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Best wines for your Thanksgiving feast

Prepping the meal can be pretty involved, so we’ve simplified the wine selection

Published: November 26, 2013 11:00 PM

One upshot of my being involved in wine testing for Consumer Reports is that family and friends call on me for wine advice, especially at holiday time. I don’t think anyone would mistake me for the renowned Robert Parker, but it’s kind of cool to have some input into—if not exactly influence on—the holiday wines people will serve at their meals and gatherings.

Below are what I recommended for a colleague who wanted to know the best wines for Thanksgiving. My choices, culled from wines that we've tested within the last few years, is certainly not definitive, but it does offer some reasonably priced, quality wines that will go well with Thanksgiving fare as well as with any hors d’oeuvres you’ll serve. (All prices below are for a 750ml bottle.)

White wine

Chardonnay pairs pretty well with turkey and anything creamy, and it has an affinity for veggies. There are plenty of chardonnays to recommend, depending on your budget (prices for some French and California chards start in the stratospheric range) and what suits you style-wise (heavily oaked or crisp, for example). Bogle ($9) is inexpensive and pretty straightforward, without too much oak or butter, though it’s not completely lacking in those characteristics either.

Pinot grigio is typically a crowd pleaser, and while it doesn't necessarily pair well with a traditional Thanksgiving menu, it won't clash with it either. Cavit, from Italy, is a smart pick. It has always done well in our tests, and you can probably get a magnum (that’s 1.5 liters) for around $12 to $15.

Sauvignon blanc is my go-to white, no matter the meal. Its herbaceous quality makes it a better Thanksgiving fit than pinot grigio. Try Spy Valley ($12) or Villa Maria Private Bin ($15), both from New Zealand.

Check our wine buying guide for reviews of 16 different varietals, including cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay, merlot, pinot noir, and riesling, as well as sparkling wines. You’ll also find tips for shopping and advice on storage and serving.

2010 Oyster Bay pinot noir, $16

Red wine

Pinot noir is the best overall fit for Thanksgiving, and it should go well with just about everything that you’ll serve. Oyster Bay was our top-rated wine. This New Zealand pinot noir costs about $16.

Zinfandel is another versatile wine for the holiday. Dancing Bull (Chile, $10) and Ravenswood (California, $13) are both smart choices. If there’s a Trader Joe’s near you that sells wine, look for a zinfandel called Old Moon. This tasty wine costs only $6.

—Adam Kaplan

Sauvignon blanc wines being tested at Consumer Reports.

Going beyond the tried-and-true

I love wine, and I’m always willing to experiment and something new. My wife, however, rarely drinks wine, and when she does, she sticks with what she knows and likes: sauvignon blanc, a wine with vibrant, fresh fruit that appeals to her. She particularly likes Spy Valley ($12) and Villa Maria Private Bin ($15), bold New Zealand wines we recommend.

When my wife is in the mood for a glass of wine when we’re at home or out to dinner, she requests one of those two reasonably priced bottles. But every once in a while I’ll serve or order a Sauvignon Blanc from another region—sometimes you need to mix it up.

There are some pretty wonderful sauvignon blancs from all over the world, and each region displays the character of the varietal in a different way. Some are subtle, minerally wines that are almost briny; they’re great with shellfish. Others are an explosion of citrus and tropical fruits and bright acidity; they pair nicely with sushi or a goat-cheese salad.

Most sauvignon blancs from New Zealand’s Marlborough region have the characteristics my wife enjoys. So when she’s going to go out without me and asks me what kind of wine to order in case the wine list doesn’t include her favorites, I tell her to choose a Marlborough. So far, she’s been pretty pleased with what she’s been served.


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