The Wine Guy’s Picks for Thanksgiving

Are you scared of wine on Thanksgiving? If not, you probably haven’t been reading enough wine columns.

One of the biggest canards about wine writing is the annual Thanksgiving article. For some reason, bland, boring turkey is viewed as a difficult food for wine. Then, of course, there’s the tart or sickly-sweet cranberry sauce, the lumpy gravy, and the oysters in the stuffing. And everyone knows those tiny marshmallows on top of the sweet-potato casserole are just murder on your palate.

The Keepers of the Keys to the Kingdom (a.k.a. wine columnists) waste their ink and our time every November reinforcing this supposed fear of wine on Turkey Day with their dicta of what not to drink with this or that item on the menu.

Come off it, folks. With so many different flavors on the table, any wine is going to pair well with something. We may need to be careful about what we eat just before taking a sip, but if there’s a theme to wine with Thanksgiving dinner, it should be “Open one of everything!” 

I typically enjoy a bottle of Beaujolais Nouveau with Thanksgiving dinner. Oh, I know—Nouveau is a marketing gimmick, and I just urged you in my November Washingtonian column to look beyond Nouveau to the delicious, intriguing wines of the Beaujolais crus. But think about it—Beaujolais Nouveau is a celebration of the recent harvest, just as Thanksgiving is. And its light, grapey sweetness can be mitigated by, even as it pairs well with, the various flavors of the Thanksgiving table.

If there’s an indispensable wine with Thanksgiving dinner, it surely has bubbles. A Spanish Cava or Italian Prosecco for an aperitif or a California sparkler or Champagne with the meal—what a wonderful combination of celebration and food. (The acidity in sparkling wine is a great palate cleanser, making it ideal with a lot of cuisines.) From California, look for sparklers by Iron Horse, Domaine Carneros, or Roederer Estate (especially the rosé). From Champagne, look for Jacquesson (pronounced “Jackson”), Pierre Gimonnet et Fils, Gaston Chiquet, or Chartogne-Taillet.