4 Wines to Have on the Thanksgiving Table

It's almost that time to wake up early, watch the parade, make the pumpkin pie, and decorate the table for Thanksgiving! I look forward to this day every year not only for the mashed potatoes and sweet potatoes (potatoes are my favorite) but because its the day that I can put multiple wine glasses at each place setting, open a ton of bottles, and force my family to try everything while I enthusiastically shout out what wine to try with which dish (it really is a dream come true). Just kidding, I don't force anyone to drink wine. But it is pretty awesome getting to taste each wine with the side dishes and having those "aha!" moments where something works really well.

With that, I give you my top 4 wines to have on your Thanksgiving table this year and every year after this. Since you'll hopefully have plenty of people over to drink 4 bottles of wine, this is a great way to get variety onto the table and avoid buying multiple bottles of the same wine. Woohoo!

What wine to do you pair with Thanksgiving dinner? I say, pair 4 of them! Here are the top 4 wines that must be on your Thanksgiving dinner table | Lessons in Libations

1. Sparkling Wine

What better way to celebrate Thanksgiving than with sparkling wine?! Not only are bubbles great for the holidays, but they also pair with the many flavors of the meal. Each time you take a sip of sparkling wine, the bubbles scrub your tongue clean, giving you a fresh palate for the next bite of food you take. With all the flavors going on in Thanksgiving side dishes, sparkling wine will help cleanse your palate.

You have lots of choices when it comes to bubbles, depending on your budget. Cava, Prosecco, Champagne...all good. My biggest piece of advice, however, is to spend at least $10 on that bottle of bubbly. Any less, and you risk the bottle being force-carbonated which might give you a nasty hangover for Black Friday. (And nobody wants that).

Dani's Picks:

  • Nino Franco Prosecco Brut $
  • Freixenet Brut $
  • Roederer Estate Brut Rosé $$
  • Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin Brut $$$

2. Riesling

Riesling is an absolute MUST at the Thanksgiving table! There are lots of sweet flavors in the dishes, so you need a sweet wine to balance them out. However, don’t go buying late-harvest, dessert-style Rieslings as they are way too sweet and heavy to pair with dinner. Instead, opt for a Kabinett Riesling from Germany or a domestic off-dry example. These wines are great pairings for Thanksgiving because the sweetness of the wine matches the sweetness in the food and won't overpower even the lightest dishes.

Dani's Picks:

  • Dr. Loosen "Dr. L" Mosel, Germany $
  • Chateau Ste Michelle Columbia Valley, Washington $
  • Dr. Loosen "Blue Slate" Kabinett Mosel, Germany $$
  • Elk Cove, Willamette Valley, Oregon $$

3. Beaujolais

Thanksgiving is my favorite time to drink Beaujolais. It is actually the first red wine I think of when preparing my wine list for the big day. I partly enjoy it so much with this holiday because I never seem to drink it any other time of the year, even though it's a great little wine with a very small price tag. A light red wine made from the gamay grape, Beaujolais boasts vibrant flavors of bright red fruit and even a bit of candied "grapeiness". Its a crowd-pleaser, as usual sweet-wine drinkers even warm up to it, and it pairs incredibly with Thankgsiving. You can usually find a cheap Beaujolais under $10, but for a few dollars more, you can get the best of the best, Cru Beaujolais. I say if you get one wine to go with Thanksgiving dinner, make it this one. Note: Beaujolais Nouveau hits stores in November each year, so it should be very easy to find.

Dani's Picks:

  • Any Beaujolais-Villages
  • Any Beaujolais that says "Morgon", "Brouilly", or "Moulin-a-Vent"
  • Favorite producers: Joseph Drouhin and Georges DuBoeuf

4. Pinot Noir/Red Burgundy

Like Beaujolais, Pinot Noir is a great wine for Thanksgiving because it is light, fruity, and low in tannin. Thanksgiving dishes are not heavy  so these light-bodied wines will complement, rather than overpower, them. Personally I suggest a Pinot Noir from Willamette Valley or Burgundy as these are usually the lightest and have a bit more earthiness to them than their California counterparts.

My Picks:

  • Erath, Willamette Valley, Oregon $
  • Adelsheim Vineyards, Willamette Valley, Oregon $$
  • Flowers, Sonoma Coast, California $$
  • Any red burgundy--look for Savigny-Les-Beaune or Nuits-St. Georges for good values

Other Favorites of Mine

Gewurztraminer or Cabernet Franc are also great additions to the Thanksgiving table if you are feeling a bit more adventurous. Just stay away from big wines like Nebbiolo and Cabernet Sauvignon, unless you have guests coming over that will not settle with anything else (in which you should make them bring their own wine. Just saying.)

What are your favorite wines to pair with Thanksgiving dinner? Let me know in the comment

Dani's Picks for Celebrating NYE with Champagne

Ah, Champagne. We drink it at weddings, we drink it at birthdays. We drink it at graduations, we drink it on holidays. We drink it at restaurants and nightclubs, swanky bars, and cocktail parties. Whenever there's a reason to celebrate, you can be sure Champagne will show up to the party.

There really isn’t any myth to why we drink bubbles while we're celebrating. Sparkling wine has more than a hundred years on soda pop, and although beer is our other BFF in the carbonated world, back in the day, the elite wouldn’t dare associate with it. With the help of the Noveau-Riche generation in the late 1800s and some great advertisements associating champagne with the high life, society has recognized Champagne as the drink of celebrations ever since.

For my drink-loving readers who may not know too much about Champagne, this is the one thing you should take away from this post: Not all sparkling wines are "Champagne". Champagne is a region in France and the most famous in the world for sparkling wines. Thanks to the demand of their wines around the world, Champagne prices are much higher than those, say, made in America, Italy, or Australia. However, their prices are definitely worth it--there is nothing in the world like Champagne, and if you're celebrating....anything...I definitely advocate paying the extra few bucks. (Champagne generally has a more bready, toasty character than most other sparkling wines of the world.)

Check out these pretty glasses from Perrier-Jouet. I've got about a hundred of them for some reason (available in gift packs around the holidays):

Anyway, I've been very lucky to taste some of the famous Champagne houses side-by-side blindly in the past, thus truly distinguishing my favorites. And although through in those tastings I realized I don't really care for the lightly-flavored Dom Perignon but am absolutely crazy about Krug, there was not one Champagne that I did not like. Here are my suggestions if you're looking to celebrate the new year with Champagne but have no idea what to get!

My Champagne Suggestions:

  • Nicolas Feuillatte—my go-to Champagne, and my favorite to share with friends ($36.99 totalwine.com)
  • Pommery Brut Royal ($44.99 totalwine.com)
  • Taittinger La Francais Brut ($39.99 totalwine.com)
  • Perrier Jouet Grand Brut—another one of my favorites for the price ($37.99 totalwine.com)
  • Billecart Salmon Brut Rose—my favorite Rose under $100 ($84.99 total wine)
  • Krug Brut NV—my absolute favorite (non-vintage) bottle! ($180 totalwine.com)
  • Perrier Jouet Belle Epoque—beautiful bottle/presentation, makes a great hostess gift ($160 totalwine.com)
  • Veuve Clicquot La Grand Dame—my favorite “elegant-style” Champagne. Skip the yellow-label Veuve and splurge on this one. ($149.97 totalwine.com)

My Non-Champagne Picks:

Don’t feel like paying Champagne prices? No one said you can’t drink other Sparkling Wines on New Years!

  • Roederer Estate Brut $19.99 totalwine,com
  • Mumm Napa Brut Prestige $16.97 totalwine.com
  • Domaine Carneros Brut $22.99 totalwine.com
  • La Marca Prosecco $13.49 totalwine.com
  • Any fully sparkling Asti (Moscato grape) for those of you with sweet-tooths!

Finally, if you're looking at your bottle of Champagne but don't understand some of the lingo on it, here's a cheat sheet:

Champagne Terms

  • Brut—Dry (meaning not sweet) (most common style)
  • Extra Brut—Even more dry than Brut, meaning even less sugar is in the final mix (for purposes of your taste buds, there is very little difference between Brut and Extra Brut)
  • Extra Dry—a bit sweeter than the brut style, but for purposes of your taste buds, there is very little difference (isn't that confusing?)
  • Demi-Sec—relatively sweet style of Champagne
  • Sec—although this literally means “dry” in French, it refers to a sweeter style in Champagne
  • Doux—sweet, dessert style Champagne (very rare to find today)
  • Blanc de Blancs—Champagne made with 100% white grapes, which are almost always Chardonnay
  • Blanc de Noirs—Champagne made with 100% red grapes, either Pinot Noir or Pinot Meunier. Although it is made with red grapes, the juice is still white! (so don’t let that confuse you)
  • NV—Non-vintage, which is the majority of all bottles (Champagnes use blends of wine from different years in their signature “house” style)
  • Methode Traditional—the traditional method of making champagne or sparkling wine. All wines from Champagne must be made in the method traditional.

Happy New Years everyone and thanks for reading! I'm looking forward to a lot of blog progress in 2015! :) Please post any questions you may have about sparkling wine in the comments of this post, and I'll be sure to answer them!