In some ways, choosing a wine for Thanksgiving dinner is difficult, given the great variety of foods and flavors. There’s white and dark meat. There are tart cranberries, creamy mashed potatoes, and spiced pumpkin pie for dessert. You may want to serve a little of several different types of wine so guests can taste a wine with each dish. Or you may want to pick one all-purpose wine.
Here’s a rundown of wines that are a smart move to bring to dinner this Thanksgiving, courtesy of Charlie Gaeta, Beverage Director and General Manager at The Blue OX in Lynn, MA.
Gamay: this red varietal from Beaujolais in the South of Burgundy is light, fruity and has the high acid levels that make it really versatile with food. Beaujolais’ reputation has suffered a bit due to the amount of mass-produced Beaujolais Nouveau that was being released every late November. However, there are a lot of producers today making very serious wines from this region, especially when you get to Cru Beaujolais. These are the 10 top villages of Beaujolais where gamay really becomes a world class grape with a distinctive sense of terroir (think granite soil). Two things to note: the way it’s made is through a process called semi-carbonic maceration. Without geeking out over the wine-making, this method yields the fruit & aromatics of the gamay grape while reducing tannic level. The French have a term called “gouleyant,” which describes the way fine Beaujolais slips down the throat. In good hands, from one of these crus, you can see what they mean. Surprisingly, even Cru Beaujolais from a top producer will set you back $20 at the most.
Why it’s a smart move to bring to dinner this Thanksgiving: put a slight chill on it and finally end the argument of white or red.
Suggested producer: Marcel Lapiere is the guy when it comes to Beaujolais. His wines labeled Morgon (1 of the 10 crus) are some of the finest in the region and still under $20/bottle. He also has a really fun wine for under $10 called ‘Raisins Gaulois’ which simply carries the Beaujolais designation.
Lambrusco: a red grape from Emilia-Romagna, Italy. It is packed with red fruit and a cleansing acidity. It is a sparkling wine so it brings a bright, refreshing sense to the palate and pairs with a ton of food, which makes sense as it’s coming from one of the gastronomic capitals of the world – Bologna. This is another wine that has received a bad reputation due to the Coca-Cola-like Lambrusco of yesteryear. Today, however, there is a revival of excellent and elegant Lambrusco.
Why it’s a smart move to bring to dinner this Thanksgiving: get some insider cred by breaking out a bottle (like the Beaujolais) of something some of your friends and family still might have less-than-stellar preconceived notions about. It’s always fun to bring something everyone can enjoy that trumps their expectations.
Suggested producer: Cantina della Volta. Christian Bellei, the winemaker, makes this Lambrusco di Sorbara in Methode Classico, the Italian term for wines made through the same process as Champagne. He makes it from organic grapes from a single vintage. This is as serious as Lambrusco gets but without a hefty price tag.
Plavac Mali: This is a red variety from Croatia. It is light, low in alcohol and has a ton of red fruit (ripe strawberry in its youth) with a zippy acidity. It also has an unmistakable earthy quality on the finish that brings a little rusticity without the barnyard-y profile to Thanksgiving dinner. This profile pairs well with many dishes. It’s most successful along the Dalmatian Coast in Croatia
Why it’s a smart move to bring to Thanksgiving dinner: It’s light & delicious (so you can drink it earlier in the day) and also a conversation piece. For years, there has been an incredible amount of research on tracing the actually DNA origins of the Zinfandel grape back to Croatia. Researchers believe this is a cross between the Zinfandel grape & another indigenous Croatian varietal. Try it on your CA Zin-loving cousin and see what he/she thinks.
Producer: Dinga? Vinarija: A crazy story of (now) 300 households getting together to make one collective wine on the Peljesac Peninsula near the Adriatic Coast. A world away, but the spirit of Thanksgiving is definitely in this bottle.
Crèmant: a sparkling wine made in the same tradition as Champagne, outside of Champagne without the varietal restrictions. Try something from the Loire Valley that is Chenin Blanc-based. It will be a great way to start any meal or have with appetizers prior to the big feast without breaking the bank for a big house Champagne. Dry, crisp, citrus, honey & yeasty/brioche flavors abound in this varietal.
Producer: Château Tour Grise – an organic/biodynamic producer. Some of these wines in the market have been sitting in the bottle for 10 years and have developed as beautifully as vintage Champagne.
Image Credits: Photo credit: Darren Pellegrino.