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Thanksgiving Wine Round-Up

I sort through Thanksgiving wine advice so you don’t have to:

Rick Bakas identifies the central problem of Thanksgiving:

You have turkey, which is dry and packed with Tryptophan.  You have mashed potatoes (starch), corn, rolls, sweet potatoes, cranberry and various other dishes, and none of them go together.  Cranberry is tart.  Gravy is not.

Which is great, except that he then goes off the rails with a metaphor that really, really doesn’t make any sense:

Trying to match sweet, sour, bitter, salt with Thanksgiving is like trying to drive a shopping cart with a broken wheel through a demolition derby.

Which is to say, I guess, that around Mr. Bakas’ kitchen an incorrect wine choice can get you squashed by an emotionally inflamed redneck. Maybe he lives in Kentucky.

Anyway, Bakas tosses Vinho Verde into the mix, which earns him forgiveness.

Thanksgiving is a marathon, not a sprint.  Don’t get too tipsy early in the day, unless you’re a seasoned drinker.  Sometimes we’ll open a Brut Rosé Champagne, but in order to keep your edge (and not get too silly too soon) open a low alcohol Vinho Verde.  It’s got some effervescence yet it’s light, crisp and fresh.

Menuism also cites the length of Thanksgiving and recommends bubbles:

This is key when enduring a marathon feast. If you’re rolling high class, try a small-production grower champagne as opposed to a more commercially produced champagne, and if you’re doing bubbles on a budget, try a prosecco made in the regions of Conegliano or Valdobbiadene in Italy’s Veneto.

Matthew at A Good Time With Wine puts the Thanksgiving wine panic in perspective:

There’s no one wine that will pair with everything you serve, and more importantly, drink what you like on Thanksgiving. That being said, if you rather focus on your family, friends and the meal itself, you can leave the wine selections to me.

Or to paraphrase: it may be of no consequence, but nonetheless I want to be in control. Very winebloggy, Matthew at A Good Time With Wine!  His most interesting selection is El Coto Rioja Rosado, and inexpensive pink blend of Tempranillo and Garnacha that makes about as much sense as pink wines make.

Benito reminds us of his PIGS Theory, which has surprisingly little to do with eating. PIGS stands for Portugal, Italy, Greece, and Spain, and this year he delves into Italian Soave:

It’s nothing like Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc, the two most common white grapes you’ll encounter. It’s easier to pronounce than other Italian whites like Verdicchio: so-AH-vay.

The other thing that is crucial for Thanksgiving is that these wines are not hard to find. You should be able to find a Soave in any decent wine shop for $10-15. And if you decide not to take it to the family gathering with you, it is even better late Thursday night with leftovers.

While I’m having trouble imagining snacking after Thanksgiving dinner (I’m having trouble imaging walking as far as the kitchen after Thanksgiving dinner) I get the point, and Benito has a nice rundown of widely available and inexpensive Soaves.

Good Wine Under $20 offers an extensive list “chosen with an eye to pairing well with the unbelievably wide range of Thanksgiving foods.” His choice beyond the pale: 2007 Château Tire Pé “Diem.”

Yes, the label says Bordeaux. But it tastes like a vinous lovechild of grapes from the Bordeaux and grapes from the Beaujolais so it works just fine with the turkey. A blend of Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Cabernet Sauvignon with oodles of charm on a light-weight frame, your first impression will be of crushed raspberries, then some soil, and then some rocks.

Because I, personally, have always liked to end my Thanksgiving dinner with rocks, just to settle the stomach and add a little more heft to an otherwise light meal.

Finally, Adam Moganstern at Huffington Post interviews 10 winemakers and discovers that the wine they serve with Thanksgiving dinner is the wine they make all year long. This is not, apparently, because they get it cheap, but is in fact because it’s excellent wine entirely appropriate for every occasion. Imagine that.


  • Wine Curmudgeon

    I’ll have my Thanksgiving post up on Friday, Tom. If I’m allowed a little shameless plugging. And the El Coto rose is a nice wine, especially at the price. Just difficult to find.

  • Benito

    Thanks for the link! I should probably explain that for the past 15 years or so, every Thanksgiving dinner I’ve been to has been held between 11am and 1pm, so the leftovers are meant for a smaller evening meal.

  • Thomas Pellechia

    Bloggers are just like print writers–every holiday, every year, comes with a discussion of which wine to go with which food or a list of the best. All this proves to me is that print isn’t dead–writing is ;)

  • Benito

    Thomas: I do a Thanksgiving post each year for one simple reason. Demand. After a few dozen e-mails from readers, and then questions from friends and family, it’s so much easier to throw up a post and just give them a link. I do try to keep it simple while acknowledging the general futility of recommending one wine that will fit all dishes and palates. :)

  • Wally

    What am I? Chopped liver? I send you a nice list of turkey wines and you don’t even mention one of my picks simply because I lack the hubris to start a blog…
    And do you ever call? And that shiksa you married? Don’t get me started.

  • Thomas Pellechia


    When do you think people will finally get the message? How many years of telling them does it take?

    I know a number of people who ask me each year, and with each recommendation I (used to) give, they’d counter-argue anyway!

    Plus, with over 1,000 wine blogs online, how much information do people need for one holiday dinner? :)

  • Tom Johnson

    Ritual writing like Thanksgiving wines is a function both of demand and laziness. People are looking around for help right now, and they do that every year — both new people and people who can’t remember from year to year what they liked. The predictability of that demand enables lazy writers and assignment editors to go on autopilot, essentially forever.

    I think Benito does a pretty nice job of finding something creatively new every year. I looked through a bunch of websites with Thanksgiving wine columns and didn’t bother with most, because everyone recommends Riesling and Pinot Noir, and most don’t do it in any particularly interesting way.

    Finally, the reason I like to write about Thanksgiving wine is not that I think people need help. It’s that I think the whole ritual is ridiculous. I don’t understand why people worry about it so much. It’s wine, for heaven’s sake. Is anyone going to get up and walk away from the table because it’s not a perfect match?

    I like getting new ideas from people like Benito — sometimes even from people like Wally, though I’m not sure there are people like Wally, even in Kentucky, where genetic experimentation has been a way of life for decades.

  • Benito

    Thomas: It is mostly futile, but one post out of hundreds isn’t a huge imposition. As I see it, most people don’t even think about wine for 10 months out of the year. And then in November and December, they panic, and ask for help, or at the very least throw some search words in Google and hope for the best. I can’t change their thinking/drinking habits for the rest of the year, but in the spirit of the season I err on the side of good will towards my fellow man, even if he has a Budweiser palate. If one person who trusts me tries a Soave this year for the first time, then I’ve accomplished something, and an angel will get his wings. ;)

  • Wine Curmudgeon

    Well, said Benito. Until the day comes when Americans drink wine at every dinner, they are always going to panic when they come across a “special occasion.”

  • Thomas Pellechia

    “…most people don’t even think about wine for 10 months out of the year.”

    Maybe blogs ought to be written just two months out of each year!

    As Tom said, it’s a mystery why people worry over it. But then, we have people recommending Pinot Noir with turkey, and everyone knows that’s a stupid pairing… ;)

  • Wally

    I’m not sure who among you has worked retail. Here on the front lines of the wine biz the rules are different for November and December. I check to make sure we have a couple bottles each of Mateus, Cherry Kijafa and Lancers. I increase the number of German Rieslings. Now I’m ready for the customers who have faithfully bought one bottle of wine a year since 1968. I print up a “holiday picks” sheet because the sheer number of people asking the same question in such a small window of time precludes the usual individual attention that has made us a successful wine shop. We set up a triage table with most of the picks open to taste. The majority of customers are really happy about that and find something they like. Those that need more specialized help get forwarded on to me, where I’m holding court in the back of the room drinking Cote Rotie ‘cuz I don’t want to even hear the words “Pinot Noir” ever again. Then it’s that interesting celebration of the birth of the sacrificial God-King and then it’s The Mid-Winter celebration we call New Year’s because the thought of 3 more months of winter is just too depressing. Then things go back to normal. People come in, we talk about wine and lots of other stuff and it’s all good until the end of October. Moral: don’t harass anybody about what it takes to deal with the holidays. None of the rules hold true and all bets are off.

  • Tom Johnson

    My own experience is that I get more traffic when I’m writing the same thing everyone else is writing than I get when I’m on my own being creative. If, for example, I post a research-intensive piece on HR 5034 on a day when no one else is talking about HR 5034, I don’t notice a bump in my traffic. But if I write a quickie HR 5034 piece on a day when everyone is, for some reason, writing about HR 5034, I get a huge increase in traffic.

    Like it or not, creative quality is largely detached from consumer interest. That’s the reality of the media marketplace, and that’s why everyone writes about Thanksgiving wines. Like it or not…stupid or not…it’s the topic du jour. There are those who do it well, and those who do it like they’re painting by the numbers.

    Also, while Pinot Noir my be terrible with turkey, it’s great with sausage and cornbread stuffing. Which is the problem with Thanksgiving in the first place.

  • Thomas Pellechia

    Wally: been there, done that; hence my curmudgeonliness!


    Having been in the creative arts while concurrently holding down wine industry work, I know full well what kind of writing and art sells, what doesn’t, and why. I also know why my blog has about as many readers as people have eyes.

    I’ll have to try blogging about Thanksgiving this week…let’ see, does Screaming Eagle get along with dead turkey?

    By the way, I hate stuffing, so what should I drink with my T’day dinner?