Thanksgiving can be a crazy time; figuring out what to drink shouldn't be. There are a few basic things to keep in mind:
1) Lots of Turkey Day food is, well, bland. Potatoes, stuffing, turkey... YAWN. Your wine should provide the PIZZAZ! However, now is not the time to pop open that super-concentrated, oak-aged, dense, intense Cab. It'll overwhelm.
2) You might love and appreciate wine, and Aunt Frieda is definitely a Wineau, but the rest of the fam? Maybe not. Look for excellent values, so when Uncle Fred puts ice cubes and a packet of Splenda in his red, you won't pass out.
3) Acid is always your friend, when it comes to food-and-wine pairing. You might not first think of red wines with turkey, but a high-acid red... PERFECTION.
Let's get to it! (PS all of this goes for the rest of your holiday dinners as well!!)
ALWAYS A WINNER: ChampagneYes, this might violate guideline #2, but substitute a good-value sparkling wine made in the Champagne method and you're good to go.
WHY? Bubbles! Festive! And its acidity and rich toasty nutty flavors will pair perfectly.
Value -- Lucien Albrecht Crèmant d'Alsace ~$17, Gruet Blanc de Noirs (NM) ~$14 Louis Boillot Crèmant de Bourgogne Rosé ~$20.
Mid-price -- Taittinger Brut La Francaise Champagne ~$38, Moet & Chandon Brut Imperial Champagne ~$38.
Splurge -- Krug Grande Cuvée Champagne ~$160, Billecart-Salmon Brut Rosé Champagne ~$75.
DARK HORSE: LambruscoSkip the sweeter inexpensive versions and head straight for this herby, dark-fruited Italian bubbly.
WHY: Also bubbles! Rich earthiness and plum/blackberry fruits are lifted by its freshness.
Ca Montanari Opera 02 Lambrusco ~$17, Zanassi La Grasparossa Lambrusco ~$13.
FRESH AND FRUITY: BeaujolaisIf you're tempted to throw a Beaujolais Nouveau in your cart, I won't stop you. But the mass-market ones are so ephemeral, you'll miss the gloriousness of what a Beaujolais with some oomph and character can give. If you do want in on the fun, ask for a smaller, recommended producer. Non-Nouveau is a different story! And named crus (named regions, like Morgon below,) will cost a bit more, but will definitely deliver, so a splurge here is worth it!
WHY: Gamay (the grape) is bright, fruity, and fresh. Flirty personality, and smooth sailing. And most are under $20-25.
Value -- Ch. du Basty Lantignié Beaujolais ~$12, Pierre-Marie Chermette Beaujolais ~$14
Splurge -- Marcel Lapierre Morgon Beaujolais ~$40
ALSOA lighter-style Shiraz/Syrah shpicy crowdpleaser like Charles Smith Boom Boom Syrah (WA) ~$13 (I'm bringing this to our company's TGiving!)
Heavy-duty but real fruity oak-influenced Chardonnay like J. Lohr Riverstone Chardonnay (CA) ~$11 (This has been my dad's "house wine" for decades!)
A white with savory elements like a dry Furmint (Hungary) like Evolúció Tokaji Furmint ~$12 (I am obsessed with dry Tokaji!)
Or a Grüner Veltliner (Austria) with its white pepper/celery character, yet often with yummy stone fruit like the Weszeli Langelois ~$17
I'm also a sucker for a delish Sangiovese: Villa Sant'Anna Chianti Colli Senesi ~$19 or Antinori Santa Christina Chianti Superiore ~$13. Other Sangiovese wines are Rosso di Montalcino ($20-30 range,) and Brunello di Montalcino if you want to get a bit more splurgy, ask for good (and good-value) producers from your purveyors.
Other high-acid reds to look for: Pinot Noir from all around the globe, Zweigelt, Blaufrankish.
As always, many of these may not be available in your local wine shop; bring this list with you and ask for comparable suggestions! Your wine merchant should be your new best friend, always. This is just the tip of the iceberg; there are so many suggestions, you really can't go wrong... let me know what you paired with YOUR bird!!