After what feels like a lifetime of Thanksgiving roundups dedicated to curing the anxiety associated with trying to pair wine with a veritable shitstorm of different flavors, they persist. And they persist because the riddle persists. How do you choose a selection of wines that not only match well with both cranberry sauce and sausage stuffing, but will please the inevitable patchwork of people who tend to pull up their chairs to your table only once a year?
For us, there has always been a pretty basic shopping list for Thanksgiving: rich whites that still retain their acidity (think chenin blanc from the Loire and riesling, both dry and slightly off-dry, from Germany, Austria and Alsace) and fruit-forward or savory reds with great acidity (think Beaujolais, frappato from Sicily, cabernet franc from the Loire) and always, always something bubbly, whether it be a slightly off-dry, juicy and low-alcohol Bugey Cerdon, a pét-nat from the Loire or any number of méthode champenoise sparklers, including Champagne, if that’s how you roll. Trying to keep things low on the alcohol scale is generally a good rule of thumb as well. (Unless, of course, you’d rather not be lucid. In that case: whiskey.)
The challenge is bringing something new to the table (literally) that will prove interesting for those in the know (e.g. you), and pleasurable for all. Can this wine deal with green bean casserole? Will it not upset your disenchanted aunt? These are the questions we asked ourselves.
For this special edition of “House Wine,” we assembled a grab bag of whites, reds and sparkling wines under $25 to taste blind, all chosen because they represented well on paper (more about our process via our inaugural column), and ended up with seven that will not only find a place on our respective Thanksgiving tables, but will undoubtedly find themselves in heavy rotation beyond it.
For the tasting, we were joined by Alice Feiring, wine writer and author of Naked Wine and the natural wine digest, The Feiring Line; Ashley Santoro, wine director at Narcissa; Zachary Sussman, PUNCH’s New York wine columnist; and PUNCH Contributing Editor Megan Krigbaum.
Without further ado, the wines:
Keller Riesling Trocken 2014 | $22
While the Rheinhessen may not be the most fashionable region for German riesling, Keller has established itself as a producer that has proven the potential of its sites and the Rheinhessen at large. Their entry-level trocken delivers all of the concentrated fruit you want to cushion the Thanksgiving crush, with the salinity and citrus-tinged acid to clean it up. [Buy] Importer: Petit Pois
Costadilà IGT Bianco dei Colli Trevigiani Vino Frizzante “330 SLM” | $20
Costadilà is one of a growing number of prosecco producers making wine in the old-school col fondo style—i.e. prosecco that is fermented in bottle via the méthode ancestrale and released with its sediment—rather than the more industrial and dominant Charmat (tank fermentation) method. Sourced from organic vineyards located 330 meters above sea level (hence the “330”), fermented with native yeasts and bottled without sulfur, this shows off the more aromatic side of the glera grape. Cloudy with loads of pear and apple skin aromas and a yeasty undertone, it’s far less polarizing than it looks. [Buy] Importer: Louis/Dressner Selections
Bartucci Bugey Cerdon NV | $23
Cerdon is one of three crus within Bugey in France’s Savoie region, and the only one whose entire production consists of sparkling wine. Made from a blend of gamay along with poulsard and, in the case of Bartucci, a bit of chardonnay, the area’s wines are made in the méthode ancestrale and bottled off-dry. Pink and full of bright red fruit, this is basically adult fruit punch that, at eight percent alcohol, is the perfect wine to crack while cooking. [Buy] Importer: Jenny & Francois Selections
Bitouzet-Prieur Passetoutgrains “Grange le Duc” 2013 | $23
One of Volnay’s classic domaines, Bitouzet-Prieur’s Bourgogne Passetoutgrains—which is a designation that allows for blending grapes, typically gamay and pinot noir, to make simple wines—punches well above its weight class. Complex and spicy with gamay fruit coupled with pinot noir nuance. Officially one our greatest “House Wine” hits. [Buy] Importer: Rosenthal Wine Merchant
Fanny Sabre Bourgogne Rouge 2014 | $24
Fanny Sabre is one of a growing number of Burgundy producers working naturally. After studying under Henri-Frédéric Roch (of Prieuré Roch) and Philippe Pacalet, Fanny took over her family’s estate in the Côtes de Beaune. Her entry-level Bourgogne Rouge is a consistent go-to of ours, and the 2014 is no exception. Herbal (the wine macerates with its stems) and bright, this is another easy crowd-pleaser with enough tannin and grip to stand up to items destined to be drenched in gravy. [Buy] Importer: Avant-Garde Wine & Spirits
Pedralonga DoUmia 2012 | $20
Another consistent favorite at PUNCH, Pedralonga’s Rias Baixas red shows just how much potential the region has beyond its famous albariños. A blend of mencia, caiño and espadeiro sourced from organic vineyards and fermented in tank with native yeasts, this is all pepper, violets and eucalyptus with enough dark fruit to please those on the hunt for a fuller-bodied red. [Buy] Importer: David Bowler Wines
Lioco Indica 2013 | $20
One of the longtime darlings of New California, Lioco’s wines continue to improve year over year. The Indica is sourced from old-vine carignan in Mendocino and aged in neutral oak for nearly a year before being bottled unfined and unfiltered. This all about the jammy fruit and warm spice—the kind of wine that you can confidently plop down at any end of the table. (Would take nicely to a slight chill, as well.) [Buy] Importer: Skurnik Wines