On this most gluttonous of American holidays, food tends to take center stage. There’s the turkey, bien sûr, and grandma’s recipe for homemade stuffing; there are potatoes to mash and pies to bake.
If you’re not whipping up enough side dishes to put the Cheesecake Factory menu to shame, you’re not doing it right.
Last year, many Americans downsized their celebrations due to the pandemic — meaning we’re all a bit overdue for our annual yams consumption. This year, thanks to vaccines and booster shots, it’s looking like more people will return to their traditional, albeit perhaps dysfunctional (just me?), family gatherings for the holiday. In other words, it’s time to stock up on some wine.
While we can’t convince your second cousin’s girlfriend to get vaccinated, we can tell you that having these wines on hand will help to ease the stress around hosting Thanksgiving. From what to sip while anxiety-cleaning the kitchen to what sort of bubbly to serve to your très exigeante great aunt, consider this a survival guide for the wines you’ll need to get you through each step of holiday prep, all the way to leftover Friday — the French way.
For When You Start to Regret Hosting
Sure, it sounded like a great idea when it meant not having to drive six hours upstate to your in-laws’ place. But now? Thanksgiving is a mere few days away and you’re panic-spiraling about if your mother-in-law is going to notice the stain on the couch (she will) and if everyone’s gotten their Covid booster. Take a deep breath and pour yourself a glass (or two) of a good glou-glou (easy-drinking) wine like La Bullette de David from Les Vins Pirouettes ($26.94). Think: stone fruit, round finish, effervescence. It’s a bright and fizzy wine from Alsace, and it will positively put you in the mood to throw a party. Be warned: the bottle can be a bit explosive upon opening — we’d suggest popping this one over the sink.
For When You’re Prepping the Food
Did you know that drinking wine while chopping onions prevents you from crying? Probably not, since that’s a lie — but a handy one to tell anyone who tries to judge you for picking up a glass of Sauvignon Blanc at noon on a Thursday. Brendan Tracey’s Rue de la Soif is unfiltered and zings with sustained acidity, while notes of tropical citrus and honey dance on the palette. A mineral quality brings balance — but beware, it’s nearly impossible to track down these days online, so check your local wine shop. This Pascal Jolivet Sancerre ($29.99) should be easier to find and stockpile: it’s fresh and racy with a young, bright acidity and perfectly balanced citrus fruits. Best paired with your favorite NPR podcast and occasional bites of stuffing — you know, just to taste test.
For When Guests Start Arriving
The key to a smooth Thanksgiving dinner is to get everyone tipsy as soon as possible. Having a bottle of bubbly chilled and ready to serve as soon as anyone walks through the door is the perfect way to lighten things up before sitting down to a heavy meal. If you’re feeling fancy, spring for a bottle of Ruinart Blanc des Blancs ($75), a 100% Chardonnay blend from the storied French maison with a bright, citrusy nose — think white peaches and spring blossoms. Or, if you’re looking to keep things closer to home (and the price more manageable), opt for a bottle of Mumm Napa Blanc des Blancs ($24), a California blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Gris crafted in homage to the brand’s French heritage with a crisp, citrusy effervescence on the palate and notes of apple and brioche. In general, any sort of Brut (dry) Champagne will be ideal here, as it will hold up well alongside any cheese or nuts you may have out as appetizers and, more importantly, give everyone something to do with their hands.
To Pair with Dinner
Garlicky mashed potatoes, tart cranberry sauce and creamy green bean casserole call for white and red options. The mélange of dishes means a lot of mixed flavor profiles, so it’s best to stick to light-bodied wines and stay away from anything too acidic. This isn’t the time to bring out your showcase wines, many of which may be too heavy to pair with the food — save those for a time when you’ll be able to better appreciate them.
As far as whites go, opt for a Chardonnay or Pouille-Foussé to best balance the meal. Jadot’s Poille-Foussé ($20.99) is an excellent option, with beams of acidity and a citrus quality that falls back on notes of melon, toasted nuts and honey.
For reds, think Pinot Noir, or better yet, Cru Beaujolais. This 100% Gamay Morgon from Domaine de la Croix Mulins ($14.99) may look dense in the bottle, but it’s light on the palate, with an earthiness that complements the food without veering into barnyard territory.
To Pair with Leftovers (and Your Hangover) the Next Day
You did it! You successfully hosted Thanksgiving. We’d like to raise a glass to you — ideally, one filled to the brim with Les Vins Pirouettes’ Ultra Violet de David ($34.95). This natural wine (meaning it’s produced without pesticides or additives — good for you, good for the planet) is a juicy, chillable blend of red and white grapes (Auxerrois, Pinot blanc, Pinot Noir, Muscat, Pinot Gris, Riesling and Gewurztraminer — say those varietals three times fast!) that’s bound to nurse you back to health after a night of “being overserved,” as my mother politely puts it. Tart and energetic, it will add just the right amount of zing to your leftover sandwiches.
Sophie Dodd is a travel, food and wine writer based in Brooklyn. She writes for People Magazine and Travel + Leisure and talks to herself in French when she thinks no one is looking. You can follow her on Instagram at @sickofsuburbia.