Before Aunt Edna complains about the turkey being too dry and Grandpappy refuses to leave his recliner to sit at the Thanksgiving dinner table, it’s time to uncork that wine bottle and treat yourself to a few minutes of much-needed solitude. However, don’t crack open all those bottles — you’ll need to save a few for the holiday feast you’ve been slaving over for the last three days. Not sure what to serve with turkey? Confused if red or white goes well with ham and lamb? We spoke with a few Atlanta wine experts and found out their recommendations for the perfect Thanksgiving wine selections.
Perrine Prieur, owner/sommelier of Perrine’s Wine
1168 Howell Mill Road, Atlanta • (404) 254-5077
You don’t get much more authentic than Perrine Prieur — she’s originally from Burgundy, France, just a few miles from Chablis, and she grew up in the epicenter of the French wine region. After working as a sommelier in some of the best restaurants in the world, she came to Atlanta and opened her wine shop in Westside Provisions District. Though Perrine’s extensive knowledge could intimidate you, she’s super helpful and always ready to explain the different varieties, regions, brands and even price points.
In regard to giving wine as a gift this holiday season, Perrine says you need to consider the recipient’s gender, age, as well as your price point, and how well you know them. “Women are more open to wines and will like something fun, like Champagne. Some older people have their minds fixed on fine wines only being French, and don’t consider Spanish or Portuguese wines.”
For someone you might not know very well, a French Bordeaux or a Barbaresco is a good option, as they have good reputations and fall into the $20 to $30 range. For someone who enjoys the funkier, earthier side of wines, you may want to experiment with something like Spanish La Rioja Vina Aradanza ($34.99) or Portuguese Porta dos Cavaleiros ($39.99).
As for the holiday meal, Perrine offers some sage advice right off the bat: “Start with Champagne and drink some wine to relax — the cook needs some bubbly.” In fact, Perrine says she does this herself, as it’s very French to have a bubbly spirit before receiving your in-laws, for example.
Perrine says that white meat, like turkey, needs a wine that’s softer and less full-bodied. She recommends a wine with good acidity, like a Pinot Bianco or Gewurtzraminer. She says that Division Rose of Pinot Noir, $29.99, is an excellent choice for the holidays, and year-round.
Another good option from the New World (pretty much anywhere besides Europe and the Middle East) is chenin blanc: from South Africa and places in the United States, like Oregon, Washington and Santa Barbara, CA (a cooler climate is better for this grape). This white is a great food wine with a crisp, apple cider flavor.
If you’ve survived the meal and made it to the sweets course, Perrine recommends serving two types of dessert wines. For example, she says something sparkling is good, like Jaillance Clairette de Die, $16.99, offering notes of peach and “deliciousness.” A more masculine option might be the Palo Cortado sherry, with a nuttiness and good acidity that may help you digest all the food you devoured earlier.
Matt Bradford, wine director of Canoe and Canoe Cellar Door
When it comes to giving wine as a gift, Matt Bradford believes there are two options: buy a bottle of wine that the recipient is familiar with (either based on quality, price point or both) or buy a unique bottle totally new to the recipient. Matt agrees with Perrine that it helps to know the person and how much he or she knows — and likes — about wine.
“Sparkling wine is always an obvious choice for a gift,” Matt says. “It always indicates an impending celebration, and the brand of Champagne is synonymous with quality. Specifically, I like Gaston Chiquet Brut Non Vintage, which we sell for $53.95.”
Now that you’ve put aside a few bottles for potential hostess gifts, it’s time to serve a wine for the holidays and their respective feasts. When it comes to selecting wine, Matt says it’s easiest to choose options based on what type of meat is being served, for example a roasted turkey vs. a rib-eye.
“Lighter wines are better for lighter meats. I like a cru beaujolais, like Marcel Lapierre’s Cote du Py Morgon 2014, $25.95, for turkey. For a heavier meat that might be served at Christmas, I would recommend something like Castello di Ama, ‘Gran Selezione,’ Chianti Classico 2010 ($55.95),” he says.
Matt continues, “I like to serve three wines for a holiday meal. Something light and refreshing to start, and then both a red and a white for the seated meal.”
Ryan Reardon, sommelier at White Oak Kitchen & Cocktails
270 Peachtree St., Atlanta • (404) 524-7200
As we’ve learned from our various wine experts, buying a bottle of wine for someone is a very individual experience and something that varies from person to person. Ryan Reardon, sommelier at White Oak Kitchen & Cocktails, couldn’t agree more. If you aren’t sure about a friend’s taste in wine and continue to wander your local wine shop aimlessly, he suggests gifting them with a ticket to a local wine tasting. “Restaurants, like White Oak, are always hosting wine tastings that will broaden any wine lover’s knowledge of wine.”
Ryan’s recommendations for gifting wine include Sensorium, MDR Vineyards, Viognier ($20), and Maison Bleue, Soleil, Roussanne ($25). Again, you should take into consideration the recipient’s tastes and personality. “When I am giving wine to guests I am entertaining, I like to find hidden gems that are exciting and cost effective. This includes wines from lesser known regions, but from great producers. Some of my favorites are Mommessin, Beaujolais, Gamay, France ($10); Domaine Olivier Guyot, Bourgogne Rouge, Pinot Noir, France ($10); Aveleda Follies, Alvarinho-Loureiro, Portugal ($10); François Chidaine, Sauvignon Blanc, Touraine, France ($13).”
So on to the part where we get to stuff our faces — the feast! With regard to turkey, Ryan says that the wine depends on how you actually cook the turkey: baked or fried. Ryan likes Spanish Garnacha, French Cru Beaujolais, French Carignon from Languedoc and Oregon pinot noir for baked turkey. Eating the fried type? He recommends matching your bird with a sparkling wine or a reputable dry rose.
If you’re dining on sweet-and-salty ham for the holidays, Ryan recommends something with lots of acidity and bold fruit, like Dr. Hermann Riesling, Mosel ($15).
“When deciding how many wines to offer, I would recommend at least three, covering a white, red and sparkling. Pairing wines with specific items on the table makes for a fun debate on how well they work together, says Ryan.
And remember, if your dinner guests aren’t happy with your pairings, or perhaps their ingratitude over your painstaking hard work has gotten the best of you, wine bottles also make good weapons. We’re just kidding … sort of.
Happy Thanksgiving from everyone at StyleBlueprint!