Thanksgiving dinner. A turkey, a small army of side dishes, a dozen family members and football. With all the food you’re consuming, and naptime inevitable, good alcohol can be an afterthought. Luckily, great Thanksgiving wines are easy to find for bargain prices.
Our shopping criteria were pretty simple:
- Wines that pair well with turkey and other traditional foods
- Lighter styles, low in alcohol content and easygoing, so your stomach can handle the wine along with the food
- Bottles that are easy to find in Dallas
- Prices under $15
- Crowd-pleasers, so your cantankerous relatives will all be satisfied
Worried about pairings? We asked Rob Forman, from the import company Dalla Terra Winery Direct, for his thoughts. He said that, while turkey goes well with many wines, he’d rather do a white if the side dishes are mainly sweet (sweet potatoes, cranberry, etc.), but bust out a red if there will be heartier sides like roasted winter veggies.
Here are some of our favorite Turkey Day finds, in order from lightest white to juiciest red.
Teira Sauvignon Blanc. This Dry Creek Valley wine is a great option for a traditional Thanksgiving menu. Its light body, with crisp citrus and apple flavors, will complement turkey and pair well with most dressings, whether you've gone with your grandmother’s celery-apple-fennel stuffing served in a pumpkin or whipped up some Kraft Stove Top. It ends with light acidity, balancing your sweet potatoes and cranberry jelly. You can find Teira for $14 at Scardello, or at the Goody Goody near Greenville Avenue and Park Lane.
Estancia Pinot Grigio. Odds are you've seen this California wine in Kroger or Tom Thumb sitting next to Barefoot. If you're a wine snob, you've probably overlooked this because ... it's sitting next to Barefoot. If you usually buy Barefoot, you probably don't think Estancia is worth the $8 splurge. But trust us and take the plunge. This crowd-pleaser is nicely balanced. It has a medium body and milder acidity without venturing into buttery Chardonnay territory. It's fruit-forward, with a sweetish passion fruit nose and strong flavors of apple and pear. While Estancia is certainly not the best wine ever made, everyone at your gathering will find it easy to drink. This will pair better with Brussels sprouts and green beans than a Sauvignon Blanc, so consider picking one up if your menu is veggie-heavy.
Jolie Folle Rosé ‘14. Rosé gets pigeonholed as a summertime drink, but its balance of fresh strawberry flavors and acidity can make a nice combination with your stuffing and cranberry sauce. Stop by Central Market for Jolie Folle, an outsized one-liter bottle that will keep the whole family tipsy in style for $15. (Speaking of Jolie, Miraval Rosé, available at Spec’s, costs a pretty $25 because it’s owned by Brad and Angelina.)
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Italian red wines. A lot of lighter Italian styles go well with savory Thanksgiving dishes, with hints of acidity to make you thirst for your next sip. Forman, who specializes in Italian wine, says barbera, brachetto and nero d’avola are all good options, but he particularly loves grapes from that country’s far south.
At Jimmy’s Food Store, Forman pops the cork on a $10 bottle called Li Veli Primonero, from the southernmost point of Salento. A blend of negroamaro and primitivo (aka zinfandel), it’s fruit-rich without being sweet, and instantly likable. It’s also remarkably complex for the price. “The grapes are all estate-grown,” Forman says, rather than being trucked in from mass producers. “List price is $12, but [Jimmy’s] sells it for $10. Their inclination is never to go for the extra buck.”
A weirder choice: schiava, a red grape grown along the Italian-Austrian border, which produces improbably light wine. At just 12 percent alcohol and lavender in color, Alois Lageder Schiava is cheery, refreshing and $15. Serve it chilled to your snooty rich uncle who thinks he knows every wine in existence.
Oregon pinot noir. Pinot noir and turkey are a pairing sommeliers love to urge, with good reason. And great pinots are easy to find. It’s almost as easy as looking for a price tag around $15 and the word Oregon. During a casual walk around Spec’s, we saw terrific, affordable bottles from Adelsheim, Argyle, Elk Cove, Erath, Cloudline, Four Graces, Ponzi and Stoller, most of them under $18 and none over $25. (Half of these we’ve personally tried; the other half we know by reputation.) Just don’t serve A to Z or Rex Hill pinot to Mavericks fans. They’re owned by San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich.