turkey, stuffing or an herbed gravy. Look for Gruner Veltliner from the Austrian region of Kamptal or Niederosterreich for some great examples of this grape varietal.
Handwerk Gruner Veltliner $15-20
The best kinds of celebrations always start with a glass of bubbles. Lambrusco's are pleasantly fizzy, flirtatiously fruit forward sparkling wines that always feel festive due to the intense red color of the juice. I've always added one to the by the glass list during the holidays at restaurants I've managed. Typically we see Lambruscos presented in a sweeter style (I'm looking at you Riunite!) to appeal to the larger demographic of drinkers in the states, but I prefer a drier interpretation of this wine which is more common in it's home region of Emilia-Romagna, Italy. Perfect partner to mac & cheese or even a NC style BBQ turkey!
TCW Recommendation: QuaResiMo $20 or Cantina Della Volta Brut Rosso $25
This wonderfully pink wine doesn't only have to get play in the summer months. Rosés made from Grenache or Syrah make really great cooler weather sippers. They are usually higher in alcohol, but loaded with fresh red fruits & accents of white pepper on the palate. Rosés in general would work well with Turkey or any white meat, veggies or salads. During the holidays I would definitely suggest a rosé with something like mushroom & farro stuffed acorn squash seasoned with sage & thyme.
TCW Recommendation: Curran Grenache Gris $20-22
This grape is sass, spice & everything nice. It translates to "Spicy Traminer" which is reference to the spiced fruit character it has on the palate. Aromas of grated ginger & nutmeg dusted citrus almost always translate over into the palate of this wine. Gewurtztraminers are always my fave bottles to keep around during Christmas time, but also work well for Thanksgiving dinner as well. They tend to have a detectable amount of sugar on the palate and veer more into off dry territory. Look for wines from the region of Alsace for some tasty Gewurtztraminers.
Cattin Sauvage Gewurtztraminer $24
Otherwise known as the "Poor Man's Pinot", is a killer wine to have on hand for Thanksgiving. Barbera is a lighter style red in the same vain as Pinot Noir, but often comes in at a lower price point without losing any quality. Juicy plums & sauteed cherries come to mind when drinking Barbera. It's spiritual home is over in the Piedmont Region of Italy & like almost all Italian wines, it is incredibly food friendly. Pop a bottle open the day after Thanksgiving to have with that turkey & cranberry sauce sandwich for a fancy touch to your lunch.
Castelle di Nieve Barbera d'Alba $26
Of course these are just a couple of my many favorites I wanted to highlight. A holiday that is surrounding food must be accompanied by some equally great wine to sip with family & friends. What are you bringing to the holiday dinner table this year? I'd love to hear about your fave bottles to drink during the holiday season for Thanksgiving or Christmas! As always, remember to support your local wine shops & wine retailers for the absolute best bottles you can't find anywhere else!