Counting today, there are three wine shopping days left until Thanksgiving.
Speaking as a former sommelier, the question of which wine to pair with turkey is a fairly straightforward one. Thursday will be a long day, though, so let’s take it one step at a time. In each category, I’ll give one wine example—please remember that these are only examples, and someone in your favorite retail store will have suggestions for you if you can’t find the specific recommendation.
To begin: Your best bet with pre-dinner munchies is a light, dry white with crisp acidity, such as a Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc. This will sharpen the appetites of your guests for the meal to come. Imports are better choices than domestic wines, since they are likely to have higher acid levels and less (or no) oak. New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc (Kim Crawford, $16) is perfect, as is Sancerre (Michel Redde, $18) or Italian Pinot Grigio (Elena Walch, $18).
With the turkey, you have two good options. First is an off-dry Riesling, preferably from Germany (Dr. L from Ernst Loosen, $12). A rich Pinot Gris from Oregon would also work well (King Estate, $18). The second possibility is a soft, silky, low-tannin red. Choices include Pinot Noir (MacMurray Ranch, $20), a young Italian Sangiovese (Antinori Peppoli, $22) or Spanish Tempranillo (Abadia Retuerta Rivola, $15), or a Beaujolais (preferably one of the Crus, such as the Moulin-a-Venta from Jadot’s Chateau des Jacques, priced around $22). Do not (repeat, do not) view this as an occasion to pull out a blockbuster California Cabernet, Bordeaux or Chateauneuf-du-Pape. These wines tend to have high tannin levels and will almost certainly overpower the bird.
For dessert, consider a crisp Muscat from the south of France such as a Muscat de Beaumes de Venise. It’s cheaper than Sauternes, and works well with strong cheese, walnuts or the traditional pumpkin pie. Port is also an option; if you’re interested in saving money, choose a vintage character port (such as Fonseca bin 27 or Warre’s Warrior). If you plan on serving a selection of interesting cheeses, this might be the moment to pull out that blockbuster Cabernet after all.