Wine & Spirits: Wines to Uncork Before Turkey Day

by WL Author

Don’t wait for Thanksgiving to enjoy these fall finds.

By Kelly Magyarics

    Blandy's Alvada Madeira is a perfect way to end an autumn meal. (Photo courtesy of Blandy's)

Blandy’s Alvada Madeira is a perfect way to end an autumn meal. (Photo courtesy of Blandy’s)

Magazine and websites are already bursting with wine suggestions for Thanksgiving. Some wine experts call for uber-versatile pinot noir, zinfandel fans tout its full body and spicy berry notes as the perfect turkey tipple, and Gewurztraminer drinkers believe the full-bodied, noble, aromatic white grape is just the ticket for the variety of flavors on the table. Of course, the nothing-but-bubbles camp sips flutes of it from appetizer to dessert (I count myself among them.) And then there are those who (smartly) suggest that no one wine is perfect to serve on turkey day, so it’s better just to open up a bunch of bottles and scatter them on the table amid the sweet potatoes and cranberry sauce.

But never mind all that discourse just yet. Before you dust off that turkey platter, dig out the cooler and buy that brining mix (don’t forget the bag!), settle in with a glass or two of these wines and try to forget — at least for a few minutes — that the hectic holiday season is right around the corner.


Start the evening with the crisp bubbles of Cremant d'Alsace. Photo courtesy of Helfrich.

Start the evening with the crisp bubbles of Cremant d’Alsace. (Photo courtesy of Helfrich)

NV Helfrich Crémant d’Alsace ($21.99)
I love crémant sparkling wines. Made in France with the same method (and sometimes the same grapes) as Champagne, they offer a touch of that enticing complexity at a fraction of the price. This sparkler from Alsace is made entirely with the pinot blanc grape in a crisp, fresh style that hints of peaches and citrus. Try it as an aperitif with smoked salmon or goat cheese, or pair it with broiled crab cakes or fried chicken.

2013 Helfrich Riesling ($16.99)
This lovely Alsace bottle is fruity, yet bone dry (remember, these terms are not interchangeable). Lean and fresh, it has a full mouth feel and a great hint of minerals on the finish. Easy to sip on its own, but it’s also very food friendly. Oysters on the half shell will ramp up its minerality and it deftly cuts through the richness of lobster mac and cheese or any pastas with cream sauce.

Protos Verdejo ($10)
If you like sauvignon blanc or albarino and are looking to add another crisp, aromatic white wine to your repertoire, look no further than wines made with the verdejo grape from Rueda, Spain. This bottle boasts passion fruit, melon and a slight vegetable quality on the nose, lively acidity on the palate and a clean finish. It’s great with pan-seared red snapper, leek and potato soup or sautéed shrimp.


Crisp, elegant and mineral-driven, white Bordeaux lets a dish's flavors shine through. Photo courtesy of Chateau Carbonnieux.

Crisp, elegant and mineral-driven, white Bordeaux lets a dish’s flavors shine through. (Photo courtesy of Chateau Carbonnieux)

2011 La Croix de Carbonnieux ($30)
This Bordeaux blend of 65 percent sauvignon blanc and 35 percent sémillon is elegance, subtlety and richness all wrapped up in one. It has aromas of chamomile tea, joined with lemon curd on the palate and a great line of minerality. White Bordeaux wines are known for their ability to let any accompanying dishes shine through; serve it with lemon and prosciutto-stuffed pork tenderloin, Moroccan lemon chicken or lobster vol au vent.


Lucente is Montalcino's first ever Sangiovese and Merlot blend. Photo courtesy of Lucente.

Lucente is Montalcino’s first sangiovese and merlot blend. (Photo courtesy of Lucente)

2011 Lucente ($27)
The first blend of sangiovese and merlot made in the village of Montalcino in Italy’s Tuscany region, Lucente is a partnership between Robert Mondavi and Vittorio Frescobaldi. It has enticing scents of raspberry and ripe cherry, along with hazelnut and coffee. It’s round and smooth on the palate, balanced with fine tannins. Lucente is great with a charcuterie platter, with pasta Bolognese, or with marinated flank steak.


Enjoy this Italian blend with roast pork or beef. Photo courtesy of Frescobaldi.

Enjoy this Italian blend with roast pork or beef. (Photo courtesy of Frescobaldi)

2011 Tenuta Frescobaldi Castiglioni ($25)
This blend of 50 percent cabernet sauvignon, 30 percent merlot, 12 percent cabernet franc and 8 percent sangiovese is a great example of a modern Tuscan wine style. Aromas of wild strawberries, wild currant, cocoa and cinnamon are matched with great structure and acidity, and integrated tannins on the palate. Uncork it with standing rib roast, roast pork tenderloin or full-flavored cheeses.

Blandy’s Alvada Madeira ($18)
Fall is the perfect time to sip Madeira. This offering from Blandy’s is a blend of Bual and malmsey grapes, which translates to a fabulous melding of nutty, tropical, rich and complex flavors. Though it’s sweet and opulent, Madeira offers great acidity that keeps the wine from being cloying. Serve it chilled in a port-style glass, with pears poached in Madeira and served with mascarpone cheese, honey and toasted hazelnuts.


Kelly Magyarics, DWS, is a wine, spirits and lifestyle writer, and wine educator, in the Washington, D.C. area. She can be reached through her website,, or on Twitter or Instagram @kmagyarics.

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