Thanksgiving is likely the most gut-busting meal of the year. For hosts, it’s certainly one of the most stressful to prepare. Thanksgiving for some equates to weeks of planning and days of cooking a multi-dish, family-style throwdown accompanied by an oversized turkey with a pie course. Choosing wines for a meal that incorporates a slew of sweet, savory and buttery rich flavors only adds to the stress.
Melissa Davis, beverage director and assistant general manager at Staplehouse, says choosing wines for a large meal such as Thanksgiving doesn’t have to be overwhelming.
“If you have a trusted local wine shop, the best thing to do is walk in and ask questions. Be up front about your budget.” During the holiday season, most wine shops are prepared with pairing recommendations for these large meals.
Davis suggests choosing wines that can stand up to the Thanksgiving meal and its flavors without interfering with or wearing out the palate. This usually means medium bodied wines with less tannins or those not overly oaky. The wines selected should be a mixture of reds and whites, including a sparkling, which she insists should always be part of the Thanksgiving feast.
“Sparkling wines are a great palate reset between bites, especially during heavy meals.”
This year, Davis says she’ll be pairing a variety of wines for Thanksgiving like a California cabernet franc, a budget-friendly French sparkling wine from the Loire Valley and a cider port from Virginia’s Foggy Ridge.
Here are the wines Ms. Davis is crushing on this holiday season.
Choose white wines with a bit of body. Davis says if you find a good French chardonnay, pick one up. She suggests those from the Loire Valley as the region produces un-oaked chardonnays that are stainless steel fermented. They are bright, fresh and slightly acidic. But don’t count California chardonnays out.
“I love French chardonnay but I’m crushing on Caraccioli Cellars in the Santa Lucia Highlands of California. On the nose, it’s all toasted popcorn but the acidity is fine and slightly rich.”
Caraccioli chardonnay is a byproduct of the winery’s sparkling wines. It retails for around $35 and can be found at Ansley Wine Merchants.
Davis heads to Germany’s Franken region for her next Thanksgiving white wine choice and the house of Hans Wirsching and their famed silvaners.
“These are the underdog wines of Germany. Hans Wirsching is one of the longest continually operated houses in Germany. Most of their silvaners are medium-bodied and a touch herbaceous.”
They are also ridiculously affordable, ranging from $15 to $22. The bottle is shaped like a large green perfume bottle. Davis has paired a Hans Wirsching silvaner with the beef tartare at Staplehouse accompanied by bitter greens. Consider the Hans Wirsching Iphöfer Kronsberg.
When choosing sparkling wine for the Thanksgiving table, lean dry and nutty with soft bubbles. Tight bubbles tend to dry out as well as wear out the palate. Another affordable bottle at the Davis Thanksgiving table this year will be Loire Valley’s Atmospheres from Jo Landron.
“Atmosphere is what the bubbles in Champagne are called. The wine is almost cider-like and the color nearly orange. It’s warm and comforting with soft, round bubbles and is incredibly food-friendly.”
The bottle is reasonable at $21 and can be found at H&F Bottle Shop.
“If you’re looking to go a little outside the red box, I love California’s I. Brand and Family Bayly Ranch cabernet franc. It’s green bell pepper with a lovely rustic quality and a hint of green olive brine.”
She loves to pair this with a store-bought veggie tray or her guilty pleasure, a port wine cheese ball with Club crackers, but says it can handle savory and rich foods without overwhelming the palate. This is an open-and-pour cabernet franc. Give it a good swirl, and drink. The bottle retails for around $36. This bottle can be special ordered from most Atlanta wine shops if it is not in stock.
Davis has an affinity for Spanish wines and is currently crushing on Bodegas Albamar’s Fusco, a mencía (mehn-THEE-ah) from the Galician region.
“Spanish wines love food, family and fun. Mencía is all of those things. “Fusco” is Galician for night or darkness. The color is an intense purple. This wine is bright and fresh with bright red flowers and dark red fruits.”
Davis describes Fusco as a celebratory red. It retails between $15 and $20 and is carried at Barcelona VinoTeca, the wine shop for Barcelona Wine Bar.
Davis discovered Pippin Gold cider port from Virginia’s Foggy Ridge earlier this Fall. The cider is made with Newtown Pippin apples; a 17th-century heritage varietal still produced in small quantities. Pippin Gold is fortified with Laird’s apple brandy and aged for nine months in stainless steel.
“These apples are harvested late season, so they are sweeter. Fortifying this cider with Laird’s is brilliant. It carries a sweet and subtle apple flavor with a hint of citrus and warm spice. Pippin Gold pairs great with apple pie.”
Foggy Ridge Pippin Gold retails for $25 and can be found at Hop City.
Check with your local wine shop for these wines. Most shops will special order bottles if they do not carry a particular bottle in stock. All of the above wines are currently available at Staplehouse.
Ansley Wine Merchants, 1544 Piedmont Ave. NE, 211, Atlanta. 404-876-6790, ansleywine.com.
H&F Bottle Shop, 2357 Peachtree Road, Atlanta. 404-841-4070, hfbottleshop.com.
Barcelona VinoTeca, 299 N. Highland Ave. NE, Atlanta. 470-377-5100, shopvinoteca.com.
Hop City, 1000 Marietta St. NW #302, Atlanta. 404-350-9998 or 99 Krog St. NE, Atlanta. 470-355-2534 , hopcitybeer.com.