Casual wine drinkers, aficionados, and beginners alike: Each month we expose you to new things, educating and diversifying your palate with a lineup of our monthly wine picks. We're sharing some of the best we've tried in the last month so that you can seek them out and bring them to dinner this month. We're focused on wines perfect for the typical American Thanksgiving dinner this month, as we're just days away from cracking open several of these to share with our own families. Go find them yourselves, and let us know what you recommend!
2016 Loic et Noel Bulliat Beaujolais-Villages (Beaujolais, France)
Why we chose it: Beaujolais, a wine traditionally made from the Gamay grape in the French region of Beaujolais, is a classic Thanksgiving pairing. Other wines have their moments each year -- Vinho Verde in summer, sparklers on New Years Eve -- and November is most certainly the moment for a good bottle of Beaujolais. This one is characteristic of what you'll often find, offering up hints of cranberry and a little slate in the nose, followed by a pleasingly fruity palate. It's slightly acidic, but not too acidic, so a perfect compliment with food (i.e. "nom with Turkey"). A little green pepper comes out in the nose after just a bit. We found this young wine (generally drink Beaujolais from just the year prior) to be very round in the mouth, with not a trace of anything harsh.
What to look for: Beaujolais is so popular this time of year that you won't need to look far. Be mindful that there is a lot of garbage wine out there, though, so consider hitting up a Thanksgiving tasting at a local shop, or as your local wine merchant for a recommendation in the $10-$15 range. Don't spend a lot of money here.
2011 The Crater Rim Pinot Noir Bendigo Terrace (Central Otago, New Zealand)
Why we chose it: Far more full bodied and fruitier than the Beaune that we tried on the same evening, this bottle from Crater Rim is woody and smoldering, substantive with even some intriguing Tempranillo qualities. It tasted surprisingly hot, making it possible to confuse with something from California, spicy, and generally driven more by heat and body than by fruit. In considering the spectrum of Pinot Noir on offer around the world, we like this as an example of New Zealand because it melds some of the heat you'll find in California with the fruit forwardness you'll find in Oregon, and some of the terroir-driven complexity you'll find in the Old World. That substantive nature -- again, we're talking the right balance of acidity here -- makes it another great compliment to food in general, while Pinot Noir's typical flavor profile makes it a particular classic Thanksgiving pair.
What to look for: Seek out a Pinot from Oregon or New Zealand (personal preference based on what we find to be some of the most interesting food Pinot) that hits your price range. You're likely aiming a bit higher than the Beaujolais here, say $15 minimum, but certainly doable under $30 per bottle.
2009 Quinta do Pôpa Touriga Nacional (Douro, Portugal)
Why we chose it: Is it cheating to recommend this Thanksgiving one of the same wines we recommended last? We say "no", both because this is such a divine pairing to the typical Thanksgiving dinner, and also because the mono-varietal (a wine made from only one grape, rather than a blend) Touriga Nacional is relatively so rare (it's normally used to make Port wine). If you're looking for a unique wine at Thanksgiving dinner, consider the 2009 Quinta do Pôpa Touriga Nacional made from grapes grown on the steep mountainside that rises above Portugal's Douro River. We admit, Touriga Nacional isn't the easiest to find as a still wine, but this wine's authentic smooth style will linger on your tongue like whole cranberry sauce, making it one you'll thank us if you're able to find one for Thanksgiving.
What to look for: This one isn't going to be easy. You'll need help from a knowledgable wine merchant to get your hands on a bottle like this, from Quinta do Pôpa or elsewhere. Good luck!
What are your favorite wines to share over Thanksgiving dinner?