Wine is always a wonderful gift for any guest to bring to a dinner party, and Thanksgiving is no exception. The host may have spent so much time stuffing the turkey and browning the marshmallows on the yams that they could have plum forgot to pick up wine for dinner. Or, as can happen with any wine sealed with a cork and not a screw cap, the wine they chose to serve could be “corked” (when the cork causes a reaction in the wine, leaving perfectly good wine smelling–and tasting–like a wet basement).
Whether the wine gift serves as a back-up to the host’s wine, is simply put aside on the host’s wine rack, or becomes the centerpiece to the meal, a guest who brings wine to dinner is giving their host options. Which leads to this important point: make sure it’s a great wine!
Here are four wine categories to consider when bringing a fantastic wine gift to Thanksgiving dinner.
Selecting a Beautiful Bubbly
A sparkling wine doesn’t have to be a pricey Champagne to make an impression on a dinner host, but it shouldn’t be something they can find at 7-11 on their next potato chip run. There are two things to keep in mind when selecting a sparkling wine as a gift:
- Only sparkling wine from the Champagne region of France can be labeled Champagne–and this is usually the most expensive stuff in the shop, upwards of $35. Cava (from Spain) and Prosecco (from Italy) are reputable, respectable alternatives to Champagne, and usually much more affordable–in the $15 to $25 range for some excellent wines.
- Selecting a nice wine with a nice label is a good thing. It’s a gift, after all, and the label is part of the package.
For a special high-end Champagne, try Henriot’s Blanc Souverain, made from 100 percent Chardonnay. This exemplary bubbly has notes of apple and truffles, and is perfect for fall. At around $40, it’s exceptional for the price. For a more reasonably-priced, dry sparkling white wine, the Pacific Rim “White Flowers” sparkling Riesling from Washington State is a terrific option. For around $16, this organic wine delivers a lovely texture (due to “lees-aging,” a process in which the wine is aged on its own natural yeast), fruity and floral flavors, and pleasantly persistent chimney of bubbles in the flute. The lovely label is perfect for the holidays.
Whites are All Right for Fall
Some wine snobs believe in drinking NBR–nothing but reds–after summer. This inhibits a wine drinker from experiencing some fantastic fall whites, and others that make for wonderful year-round wines. Chardonnay is a fantastic example of a fall white. Its weightier mouthfeel and luscious, sometimes-buttery texture allow it to stand up to everything from poultry to seafood. Some people strongly dislike Chardonnays because they believe them to be overly oaky, so if gifting a Chardonnay, try an unoaked Chard. The Pouilly-Fuisse region of Burgundy, France, is known for its unoaked Chardonnays, and the Vincent Girardin “Vieilles Vignes” Pouilly-Fuisse is one of the best in the $35 price range. Notes of pear and apple and creme fraiche make for a nose that one can inhale for hours.
Another interesting and relatively lesser-known fall white is Insolia (also known as Ansonica or Inzolia) from Sicily. For around $10 a bottle, the Feudo Principi di Butera Insolia packs an autumn punch with almond and apple in the nose, citrus and herbs on the palate.
Coming Up Rosé
Despite the connotation cheap blushes and White Zinfandels have given, pink isn’t always bad! A pink-hued wine isn’t necessarily sweet, it’s simply a rosé (rose-ay), which means the wine has had brief contact with the grapes’ skins during the winemaking process. Rosés are made from many well-known varietals: Pinot Noir, Malbec, Grenache, Shiraz, etc.
If the host intends to open the gift wine during dinner, a dry Rosé is a great wine for the appetizer course. The Hippolyte Reverdy Rose of Pinot Noir from the Sancerre region of France is fresh, with seashell minerality and terrific acidity for food. For around $18, it is a great wine to bring to Thanksgiving dinner, and its sundried-tomato hue is a far cry from the pinkish convenience store Rosés people shy away from.
The Right Red for Turkey
Turkey is poultry, which means that unless it’s been deep-fried in buffalo sauce, some reds might be too big or powerful to pair. Rather than offer a Cabernet or Tempranillo with the Thanksgiving bird, something a little more delicate–a Pinot Noir, Grenache, or Syrah–would be a better match. The French often enjoy Cotes-du-Rhones (from the Rhone Valley in France) with their poultry dishes. Cotes-du-Rhones are blends of Rhone varietals, and can be made from Syrah, Cinsault, Grenache, Mourvedre and Carignan. Plan Pegau makes a terrific 2016 Cotes-du-Rhone with cherry, peppery notes that is perfect for Thanksgiving dinner, and only around $17 a bottle.
If a guest picks out a wine especially to be shared over the meal, when handing over the gift, they can say something along the lines of “This red is amazing with turkey” or “I got something bubbly to set the celebratory spirit!” But in the end, the gift is for the host, who gave up an entire day to make a meal to share. If they choose not to open it at dinner, it’s their gift. The guest is receiving a gift too: an incredible home-cooked meal. That’s something to be thankful for!