The ultimate dinner party of the year is finally upon us, and while everyone is focused on perfecting their best side dishes or showing off their juiciest turkey, I'm more concerned about what juice will be in my glass throughout the evening! My fellow wine bloggers & media folks are likely all pumping out their list of go-to wines as we speak. One thing that will be the throughline for all of us is this: drink whatever the hell you want. There are so many flavors & textures that will be strewn across the holiday dinner table that you can literally bring any wine and find something that works with it. While I stand behind the idea that any wine you choose will find a home with one dish or another, I do believe that there are key varietals & regions you should consider having on hand.
TURKEY DAY MAINSTAY GRAPES & REGIONS
Gamay - There's even a day dedicated to this grape & the region it hails from that coincides with Thanksgiving! Crushable red fruit character, juicy acidity on the palate, and perfect with a chill----even I can't deny the staying power of Gamay when the bell tolls for turkey day.
Chinon - A region within the Loire Valley that produces gorgeous Cabernet Francs. Slightly herbaceous & bell pepper-esque notes on the nose are accentuated by supple floral & gravel tones on the palate. While Cab Franc, no matter the region it hails from, is one I'd recommend, the interpretations from Chinon are textbook perfect & a surefire crowd pleaser.
Pacific Northwest (Oregon & Washington) - The wines of these two areas are at their most beautiful during the fall season. You'd have your choice of elegant Merlots, earthy Pinot Noirs, and crisp whites like Pinot Blanc. There's not a wrong choice in the bunch when shopping from this region for the holiday!
Riesling - This chameleon of a grape can take on a range of characteristics from bone dry styles to mineral driven bubbly to familiar sweeter styles. Turkey & Riesling go together like peanut butter & jelly----so you really can't miss with this classic duo.
Gewurtztraminer - Like Riesling, this varietal can take on many shades & hues, but maintains this spicy, ginger & lychee character that also makes Turkey sing! I'd suggest the iterations from Alsace or Alto Adige for a drier style, or look for an Austrian take for something a little sweeter.
Piedmont/Piemonte - Barbera aka the Poor Man's Pinot (or hopeless romantic, in my eyes) is queen of this region alongside Nebbiolo the king. Both would actually find a home with any of the side dishes on the table specifically cranberry sauce & mac and cheese.
Chenin Blanc - I always joke and call this varietal the tropical cousin of Chardonnay. It has the capacity to do the same things & is easily grown all over the world just like Chard, but it has a distinctly tropical undertone no matter what region you pull it from. I especially enjoy those from the Southern Hemisphere (South Africa for example) with my turkey!
Touraine - A region within the Loire Valley where Pinot Noir & Sauvignon Blanc are your usual suspects. BUT you can also find some really unique red blends using varietals like Cot (synonym for Malbec) and obscure varietals like Pineau d'Aunis. Acidity & freshness are key characters of all the wines in this region.
BOTTLE RECS FROM THE CERTIFIED WINO
My palate is naturally leans more towards the wines of the Old World (France, Spain, etc.), but during the holiday season my palate is a mixed bag with the connective tissue being one key feature: acidity. This is a key component (one of many really) to making successful wine & food pairings. When it comes to the buffet you are indulging in at Thanksgiving, you want something that will encourage you to eat more & get those salivary glands going. The following bottle recommendations are "wines with rhythm" because the acidity comes in waves. Here's what I'll be swirling in my glass on Thursday:
NV Brut Gruner Veltliner | Stift Klosterneuburg, Austria - This gem of a sparkling wine would be perfect for post-turkey day brunch when you're flipping all the leftovers into entirely new dishes or solid start to the Thanksgiving dinner. Juicy pears, mineral freshness, and zesty bubbles make this a value drive sparkling to keep on hand all year. Retails anywhere between $16.99-21.99 and you can find this at Common Market (2007 Commonwealth Ave, Charlotte, NC).
2021 Baw Baw Shire Chardonnay | Gippsland, Victoria - I've personally been on a huge Chardonnay kick & the golden child of the wine world keeps introducing me to the best interpretations of it. If one were to blind taste this racy, salty, fruit forward Chardonnay from Patrick Sullivan, you might guess it was from Burgundy, France because it's just that good. Surprise: it's from Australia! Fried turkey just found a new bestie this year. Retails at $64.99-70.99 and you can find this at a few places, but recently spotted it at Bar A Vins (3206 N Davidson Street, Charlotte, NC).
2021 Maison Angelot Mondeuse | Bugey, France - Mondeuse is the king of Savoie red grapes, and echoes some similarities to Gamay, but is hauntingly savory & richer in character. If you want a chillable red that is a nerdy deep cut, then look no further. Retails between $21.99-24.99 and you can find this at Assorted Table Wine & Shop (224 E 7th Street, Charlotte, NC).
2020 Terra D'Oro Barbera | Amador County, California - This California producer is one to keep on your radar all year long, and there isn't a single miss in their portfolio. The Barbera is the one I've reached for the past few months as we've shifted into cooler weather (also pulled for literally every client event this month), and for good reason. I mentioned how this grape is the queen of Piedmont (a region in Italy), but it is shocking to see how well it is interpreted here stateside. Notes of cranberry & dried herbs lift from the nose into a palate of mouthwatering acidity & comforting spice. Turkey, stuffing, and even chocolate desserts would play well with this incredibly structured Barbera. Retails at about $20.99-22.99 and you can snag a bottle directly from the winery using my discount code BRION15 at checkout!
2021 Elena Walch Schiava | Alto Adige, Italy - I got the opportunity to revisit these wines with 5th generation winemaker Karoline Walch, and was reminded how gorgeous & rustic the wines of the area are. Schiava is a native grape to the region that vibes like Sangiovese in some respects with its nose of rose petals & bing cherry, but the palate has this distinct spiciness that makes it stand out. This lighter bodied red could work with a mix of creamy side dishes: garlicky mashed potatoes or green bean casserole to name a few. Retails at about $18.99-24.99 and here are two spots you can snag a bottle and/or have it special ordered: Assorted Table Wine & Shop (224 E 7th Street, Charlotte, NC) | L'Ostrica (4701 Park Road, Unit D, Charlotte, NC)
That rounds out my 2023 recommendations for your holiday festivities (friendsgiving, Thanksgiving, turkey day, etc.) no matter what they may be. Let me know if you get the chance to sip any of the bottle recommendations in this post & your personal tasting notes of them. I'd love to hear your take on them! If you aren't local to Charlotte, NC, feel free to shoot me an email (email@example.com) & I'll connect you with a local retailer near you who can source these wines for you.
Have a safe & wonderful holiday, and may your glass stay overflowing with joy!
The Certified Wino
CHECK OUT LAST YEAR'S LIST: The Turkey & The Glass