We've tasted scores of wines over the past few weeks, bearing in mind the flavor components in some of our favorite holiday recipes, and have come up with a dozen bottles that will work superbly with Thanksgiving dinner, with our ideal choices determined by the nature of the main dish.
Some of these wines will be readily available; others are from small producers and may be hard to find — but a good wine shop should be able to offer alternatives in the same style if you give them these names. Prices are approximate, and may vary from place to place.
Read on for our choice of 12 Perfect Wines for Thanksgiving Dinner.
Frank Family is one of the wineries that most eloquently keeps the faith with this no longer very fashionable grape. There's plenty of muscle and blood here (as Tennessee Ernie Ford might have put it), but the oak is in check and the overall impression this wine leaves is one of softness and a little grapey sweetness, along with a peppery, chocolatey character. It's big enough to stand up to this full-flavored turkey preparation.
August Sebastiani, no amateur when it comes to Sonoma zinfandel, is behind this rather rustic but appealing offering. It's very ripe and juicy, spicy and full-bodied, with a lingering finish. Its slight alcohol hotness will nicely offset the unbelievably crisp skin and moist meat deep-frying brings to the table.
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Sure, you could drink cider with this turkey, but the bird has enough sweetness of its own. This is a minor-league chardonnay that wants to play with the big boys, and puts up a pretty good fight. The fruit (there's a touch of French colombard and a half a touch of viognier blended in) is very, well, fruity — peach, honeydew, a touch of citrus — and the oak is just on the right side of being overdone. I've had less interesting chardonnays at twice the price. Maybe that means you should buy twice as much.
If you like fruit-bowl chardonnay — passion fruit, pineapple, apple, pear, maybe even persimmon — with some pronounced but not strident oak, this will please you well. This straightforward, savory turkey preparation benefits from the touch of glamour that the wine supplies
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A comparatively low-key GMS (grenache/mourvèdre/syrah) blend, faintly spicy, with nice berry fruit and just enough oak. Very pleasant, and just about right for this classic take on turkey, neither too modest nor too aggressive.
A lovely mouthful of wine, very aromatic, and lush with cantaloupe and apricot flavors balanced by a vein of mineral-tinged acidity — just the thing to stand up to (and help you cool down from) this bright, slightly spicy turkey.
Want a good all-purpose red wine, full of character but in no way overwhelming, at a bargain price? Here's your boy. Racy and smoky, with plenty of ripe fruit and an overtone of spice. Esteemed Dallas chef Dean Fearing's citrusy, herb-scented roast turkey is the star here, so a wine that has plenty of character but won't steal the show is just the ticket.
Mayonnaise on roast turkey (and not the kind in a sandwich)? Sounds weird. But you might well moisten the bird with oil, right? And you know an egg wash gives your baked goods a beautiful golden-brown shine. And isn't mayonnaise basically oil and egg? Trust us: This recipe rocks. Alongside it, we love this crisp, clean, well-focused, and above all tasty Virginia chardonnay, with its true varietal aroma, good acidity, and hint of apple-and-pear flavor (and just an echo of oak).
Cooking for two or four and don't want to be eating turkey sandwiches for the next two weeks? Cook this whole turkey breast with chestnut stuffing instead of a whole bird. A good match would be this obvious upgrade from New Zealand stalwart Crawford's familiar regular bottling of the grape, with its tropical fruit intensity edging out the herbaceous sharpness that characterizes most Marlborough sauvignon blancs.
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Field blends, once common in the California wine industry, are wines made from an assortment of grapes that happen to be planted in proximity to each other; they're harvested and vinified together — "blended," as it were, in the vineyard.
Gore is a well-known grape-grower and his blend this vintage is a sort-of-Bordeauxish mix of petit verdot and malbec (mostly) with some merlot, cabernet sauvignon, and a bit of tempranillo. It's very well-knit considering its varied provenance, nicely in balance and aromatic and lively on the palate, with the malbec particularly showing through. We especially recommend it with roast capon, a delicious alternative to turkey, popular around the holiday season in France and other places where they know good food.
If you want to leave festive fowl behind completely, why not roast a beautiful pork loin with those earthy, autumnal-tasting wild mushrooms called porcini ("little pigs") or cêpes? A dish like this calls for elegance, as from this well-made cabernet — not a blockbuster, but very drinkable one, with plenty of backbone, medium tannin, and flavors of blackberry, black pepper, a hint of dust, and a light dose of Christmas spices.
Okay, we get it: You don't eat meat — turkey included. But you can wrap tofu around a good vegetarian stuffing and break out the rich mushroom gravy and have a perfectly good Thanksgiving feast with all the time-honored flavors. Something on the aromatic side, with some finesse, would go well. This is a classic Oregon pinot, with a chocolately nose and an intensity of flavor — peppery, a little earthy, with some juicy cherry fruit — rather than of body.