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New Wines for Thanksgiving

Nontraditional bottles for a traditional meal

Fine Cooking Issue 81
Photos: Scott Phillips
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Thanksgiving dinner is perhaps the most traditional of all meals, but that doesn’t mean you have to stick with traditional wines like Pinot Noir or Riesling. There are many other delicious, versatile, reasonably priced options that I’d urge you to try. When choosing wines for Thanksgiving, I look for bottles that have moderate alcohol, oak, and tannin (excessive amounts of any of these will overwhelm the food), such as the six varietals featured here. All of them are great matches for roast turkey and all the trimmings.

Nontraditional white wines (left to right): Viognier, Sémillon, and Grüner Veltliner.


This aromatic white originated in France’s northern Rhône Valley. With its gloriously perfumed nose of white flowers and vibrant ripe peach and apricot flavors, Viognier brings out the best in roasted turkey, carrots, and sweet potatoes.

Bottles to try:

  • Georges Duboeuf Viognier, Vin de Pays de l’Ardèche
  • Yalumba Viognier, Y Series, South Australia
  • Cline Cellars Viognier, Sonoma Coast


This white can be found in a range of styles, from sprightly bottles with gooseberry and lime flavors (if you like New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, you’ll like these) to lightly oaked wines with rich honey, mango, and preserved citrus notes. Your wine merchant can help you find some of each kind: Try the unoaked wine as a pre-dinner apéritif and the oaked wine with dinner—it’s an easy, delicious match for the salty, rich, tangy, and sweet elements on the plate. Beyond Thanksgiving, try Sémillon with vibrantly sauced meat dishes like chicken and veal piccata.

Bottles to try:

  • Rosemount Estate Sémillon, Diamond Label, Hunter Valley, Australia (no oak)
  • Peter Lehmann Sémillon, Barossa Valley, Australia (no oak)
  • L’Ecole No. 41 Barrel Fermented Sémillon, Columbia Valley, Washington, (oak)

Grüner Veltliner

This once obscure Austrian white is becoming popular on restaurant wine lists and retail shelves. It has peachy-citrus flavors with notes of white pepper and herbs and is a great match for the meal, especially with bread dressing, fall fruits, toasted nuts, and any of the spicier elements of the meal.

Bottles to try:

  • E&M Berger Grüner Veltliner, Austria
  • Hiedler Grüner Veltliner, “Loess,” Austria
  • Nigl Grüner Veltliner, Kremser Freiheit, Austria


To experience Malbec at its best, look for single-varietal bottles from Argentina. These luscious wines have soft cherry, plum, and spice flavors, which pair well with all the elements of Thanksgiving dinner, from the mild flavors of roast turkey to the more robust flavors of your bread stuffing and winter squash or sweet potato side dishes. After the holidays, pair Malbec with hearty, meat-sauced pasta dishes.

Bottles to try:

  • Ñandú Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina
  • Altos Las Hormigas Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina
  • Catena Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina
Nontraditional reds (left to right): Malbec, Grenache, Tempranillo.


Grenache is the major component in southern Rhône blends such as Châteauneuf-du-Pape and Gigondas. But when bottled as a single varietal, the grape delivers a heady mix of jammy red fruits and pepper-spice that deliciously complements the richer elements of the meal like stuffing and gravy. And as we move into winter, keep it in mind for hearty braises and stews.

Bottles to try:

  • Joseph Phelps Pastiche, California
  • Bodegas Borsao Tres Picos (Garnacha), Campo de Borja, Spain
  • d’Arenberg Grenache, The Custodian, McLaren Vale, South Australia


This versatile Spanish red shows juicy black cherry and currant fruit when young and notes of dried plum, herb, and spice as the wine ages. Regardless of age, the flavors of Tempranillo pair well with the various roasty and rich elements of the meal and are remarkably compatible with the tangy, citrusy flavors of cranberry sauce as well as spicy dishes like horseradish mashed potatoes.

Bottles to try:

  • Bodegas Sierra Cantabria, Rioja
  • Marqués de Cáceres, Rioja
  • Marqués de Riscal, Reserva, Rioja


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