Let’s be honest, Thanksgiving feast can be a little intimidating for wine pairing. My family is from the south. No matter where you are in the country, there are competing flavors all over the table. Roast turkey and tangy cranberry sauce with herbaceous stuffing (or vinaigrette), sweet potatoes (sometimes with a marshmallow topping!), Creamy mashed potatoes, Kentucky Wonder green beans simmered with bacon and a lot of pepper sauce to pour all over a plate, that’s a lot.
But all is not lost. It is quite possible to go wonderfully with a turkey dinner with wine. And while Thanksgiving is an all-American holiday, we have to thank many iconic parts of the world for producing wines that accomplish such a difficult task. In the spirit of Thanksgiving, this list offers a nod to wine regions around the world – and some specific wine selections – for which we can all be truly grateful.
Note: For serving, chill your white wines in the refrigerator, but take them out about 20 minutes before serving so the flavors have a chance to wake up at the table. Serve red wines with a little freshness, between 55 and 60 ºF. To do this, place them in the refrigerator for about 15 to 20 minutes before serving.
Alto Adige, Italy
“A” is for the Alto Adige, and if you’re looking for a one-stop-shop to fill the entire Thanksgiving table with wines, you can pretty much stop by here. (Austria is very close, but we’ll get to that later.)
Nestled in the idyllic Dolomite mountains of the Italian Alps, these higher altitude wines tend to reveal a supple luminosity that is perfect for lighter dishes. Although more than half of the wines produced in this region are white, don’t overlook the elegant and tonic red wines.
Pinot Bianco offers a nice alternative to Chardonnay for the festive table, with notes of honeydew melon, peach, pear, quince paste and chamomile. Vinified in malolactic conversion and aged in barrels on lees, these wines constitute a golden nugget on the table. Try the Kellerei / Cantina Terlan Vorberg Pinot Bianco Riserva 2019. Gewürztraminer can sometimes have a polarizing effect, but when done in a dry style with its fragrant aromas in check, it can be a lovely addition to the holiday table. Try the Elena Walch Gewürztraminer Vigna “Kastelaz”.
For an old-fashioned alternative to Burgundy and at a more affordable price, Pinot Nero from Alto Adige is an elegant option rich in red fruits and full of character. Try the 2018 Kellerei / Cantina Kurtatsch Glen Pinot Nero Riserva. Light and aromatic, schiava is often mistaken for lighter styles of pinot noir. Notes of cherry, ripe raspberry and cotton candy best characterize this bright red grape, as does a touch of acidity on the finish. Try the Manincor Kalterersee Keil Schiava 2019.
Austria is roughly tied with the Alto Adige for finding the perfect pairing for Thanksgiving. Austria’s cool continental climate produces a variety of red and white wines with lean body, tangy and racy elegance. For a versatile white wine, try Austria’s famous white grape, Grüner Veltliner. With characteristic notes of stone fruit, white tea and pepper, the Grüner Veltliner is light and racy, making it an excellent pairing for salads and fresh vegetable side dishes. But it also has enough body to withstand the heaviest dishes on the table. Try the Domäne Wachau Grüner Veltliner Federspiel Terrassen 2019.
Pinot Noir enthusiasts will love discovering Saint Laurent, which is not too far away, as this tasty red grape is a descendant of Pinot Noir. These wines offer brilliant aromas with hints of ripe cherry following with a robust palate supported by vibrant acidity. With notes of lively red fruits and black cherry, this grape produces wines with fine tannins and a sympathetic and juicy palate. Try the Judith Beck St. Laurent Schafleiten 2017.
For those who like a little more oomph to their red wine, but without disturbing the necessary balance at the Thanksgiving table, Zweigelt is a perfect choice. As the most widespread red grape planted in Austria, this grape is rich in concentrated aromas of red fruits but easy in tannins and robust structure. Try the Meinklang Zweigelt 2018.
When it comes to the quintessential Thanksgiving food and wine pairing, Beaujolais has long been the default choice. In particular, the fresh and fruity, bubble-gummy Beaujolais Nouveau, a traditional early-release wine in France that has become popular as a Thanksgiving wine in America thanks to the hard-won marketing efforts of French producer Georges duBoeuf throughout the years. 1950s and 1960s. To date, the Georges duBoeuf brand releases a new Beaujolais Nouveau label each year featuring different artists who participate in an annual competition to win the highest distinction. And while the release of Georges duBoeuf’s Beaujolais Nouveau this year will undoubtedly be very popular around the table, there is a whole world of Beaujolais to discover beyond the semi-carbonic Nouveau style.
Composed of 100% Gamay, Beaujolais wines offer high acidity and low tannin content, with hints of cranberry, tart cherry, violet, mushroom and grape chewing gum, making it a solution easy to combine with a range of dishes. For something with a little more structure and complexity, look for wines from ten crus (or sub-regions) such as Morgon, Julienas, Fleurie, Régnié or Moulin-a-Vent. With different climates, soils, altitudes and aspects of the vineyard, each cru offers its own personality. Try the more daring structure of Domaine Grégoire Hoppeenot Morgon Corcelette 2019, or the refined elegance of 2016 Domaine De Thulon Régnié.
In many ways, that would seem like an easy choice. After all, Champagne is the most iconic region in the world for sparkling wine. And sparkling wine is the go-to selection for celebrations. But let’s leave that aside. While it is always fun to pop bubbles to toast on a special occasion, wines from the Champagne region of France are also the most versatile for wine pairing. Primarily composed of Chardonnay, often with a certain percentage of Pinot Noir or Meunier blended, Champagne balances beautiful aromas of apple and pear with quintessential yeasty notes of brioche and toast, making it an ideal selection. and versatile to accompany a variety of foods. Try the crisp Champagne Billecart Salmon Brut Nature or the sumptuous and toasted Champagne Bruno Paillard Blancs de Blancs. For a little more oomph, opt for a rosy offer. The rich berry character and added structure of Pinot Noir add wider appeal to the Thanksgiving table. Try the Charles Heidsieck Rosé Réserve Champagne.
Oregon, United States
Perhaps the new global answer to Burgundy, Oregon’s versatile terrain in the US Pacific Northwest has made it a region to watch for when it comes to nuanced Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris and Chardonnay, in particularly in the AVAs around the Willamette Valley.
Oregon Pinot Noir is akin to its Burgundian cousin in that it emphasizes the grape’s earthy, flavorful, umami characters rather than the lush fruitiness. Fruity red notes of cranberry and pomegranate are omnipresent but subtle, and crisp acidity completes the palate. These wines are excellent for herbaceous fillings (or dressings), wild rice or mushroom dishes. Try the 2017 Lumos Wine Co. “The G” Temperance Hill Pinot Noir.
Although also known as Pinot Grigio in Italy, Pinot Gris is most often associated with the Alsatian region of France. Known for its medium body and notes of stone fruit and melon, it is a grape that produces very attractive wines. In Oregon, these wines are bright and vibrant, balanced by generosity on the palate. Try Acrobat Pinot Gris 2019, or to start the conversation, Beckham Estate Amphora Skin Contact Pinot Gris 2018 comes across as a hot pink in the glass. It’s a reminder that this grape is a tint of color on the skins, bringing more structure to the wine when the juice is left in contact for a while.
For a must-see region in the southern hemisphere, seek out South Africa to accompany a turkey feast. With sunny days and coastal influences from the Atlantic and Indian Oceans along the Western Cape, the wine regions of South Africa mainly benefit from a Mediterranean climate of marine influence with the refreshing air of the Benguela Current which rises from Antarctica. The wine-growing regions here produce grapes of excellent maturity and freshness. Chenin Blanc has long been the champion of white grape varieties in South Africa, and for good reason. Its versatility in the country’s different growing climates can result in wines with a lively stainless steel root or wide selections aged in oak barrels and anywhere in between. With hints of poached pear, citrus and almond, these wines can show good power with a medium body, seductive minerality and freshness. Try the 2018 Hogan Chenin Blanc.
Pinotage is perhaps the most famous red variety. A cross between Pinot Noir and Cinsault, this grape can produce large, rustic wines that may not be the most suitable for the Thanksgiving meal. (Save them for heavier dishes later during the holiday season.) But many producers have found ways to show off the softer side of Pinotage, with wines that are a bit lighter and showing plum, raspberry, floral and earthy tobacco with restraint. Try the 2018 Ashbourne Pinotage. Also look for other single varietal selections such as Cinsault, which features bright red fruit character and a subtle earthy character. Try the AA Badenhorst Ramnasgras Cinsault 2018.