If I could be of any service in helping you buy compelling Thanksgiving wines for this weird 2020 pandemic version of the holiday, it would be this:
- Follow the same advice I dropped here last year to not worry about pairings and decanting and fuss, and just enjoy the ride;
- If you are planning a quieter holiday (which all signs point to being a very good idea) focus on what gives you joy, especially if its a wine that brings those who can’t be with you closer;
- If all else fails, buy a Cru du Beaujolais wine, as I recently wrote, or;
- If you want to know what bottles of wine I’d love to open again — from my many recent tastings — keep reading.
Navigate My Picks:
My dad taught me that one of Thanksgiving’s greatest joys is to stand around the kitchen and “snitch” bits of food as they come out of the oven. I won’t be with him this year, but I’ll be doing my best impression of him. For such an occasion, the wine I’d want to hold in the other hand (while my fingers pick off stray bread cubes and turkey bits) would be the 2018 André et Michel Quenard “Les Eboulis de 1248” Les Abymes (★★★★ 1/4), a Jacquère-based white wine from France’s Savoie region. This is an alpine wine through and through, with taunt acidity, clear minerality and bright citrus-and-apple tones. It also lands like a feather, so snitch away.
The All-Purpose Whites
Forget the cold calculus of pairings. Forget the need to impress. You just want something downright enjoyable and — dare I say it — comforting in your glass. This year has been hell for everyone, but its these little quiet moments with a wine that we can steal some of it back.
I could drink the 2018 Pacherhof Sylvaner Alte Reben (★★★★ 1/2) all day. Hailing from Alto Adige’s Valle Isarco, this wild white suggests mandarin orange, white peach, gooseberry and lanolin on the nose, and glides effortlessly across the palate. It’s a taste of Austria coming from Italy, although if you’ve ever been to this tidy little enclave, you’ll know its culturally Tyrolean.
Or you can seek out the 2018 Ciro Picariello Fiano di Avellino (★★★★ 3/4) from Italy’s southern Campania region, which tastes like an Albariño with a volcanic complex. Sensations akin to orange zest, apricot, crunched mint and a briny sensation combine to make it dangerously gulpable.
The Riesling I Want Back
If somehow you are able to pull of the traditional Thanksgiving meal this year, you owe it to yourself to track down a lightly sweet Riesling from Germany’s Mosel region. Before you write off “sweetness,” here me out: in the Mosel, winemakers are able to preserve a smidgen of residual sugar without making you realize you’re drinking something sweet. A great example of this sleight-of-hand comes from the 2016 Markus Hüls Steffensberg Mosel Riesling (★★★★ 3/4), which shines with Riesling’s bright lime-peel character and a mild creaminess. I can’t think of a better white from this year’s tastings to partner with the smorgasbord of Thanksgiving.
The Loveable Oddball Red
I’ve touted Frappato’s Thanksgiving-ready virtues a few times, and I am here to do it again. The 2019 Gurrieri Frappato Terre Siciliane (★★★★ 1/2) does a small handful of things, but it does them all very well. It’s light and won’t weight you down. It tastes of cooked strawberries, star anise and mint, and its juicy, lean, acidic profile will cut through most any food you nosh on. So, yes, I will say it once again: find a Frappato for Thanksgiving and you will be rewarded.
The Out-There Pinot Noir Pick
Like Riesling and Beaujolais, Pinot Noir is an undisputed king for Thanksgiving. I’d love to offer you some ideas for domestic Pinot Noir, but that’s outside my bailiwick at the moment (look for my new contributors covering domestic wine in 2021). But if you want to surprise yourself, head to Germany for the 2016 Weingut Carl Ehrhard Rüdesheim Berg Roseneck Spätburgunder (★★★★ 1/2), a fruity and playful wine that recalls Oregon Pinot’s depth and California Pinot’s notes of red tea. As the climate warms, Germany — like Alsace — is poised to play a compelling role in the production of exciting Pinot Noir. Carl Ehrhard’s Spätburgunder is a tantalizing taste of that conflicted future.
The Best Value Red for Thanksgiving
Last week, when I tasted the 2019 Cultusboni “Colmaia” Sangiovese Toscana (★★★★ 3/4) with winemaker Roberto Stucchi of Badia a Coltibuono (virtually, that is), I was not only impressed by the wine’s substance and complexity, I was floored to learn it only costs $13. This Sangiovese’s élevage occurs entirely in stainless-steel, something that more and more winemakers are embracing, thankfully. It is crisp like an autumn breeze, and carries and brilliant cherry-currant fruit that matches the mood. Already with ripe tannins and a baking-spice finish. Get some.
I’ve advised against pouring showstopping red wines on Thanksgiving, in part because the holiday is not a great environment for paying attention to such a wine. But this year is likely to be a little more quiet, and there may be more room to study a wine such as the 2016 Domaine Maestracci E Prove Rouge Corse Calvi (★★★★★), which has emerged as one of the most beautiful red wines I’ve tasted this year. Hailing from Corsica, the wine is a totemic example of the island’s hidden gem status. A blend of Niellucciu (aka Sangiovese), Grenache, Sciacarellu (Mammolo) and Syrah, it conveys all of the best attributes of those grapes into one tidy package: Sangiovese’s cherries, Syrah’s black plums, Mammolo’s flowers and Grenache’s garrigue and walnuts. Regardless of your Thanksgiving plans, your dishes, your commitments, your planned Zoom calls, this is the red wine you ought to have in your glass for a good portion of it. And check out that budget price.
Note: Four of these wines (Pacherhof, Hüls, Carl Ehrhard and Coltusboni) were provided as samples by their respective importer or PR firm. The others were bought with fund raised through our virtual tasting series. Learn more about our editorial policy.
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