It’s time again for that annual Thanksgiving conundrum: Which wine should you serve with a turkey dinner?
There’s a lot of opinions online, a lot of choices in the store, and a lot of confusion everywhere else.
“What I hear from people is they just don’t know where to start,” says Seema Prasad, owner of Miel Restaurant & Bar in Nashville. “There’s so much information out there that it becomes very overwhelming.”
As the curator of Miel’s wine list—and a 27-year restaurant veteran—she’s helped us break down your choices into some easy-to-follow (and affordable) recommendations.
The “slam-dunk” wine for Thanksgiving: Beaujolais Cru
Prasad explains that the trick to pairing wine with turkey is to consider not just meat, but also the gravy, sauces, and other flavors that are traditionally served alongside the bird.
“Turkey’s pretty lean for the most part, but add the traditional trimmings like stuffing, which has celery and all these great herbs, then you get almost a drying effect for the mouth,” she says. That’s where Beaujolais Cru comes in.
“It’s my slam-dunk wine for Thanksgiving,” she says. “It’s so versatile with food.”
That’s because Beaujolais Cru is not too sweet, yet still offers lots of fruit-forward character, says Prasad. It stands up to the aromatics of savory stuffing and other side dishes and also plays well with both dark and light meat.
Prasad recommends selecting one from the Régnié area; her current favorite is the 2019 Domaine de La Bêche, a wine that is also featured on Miel’s menu.
“Fun, simple, light, and easy—it’s like a gateway drug for wine.”
For Wine Novices (and Francophiles): Beaujolais Nouveau
For those in search of something a little more fun and fruity, you’re in luck: The 2021 vintage of Beaujolais Nouveau debuts on the third Thursday in November (this year, that’s Nov. 18th) just in time for Thanksgiving.
A light-bodied and famously inexpensive red, Beaujolais Nouveau is aged for just a few weeks, unlike cru. Originally, this easy-drinking wine was a way for farmers to celebrate the end of the grape harvest. Today, however, its release is a worldwide phenomenon, delighting Francophiles and wine lovers.
“It’s my soda pop wine,” says Prasad. “Fun, simple, light, and easy—it’s like a gateway drug for wine. I had friends who were beer and whiskey drinkers their whole life. It was Beaujolais Nouveau who put them on the path to really appreciating wine.”
Georges Duboeuf, the winegrower credited with introducing Beaujolais Nouveau to a worldwide audience, is probably the most well-known of the Nouveaux makers, but Prasad prefers Dufaitre. “It has a little bit more backbone than some of the fresher, lighter Nouveaux,” she says.
A Great Option for Wine Geeks: Jura
If you want to go in the opposite direction from the simplicity of Beaujolais Nouveau and serve wine that will appeal to those with more discerning wine tastes, Prasad recommends selecting a wine from the mountainous Jura region of France. “It’s not as well-known as Beaujolais, but super-interesting,” she said.
Like Beaujolais Cru, wine from Jura is a lighter-bodied red that also pairs nicely with poultry, yet it offers enough of a tannin backbone and minerality to give some oomph, Prasad says. It will intrigue the oenophiles at the table, without being off-putting to casual drinkers. “It may push the envelope a little bit,” she says. “But it’s still an enjoyable wine for friends that don’t drink a lot of wine.”
Prasad recommends 2019 Domaine Overnoy-Crinquand from the Ploussard region of Jura.
No Turkey? No Problem.
Perhaps you’re the type that isn’t interested in serving turkey for Thanksgiving. Prasad is right there with you. In fact, she likes to go untraditional with her Thanksgiving spread.
“A few years ago, I decided that turkey is really not my thing,” she said. Instead, she thought about the foods she really loves, deciding to sub them in for the usual Butterball. This year, she’ll serve steamed clams, mussels, and flank steak with chimichurri to friends and family.
And let’s not forget the sides she’ll have access to. Miel is selling some classic side dishes for Thanksgiving To-Go this year (you can see the full list of options), including beet-cured salmon gravlax, chicken liver mousse, braised turnip greens, goat cheese gougeres, and a torchon of foie gras with black truffles.
Naturally, Prasad is already way ahead on the wine: “We’re starting with a great chenin blanc from the Loire Valley, and then I’m going to move into the bigger, richer reds.”
Her choice is a 2020 Mary Taylor, Chenin Blanc from Anjou. With the steak, she will uncork a 21-year-old vintage: a 2000 Château de Pibarnon, from Bandol in Provence. “The holidays are times for special wines.”
Prasad’s pro tip: Don’t be afraid to chill out
One more piece of advice when it comes to Thanksgiving wine: Try serving it slightly chilled. “It’s perfectly appropriate to chill some reds,” Prasad says. “It’s not just a summer thing. I love to chill Beaujolais slightly to reduce some of the wine’s aromatics, just a little bit, which helps when pairing with leaner meat.” Ten minutes in the fridge or an ice bucket should do the trick.