Wine writers traditionally agonize over Thanksgiving, which I've never understood. They get so hung up on food pairings and recommending expensive pinot noir that they miss the point of the holiday -- which is that we should enjoy our friends and family and not worry about wine. Who cares if cabernet sauvignon doesn't go with turkey, or that chardonnay and cranberry sauce isn't proper? Thanksgiving is about sharing and having fun, and the wine that you drink should be part of that. It's not about scores and oaky and toasty.
But that may be changing, and it's a welcome sign. Jon Bonne', the highly-esteemed and influential wine writer for the San Francisco Chronicle, said his Thanksgiving wine column: "My advice, then? Don't worry. Drink what you like. No one's going to put you in wine jail. It's going to be OK."
That's as revelatory as it is welcome, given that most big-time wine writers are usually the worst agonizers. That Bonne' says it's OK to forgo the perfect pinot noir means the wine world is changing, and changing for the better. Because, if Aunt Dorothy likes white zinfandel, who are you to tell her she can't drink it at Thanksgiving?
Whatever you do, though, think variety – some white, some red, some bubbly. The Wine Police, as Bonne noted, will not arrest you for trying to make your guests happy. After the jump, some thoughts and wines to start with:
• Are you having you having a lot of people over for dinner? Then go with jug or box wines. There are some quite decent examples of each, like the 1.5-liter bottles of Glen Ellen or the 3-liter Bota Box cabernet sauvignon (the equivalent of four bottles).
• Meridian Chardonnay 2008 ($8, sample): Meridian has always made adequate grocery store wine, but the past couple of vintages have been even better. Look for bright green apple fruit and a rich mouth feel that you usually don't get in this kind of. Serve chilled, and pass at dinner. Make everyone guess how much it cost.
• Most of the Australian red blends on the market, whether from Penfolds, Rosemount, Lindemans or McWilliam's are $10 or $12, well-made and food friendly. They're a step up from most of the livestock wine from Down Under that's on the market, and will pair with turkey legs, roasted and juicy. Serve at room temperature.
• Sparkling wine is for more than New Year's, and I have always wondered why more people don't drink it with dinner. Almost any Spanish cava will work, and will cost around $10. I'm also partial to Armand Roux Carousel NV ($10, purchased), a French wine not made in the Champagne region that has lots of chardonnay fruit and good acidity. Serve it chilled, and pass the white meat and cream gravy.
• Hugel Gentil 2007 ($16, purchased): This white blend from Alsace is for people who don't usually drink much wine. It's not heavy and has appealing, almost pretty, floral aromas. But there's also enough French style and skill for people who do drink wine. Serve it chilled with anything spicy, like jalapeno cranberry relish, or before dinner.
• Flat Creek Super Texan 2006 ($20, purchased): The Italians make wines called Super Tuscans, which are red blends (sangiovese, cabernet and merlot) that are the darlings of the wine world. Flat Creek, in the Texas Hill Country, does the same thing with Texas grapes and produces one of the state's best wine, with cherry fruit and well-made tannins. Serve at room temperature.
The photo is from Rachel Spauldilng of Providence, R.I., via stock.xchng, using a Creative Commons license.