A better strategy is to look for crowd-pleasers that won’t overpower your palate–or your head–during the long meal.
The first piece of advice: relax. Ignore the traditional wine-pairing rules of the other 364 days of the year (red wines with roasted meats; light whites with salad). Forget about every food that’s on the Thanksgiving table, actually.
All these rules have pigeonholed creativity, It’s OK; try different things. Have fun with it, don’t be intimidated by it.
From there, keep two factors in mind. One, Thanksgiving is a long day. So, if you’re going to be drinking wine, be sure to pick varieties or styles you know you can drink all day–in other words, wines that are lower in alcohol and lighter in weight.
Second, drink the varieties and styles that you know you like from past experience–regardless of whether a critic gave it a high score, your in-law recommended it or it was on sale at the wine shop. If you and nobody else coming to dinner likes merlot, for example, there’s no point in drinking it on Thanksgiving Day.
10 wines that are crowd-pleasers, in part because they’re lighter bodied and (mostly) lower in alcohol so they can be poured well before the gravy’s been made.
For whites, all $21 and under per bottle. Two, the Valdesil Montenovo Godello from Spain and the Tiefenbrunner Pinot Bianco from Italy are light and fruity, so they’ll be great before dinner (and certainly good with it, especially the cranberry sauce).
The Hortus La Bergerie Blanc, a blend of several white varieties, and the Albrecht Gewürztraminer Reserve, on the other hand, will be a bit heavier. These wines are likely to be more friendly with the food than the aforementioned two whites, but not too heavy to open up and drink before dinner hits the table. Somewhere in the middle is the Dr. Karl Christoffel Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Spatlese, which has a touch of sweetness and lower alcohol, so it works equally well as an aperitif, with dinner and with dessert.
Just remember, when looking at white wines, keep in mind what you like and what your guests like and let that inform whether to get wines on the lighter or heavier end of the spectrum.
Wines that are fruity and tangy with acidity. The more acidic the wine, the more you salivate, which is especially helpful with dry turkey and stuffing. But these types of wines are also simple and easy-drinking; no silly wine pontification required here.
The Clone 5 pinot noir from California and the Starry Night Lodi Zinfandel, sing with food and the Bacio Divino Pazzo, an Italian-style wine made in California, with a touch of the white variety Viognier blended in to mellow it.
From Europe, the Pieve Del Vescovo Piovano from Umbria (be sure to open this one an hour or so before you start pouring it), as well as the Potel-aviron Moulin A Vent Vv from Beaujolais. The latter is not a Nouveau, those cheap, colorful-label, soda-tasting wines released on the same day every year. This is the serious, well-made wine from the region that costs just a touch more than the Nouveau, but over-delivers on flavor–the kind of wine that will make any Nouveau drinker look at Beaujolais in a new light.
If they can satisfy all the different people around the table (always much easier said than done when families get together), that makes for one pretty happy Thanksgiving.
Have a safe and joyful Thanksgiving!
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