Thanksgiving Wines

Suggesting wines for holidays can be tricky as everyone has their own traditions.  Thanksgiving is a bit easier as the menu tends to revolve around turkey and sweet and sour flavors like candied yams and cranberry sauce.  For me the holiday meal should be about the food, not the wine.  So, I tend to look for food friendly wines that can stand up the strong flavors of the meal without overwhelming it.

For years I have been a fan of Beaujolais for Thanksgiving.  Properly made it has plenty of fruit flavors to complement the food, balanced with acidity to keep the palate fresh.  Traditionally it has been fairly low in alcohol too which can be a real benefit during a long meal.  Unfortunately, Beaujolais like this have become harder to find.  Many have become factory wines, particularly those from the House of George Dubouef.  These wines overwhelm with fruit and have little acidity to balance them.  Some of them have alcohol contents reaching over 14%.  Now Dubouef does make some nice wines but I tend to look for other producers.  I also find that the “Cru” Beaujolais are more likely to have what I think of as “real Beaujolais character”.  The Cru’s are regions that have been raised in the French AOC system to having their own appellation.   They are Saint-Amour, Juliénas, Chénas, Moulin-à-Vent, Fleurie, Chiroubles, Morgon, Régnié, Brouilly and Côte de Brouilly.  The Cru’s used to cost a few dollars more but not only are they worth it but nowadays the frequently are no more expensive.

For Italian wines I like to have a Barbera, either from Asti or Alba.  These work particularly well if you are going with the Italian-American tradition of having Lasagna with your meal.  La Orme from Michelle Chiarlo is a nice inexpensive one.  Hilberg, La Spinetta, and Pio Cesare (among many others) make good ones at moderate, if slightly higher, prices.

If you want to have an American wine with your American meal I used to go for a Zinfandel.   Like Beaujolais they have tended to evolve into bigger and fruitier wines that can overwhelm the meal.  Now I am more likely to look for Pinot Noir from the northwest.  Lately I have come to enjoy Cabernet Franc based wines, including Chinon (another French choice).  Wolffer Estate on Long Island makes a nice one and they are local to me too.


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