Serving wine at Thanksgiving is always a challenge. Do you serve a different wine with every course? How many bottles should you buy? What if you serve the wrong red and it makes the turkey taste completely unappealing? Pairing is a science best left to the professionals, and on a day like Thanksgiving you can’t leave anything to chance.
That’s why we turned to our friend and most valued wine expert Jordan Salcito, who rocks the grape world with her dual-position as beverage director at Momofuku and founder of Bellus Wines. She gave us her insider recommendations on what to serve on the big day. Trust us, whether you prefer red, white or champagne, Salcito has got you covered. Read below for her top 12 picks…
Interest in cider has exploded the past few years and new ciders are flooding the market. But Normandy’s Eric Bordelet remains a standard-bearer. Once a sommelier at l’Arpège in Paris, he returned to his birthplace in Normandy to take over his family’s orchards and redefined cider’s potential for elegance along the way. Bordelet’s Poire Granite, made from 300 year-old pear trees (biodynamically farmed) is his top bottling and is fresh and delightful. It’s a home run through all phases of your Thanksgiving meal.
This Normandy cider is brand new to the US market, made in tiny quantities from over twelve varieties of apples. Cider, likely the drink consumed at the actual first Thanksgiving, is a particularly good match at this meal thanks to its delicate apple notes, bright acidity and slightly off-dry profile that makes it especially versatile.
Champagne – France
My go-to at Thanksgiving usually includes Champagne to start, and I vacillate between four go-tos that are worth seeking out regardless of holidays (but certainly useful at them). They include Frederic Savart’s l’Ouverture, Chartogne-Taillet’s Cuvée-St.-Anne, Bereche & Fils Brut Reserve and Pierre Peters Brut Reserve. Each is slightly different in style but all are worth having on hand – especially as they all offer different expressions of the region.
Savart’s l’Ouverture is a blanc de noir, or a white wine made from red grapes. It’s luxurious and redolent of ripe fruit. Raphael Bereche’s Brut Reserve is a blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. striking a balance among the three main Champagne grapes. Chartogne-Taillet’s Cuvée St. Anne is a blend of 50% each Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, and Pierre Peter’s Brut Reserve is made from 100% Chardonnay grown on white chalk in the famous village Le Mesnil sur Oger – it is razor-sharp and pristinely focused.
Giampaolo Venica is one of the world’s most thoughtful and talented winemakers. His ‘Jesera’ Pinot Grigio puts all others to shame, but a lesser-known gem in his line-up is the Friulano, a savory and gorgeous white wine that’s refreshing enough to be a perfect cleansing agent during a rich Thanksgiving meal and full-bodied enough to be a one-stop option from aperitif through pumpkin pie.
This one is new to the scene and already making big waves. Pronounciation-wise it’s a mouthful but it’s worth it – and an incredible value. La Fusta is made in Catalonia, Spain, from the grape Xarel-lo, which is best known as a blending grape in Cava. Meticulous vineyard management coupled with thoughtful minimial-intervention winemaking have produced a textured, savory wine that is a perfect match for squash, stuffing and anything else on your Thanksgiving table.
It’s hard to imagine a more patriotic than wine made from some of America’s first vineyards. This elegant Cabernet Franc is grown in Monticello, vineyards originally planted (unsuccessfully) by Thomas Jefferson, America’s first high-profile wine collector. Notes of sage and thyme offer a savory counterpoint to the tart red and black fruit.
If you are focusing on domestic wines for the holiday, Heitz Grignolino, native to Piedmont but also delightful in its Napa Valley iteration, is an excellent Thanksgiving red thanks to its charming fruit profile and soft tannins. This wine is a somewhat recent sommelier darling, but Heitz’ vineyard predates their initial vineyard purchase back in 1961!
Bellus Scopello Frappato has been a go-to at our Thanksgiving table since we first produced it three years ago. Think of Frappato as Sicilian Pinot Noir — delicate and aromatic, finicky and hard to grown but capable of producing profoundly nuanced reds. The vines for this bottling grow on limestone soil (Vittoria, where the grapes are grown, is a former seabed) and grapes are grown organically. Plus, a percentage of proceeds are donated to Nomogaia, an NGO that pushes multinational corporations to respect human rights.
Sommelier and winemaker Rajat Parr recently purchased the iconic Evening Land Vineyard and is making a stunning, balanced gamay from ungrafted 35 year-old vines on its storied slopes. The grapes are dry-farmed and tended without chemical herbicides or pesticides, and the wine boasts cranberry and sage notes that will marry perfectly with everything from cranberry sauce to roast turkey.
Greg Harrington’s powerful and profound Columbia Valley Syrah blend fruit from four vineyards throughout the appellation that paint a dynamic representation of the region through Syrah. Bright and lively acidity is a perfect counterpoint to ripe, juicy red cherry and raspberry fruit, and a touch of smoke and leather add another level of complexity to this luxurious wine. This recommendation is for those who prefer a more full-bodied style!
Thanksgiving’s pie course is at least as important as the rest of the meal. And no wine is a better match for apple, pumpkin or pecan pie than Eve’s Cidery’s profound dessert cider, Essence, made from the juice of pressed, frozen late-harvest apples grown in Finger Lakes, NY without any herbicides, pesticides or chemicals. All of Eve’s Cidery’s line-up is not to miss, and their ciders reflect their holistic approach to their craft.