An Expert Picks the Perfect Wines for Thanksgiving Dinner
Sommelier Kate Dingwall chooses seven bottles that will enhance the meal — and please your pickiest guest
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Thanksgiving is an exciting holiday for wine pairings. Why, you ask? Simple…you know exactly what’s going to be on the table. Turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy and a seasonal veg, like a green bean or squash. Even if you’re an unconventionalist and you’re digging into takeout, you’re gonna plan that in advance. So either way, you know what you’re eating. I’m here to help you take the guesswork out of what you’re drinking, with perfect wine pairings for the big meal.
But Thanksgiving isn’t just about consumption. It’s also about company. Does that red pair well with politics? Will that white wine work with weird small talk with your cousin’s new boyfriend? Will those bubbles move you from the football game into appetizers?
The following are my break-glass-in-case-of-wine-emergency bottles that pair with everything and everyone. But the real secret? More is more. I recommend starting off the night with bubbles (twist our arms!), then moving into crunchy, crowd-pleasing whites and a complex red or two. Keep a few options on the table and let everyone choose their own adventure.
For Starting Off Right: Vouette & Sorbée Fidèle, $100
Champagne is a lovely way to greet guests — pour a half glass as soon as they open the door, de-coat and settle in. Made entirely with Pinot Noir, this grower Champagne (meaning the producers grow all their own grapes instead of buying them) is precisely made and evocative, with rich herbaceous notes.
It’s fun enough to start the party, and those slightly savory notes will also cut through charcuterie, nuts or whatever you’re snacking on. Why am I even convincing you to drink Champagne?! Drink Champagne.
For Turkey: Jean Foillard Morgon, $24
There’s no better turkey wine than Beaujolais, a region in the smack-dab center of France that grows almost entirely Gamay grapes. Refreshing, bright, juicy, bodied, but not too big or tannic (a characteristic in wine that leaves a drying sensation on the back of your tongue) — it’s crowd-pleasing at its finest. To underline: it’s straightforward, delicious and will complement everything on the table.
While any Gamay will do, I’m partial to winemaker Jean Foillard’s version of the grape. He’s one of the members of the Gang of Four, a group of Godfather-ish French wine producers who act as the patriarchs of the region when it comes to quality production. Très cool, non? Foillard’s Morgon tends to be my favorite of his — wines here from the Morgon micro-region are mineral-driven, flinty, and fresh and full of more complex cherry notes and velvety tannins, plus they age beautifully. (Drop these facts — your in-laws will be impressed.)
For Every Veggie Dish: Denavolo Dinavolino, $35
Orange wines work beautifully with Thanksgiving. The deep gold color and rich tannins are bold enough to punch above a usual white wine’s weight, plus, those qualities allow it to pair well with all of your favorite sides, from stuffing to roast Brussels sprouts to carrots — the list goes on. And the color is highly autumnal.
Onto the bottle…winemaker Giulio Armani (not that Armani) makes beautiful whites high above the ocean. After harvesting, the grapes spend months resting on their skins to give the wine a big energy and body — meaning the flavors of the wine won’t get lost with big veggie dishes. Keeping those skins on is also what gives orange wine its color.
The Crowd-Pleaser: Familia Torres Salmos, $40
In the richer reds, Familia Torres Salmos is made high up in the mountains of Priorat outside of Barcelona — arguably an insane place to make wine due to the high altitude and super steep vineyards. It pays off; it’s an utterly unique bottle, with a deep ruby color, bright minerality and intense notes of spice and red berry. And unlike marshmallows on top of sweet potatoes, everyone at the table will like this bottle.
Budget (But You Wouldn’t Know It): Monte Rio Cellars Sauvignon Blanc, $23
If your Thanksgiving dinner is full of loud and crowded tables, well, firstly, you might be at my house. Secondly, you’ll likely need several bottles of easy-but-delicious wines to fill glass after glass after glass.
California’s Monte Rio Cellars is the perfect companion to a full-family Thanksgiving. Sommelier-turned-winemaker Patrick Cappiello makes great budget-friendly (roughly $20 a bottle) wines for every kind of drinker. Think old-school California swagger turned into slick Sauvignon Blancs and energetic reds made with Mission, a Spanish grape that’s punchy, bright and full of smoky cherry notes.
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For the Abstainers (or Over-Served): Studio Null Blanc Burgunder, $27
Odds are there will be folks at your table who don’t drink, whether they’re teetotalers or have to drive Grandma home. No matter the reason — and no one needs a reason, nor owes you one! — every time I’ve put a bottle of non-alcoholic wine on my Thanksgiving table, it gets emptied.
This bottle from Studio Null founders Catherine Diao and Dorothy Munholland is beautiful. It’s a mineral-driven Alpine white blend of Pinot Gris and Pinot Blanc: crisp, acidic and bright enough to cut through all the buttery dishes on your table — and radiant, regardless of proof.
Pair With Leftovers: Cancelli Rosato, $31
While summer may have come and gone, rosé season springs eternal. But when the temperature starts dropping, I lean towards a deeper rosé. Cancelli from the eastern Italian region of Abruzzo spends a little bit longer on the skins compared to a regular summer water rosé…it’s pomegranate-colored and acidic, giving it a tart, almost crunchy texture, like biting into an apple. Consider it a rosé masquerading as a red.
It pairs well with pizza on the couch if that’s your kind of Thanksgiving shindig, but I personally like it with anything roasted. Especially warm turkey sandwiches made from leftovers — the most delicious of all Thanksgiving dishes.
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