Ray Isle (@islewine on Twitter) is Food & Wine's executive wine editor. We trust his every cork pop and decant – and the man can sniff out a bargain to boot. Take it away, Ray.
Sommeliers, of course, spend a lot of their time thinking about which wine goes well with which food, or does not go well, or might go well if it weren’t Thursday, and so on. But if you ask a sommelier what wine he or she would like to drink right now, more often than not the answer is Champagne.
There’s a good reason for that: Champagne, essentially, goes with everything. It goes with salty dishes; it goes with fatty dishes; it goes with birds and it goes with beasts; with cheese it’s mighty tasty and with vegetables it is sublime; it’s ideal for celebrations and obligatory for toasts; it’s even excellent when poured on its own for no particular occasion at all.
This is why I’m going to suggest that for Thanksgiving the answer to every problem (even, or especially, grouchy and/or crazy in-laws) is Champagne.
But what I really mean by that is that what’s ideal for Thanksgiving is dry sparkling wine, of which Champagne is a subcategory. Real Champagne comes from the Champagne region in France, and finding a bottle that runs less than $30 is a feat. But there are plenty of very good sparkling wines, often made in the same manner and from the same grape varieties, from wine regions around the world. They’ll go well with everything you could think to put on the Thanksgiving table. And who knows, a glass or two might even convince your Uncle George to stop talking about the dang election already—or at least cheerfully anesthetize you enough so that your ears won’t notice.
NV Zardetto Prosecco ($13) As with all Proseccos, the effervescence in this peach-scented, fruity, nonvintage (“NV”) sparkler comes from a second fermentation in pressurized stainless steel tanks (in the traditional Champagne method, the second fermentation happens in the bottle). It’s a cost-effective strategy, and one reason why Prosecco remains such a bargain in general.
NV Gruet Rosé ($17)
New Mexico might seem like an unlikely source for any wine, much less impressively good, affordable sparkling wine, but that’s exactly what Gruet makes. Its nonvintage rosé bottling has the substance to pair with main courses—it would be ideal with turkey and cranberry sauce—but is light enough to make an excellent aperitif as well.
NV Lini Lambrusco Labrusca 910 Rosso ($18)
Forget the image you have of Lambrusco as insipidly sweet and fizzy. This traditionally styled Lambrusco (from Italy’s Emilia-Romagna region) has the dark berry fruit and tangy zip of a good Italian red, with the lively effervescence of a sparkling wine.
NV Scharffenberger Brut Excellence ($20)
This nonvintage sparkler from California’s Anderson Valley is creamy and luscious, though not sweet at all; it’s a blend of two-thirds Chardonnay and one-third Pinot Noir.
NV Pol Roger Brut Reserve “White Foil” Champagne ($45)
Of the major Champagne houses—the grande marques, as they’re called—Pol Roger is one of the few that remains family-owned. Its brut reserve is a classic: fine, creamy bubbles, bracing acidity and a richness that comes from a high percentage of Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier in the blend.
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Thanksgiving Wine Pairings
Best New Places to Drink Wine
Ultimate Thanksgiving Recipes
Previously - Maybe you're more in a cider mood? Or perhaps looking for a killer casserole-friendly wine. Perhaps everything is coming up rosé for T-Day.
Get all our best Thanksgiving advice
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REAL champagne, not that crap that isn't French.
Try a La Grande Dame or a Nicolas Feuillate; even a Moet and Chandon is better than the California stuff.
Splurge; you only live once....
Thanksgiving has become a heathen holiday. Originally, it was about the 'haves' giving to the 'have nots' in a time of need. In its current state, the holiday serves as nothing more than a way for people to stuff their faces and further expand their waist lines.
I agree, it's way better now than it used to be.
i hope you enjoy your liver disease.
Don't be such a sourpuss. This time of year is about bacchanalian gluttony!
Also I hope you enjoy being unhappy, because Thanksgiving is only going to become more spectacularly wasteful for the rest of your life. My liver will be as healthy as the day I was born in a few months, you're just going to become more and more miserable as the holiday becomes more like it is. And since when was it ever about helping the needy? Throughout the lives of me, my parents, and my grandparents, it's primarily been about eating. You, like many unhappy people, are simply looking for one more thing to be unhappy about. Also, real classy, mocking someone else's medical issues.
Betatrash, not at all surprised at your ugly comment given your description of modern Thanksgiving.
I can't have any alcohol for the next 3 to 4 months thanks to fatty liver disease. This makes me a Grumpy Gus, especially since I adore champagne. I guess the moral of the story is don't drink everclear every day for two months straight.
Red Wine... I love it.
Beaujolais Noveau! Duh
"Forget the image you have of Lambrusco as insipidly sweet and fizzy. This traditionally styled Lambrusco (from Italy’s Emilia-Romagna region) has the dark berry fruit and tangy zip of a good Italian red, with the lively effervescence of a sparkling wine." ....and – like all authentic Lambruscos – a minimum of 11% alcohol!
You know what goes better with Thanksgiving dinner than sparkling wine? A good abbey style Belgian beer.
Amen. I agree. A couple of bottles of Chimay are great with pretty much anything.
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