2011 Thanksgiving Wine Picks

Thanksgiving is a holiday that revolves around tradition. Perhaps your family’s Thanksgiving couldn’t possibly be complete without a slice of straight-from-the-can cranberry jelly…or maybe you spend all year dreaming about your grandmother’s chestnut stuffing…or maybe you like to scour cooking sites and magazines looking for a new twist to put on the classics. Everyone’s got something they just can’t have Thanksgiving without.

But what about the wines on your Thanksgiving table? It is easy to go with the traditional favorites—Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Champagne, etc.—but there are some wonderful, perhaps lesser known, wines that will pair wonderfully with your Thanksgiving feast. And who knows? Once you’ve tried them, maybe one of them will become part of your holiday tradition. So here are some wine options we think you will enjoy…

REDS

If you are fond of Pinot Noir consider trying…
Cabernet Franc: With its zippy acidity and signature vegetal character that can evoke green bell peppers or wet leaves, this is a great wine to go with your Thanksgiving dinner. And while we’re on the subject, on such a uniquely American holiday, if you’d like to stick with American wine, there are some really good Cabernet Francs coming out of Long Island’s North Fork that are reasonably priced and very food-friendly.

Blaufränkisch: Just like Pinot Noir, Blaufränkisch is a tricky grape to grow and yields an alluringly sumptuous wine. Still not that well-known here in the states, Blaufränkisch, from Austria, is an up-and-comer. Also, like Pinot Noir, this is a wine that usually has savory tannins holding up ripe and vibrant fruit flavors that make it a great wine to pair with heartier Thanksgiving fare like sausage-studded stuffing or mashed potatoes with gravy.

If you usually go for Beaujolais Nouveau consider trying…
Beaujolais Villages or Cru Beaujolais: There’s much more to Beaujolais than the sweet and gulpable wine that is Beaujolais Nouveau. Made from the Gamay grape in the Beaujolais region just south of Burgundy, Beaujolais is a lovely and delicious wine that is endlessly food friendly. Beaujolais Villages is a wine made from Gamay grapes grown throughout the region while Cru Beaujolais are wines made from specific areas that get their names from nearby towns (Fleurie, Julienas, Brouilly, Morgon, and Moulin a Vent are a few better known Cru’s). These wines can range from delicate and floral to bright and fruity and even earthy. With low tannins, juicy acidity, and bright fruit, they pair especially splendidly with roast turkey and cranberry sauce.

Zweigelt: This Austrian wine is a great lighter-bodied red wine that pairs amazingly well with food. Particularly known for its lively freshness and spice, Zweigelt typically has notes of cinnamon and cloves that make it a great wine to sip with that second helping of sweet potatoes.

WHITES

If you’re partial to Chardonnay consider trying…
Saint Bris: If you’re a fan of flinty Chablis (made from the Chardonnay grape), then you should definitely give Saint Bris a try. Saint Bris is a tiny area within Burgundy where Sauvignon Blanc is grown. (Everywhere else in Burgundy, the only white grape allowed is Chardonnay.) Typical of Sauvignon Blancs from other regions of France, such as Sancerre, Saint Bris are white wines with racy acidity and clean flavors that make it an ideal companion to many different types of food.

Courbieres Blanc: These white wines are typically made from a blend of Roussane and Marsanne in the western Languedoc region. With gorgeous aromas of honey and flowers and a rich full body supported by racy acidity, this wine is a great, more food-friendly option if you would like an alternative to California-style Chardonnay. It is a white wine drinker’s perfect pairing for turkey or roast vegetables.

If you’ve got a penchant for Pinot Grigio consider trying…
Vouvray: These white wines from France’s Loire Valley made from Chenin Blanc are naturally high in acidity, making them great for drinking with food. They’ve got a sweetness to them that lends body, and flavors that range from fresh green apples to figs and ginger. They pair well with turkey as well as roasted butternut squash soup.

Grüner Veltliner: Grüner, as it’s commonly called by its fans, is another Austrian wine that is sometimes overlooked. Famously friendly with a vast array of foods, Grüner goes especially well with the kinds of baking spices that embody Thanksgiving—so give it a try with that piece of pumpkin or apple pie.

If you’re a Champagne fan consider trying…
Crémant d’Alsace: These sparklers can be made from any mixture of Riesling, Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris (the same as Pinot Grigio), or Chardonnay grapes. They’re made using the méthode champenoise, but are often much more affordable. Typical of other white wines from Alsace (such as Riesling and Gewürztraminer), these sparkling wines can run the gamut from very dry (brut) to slightly sweet (demi-sec). This is a wonderful wine to pair with cheese if you’re serving hors d’ouvres.

Blanquette de Limoux: If you love the toasty savory aspect of some Champagnes, look no further. These sparkling wines are made using the méthode champenoise and can have the toasty, yeasty nose of freshly baked bread that makes some Champagne fans go wild. Savory, earthy, sometimes a tad herby, and often with a creamy bubble, these wines are usually extremely well-priced.