November 23, 2009 at 10:56 am , by Julie Bain
Do you know what wines you’re serving with the turkey and stuffing? Don’t stress about it! I was a wine writer earlier in my career, and one thing I learned is that when it comes to pairing wines with Thanksgiving dinner, almost anything goes. Many people offer a white and a red, but it really comes down to what you like. Luckily there are lots of good affordable options to choose from these days. We picked the wines pictured here (which are also featured on page 20 of the November issue of LHJ) for their clever names as well as their quality and price. So you can make a real statement with them as hostess gifts.
Often underappreciated in this country, Rieslings are light and fruity and one of the most food-friendly wines there is. Some are slightly sweet (which complements the sweetness of, say, your pecan- and brown-sugar-topped sweet-potato casserole), but many are crisp and dry, perfect for the roasted veggies and mashed potatoes. These wines are also affordable. While Riesling is grown in many parts of the world, some of the best come from the steep hills above the Mosel River in Germany. We love the fresh crispness of Clean Slate Riesling ($12).
This grape variety, known for its tart, grassy, herbal qualities, has become incredibly popular in the past few years. It’s the main grape of Sancerre wines from the Loire Valley in France, which can be subtle and elegant. We like Pascal Jolivet Attitude Sauvignon Blanc ($18) from the Loire. It’s fresh and citrusy, a perfect foil for a juicy slice of turkey. There are also many popular Sauvignon Blancs from California and New Zealand.
Some wineries create blended wines from many grapes to create a signature style that can be duplicated with a slightly different mix each year. Evolution, a secret blend of nine grapes made by Sokol Blosser in Oregon, for example, is an old favorite of mine that’s a crowd-pleaser at the holiday table. But I also recently discovered a new similar blend: Cleavage Creek Secret White ($18). They don’t tell what’s in it, but it’s fruity and floral, with hints of pineapple, vanilla, jasmine and papaya. The best part? The wines do good. The labels feature actual breast cancer survivors, and 10 percent of the company’s gross goes to cutting-edge breast cancer research.
The great grape of red burgundy is a favorite of connoisseurs the world over (remember Miles in the movie Sideways?) But this grape has also caught on in many other parts of the world, producing affordable wines that are among the most food-friendly variety there is. The grape is known for its distinctive cherry flavors, with subtle side notes from tobacco to spice. We like Little Black Dress Pinot Noir ($13), with its cherry and clove scent and slinky style for a very affordable price. A great choice to go with the turkey and stuffing.
OK, so Miles in the movie Sideways didn’t particularly like Merlot, thinking it has been popularized into bland mediocrity. But remember that Merlot grapes are used in some of the greatest wines in the world, including the famous Château Pétrus from Pomerol in Bordeaux—and believe me, you don’t even want to know the price of that! In its less expensive forms, Merlot is soft and fruity and very quaffable with a variety of foods, including the diversity of the Thanksgiving spread. We especially love the Mad Housewife Merlot, as much for its relatable name and adorable artwork as its affordable $10 price tag.
The champion grape of Bordeaux is popular with steaks but also can pair nicely with dark-meat turkey and gravy, savory stuffing and side dishes. We love the Carpe Diem Cabernet Sauvignon from the Napa Valley. At $26 it’s a Bordeaux-style wine with lots of fruit and not too much oak, so it doesn’t need a lot of aging to be very pleasant and drinkable.
Still stumped about which wine is right? Take our wine personality quiz to find out which varieties are witty, adventurous, meticulous, or just plain YOU.
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