The 2020 Guide to Thanksgiving Wine

With Thanksgiving coming up soon, we offer some insights on picking wine and making the most of a pandemic meal.

It’s no surprise that Thanksgiving is one of our favorite holidays. Who doesn’t love a rich and filling meal with tons of wine, surrounded by friends and family. In 2020, however, things are just a little bit different due to COVID-19. With virus cases spiking, many of us are foregoing big family gatherings for smaller, more intimate affairs at home. Even if your state hasn’t limited gatherings, 2020 might just be the perfect year to mix up your usual plans and think creatively.

We have some suggestions for keeping things safe, fun, and of course filled with plenty of wine to keep you satisfied.

What are some ways to keep me safe in this COVID era?

Limiting gathering size is probably most important. In NYS, for example, the directive is to cap gatherings at no more than 10 people. While it might be hard not seeing all of your extended family, consider setting up a Zoom call to chat with your aunts or grandma you might only be able to see once a year. (This is a great guide for recreating some of the usual hijinks that happen on Turkey Day.)

If you live in a warmer climate, hosting outside is a great way to keep things properly ventilated. If that’s impossible due to the colder weather, consider keeping some windows open, turning on overheard fans, or an air purifier to increase circulation while everyone is inside, particularly while masks are off.

Do I have to cook a turkey this year?

Turkey is obviously a Thanksgiving staple but many people, with smaller gatherings in 2020, are wanting to keep things simple, meaning no turkey. The NY Times recommends roast chicken, lamb shanks, and even mushrooms as alternative main dishes. Send out a group text to get a pulse for what everyone wants if you haven’t already ordered a turkey.

How do I know what wine to pick?

The first rule when picking wine is to always pick things you like to drink, first and foremost. If you prefer reds, stick to reds. If whites hit the sweet spot for you, stay that route.

That being said when ordering wine for guests, we recommend picking light or medium bodied versatile wines that can appeal to a broad range of palettes. We love the wacky, experimental wines but maybe Thanksgiving isn’t the time to pull them out, unless you have an adventurous crowd. If you’re dining with the risk averse, they might not end up having anything to drink.

What are some of your suggestions for this year?

Tried and true around Thanksgiving is Beaujolais. For a more discerning crowd, it’s hard not to go wrong with Métras, of which we have some large format bottles. For more budget friendly suggestions, the Michel Guignier Granite is an absolute winner, with lovely cherry notes and impressive minerality.

2020 has provided spades of Nouveau wines from California and the one we’re carrying right now, which tastes like Minute Maid fruit punch (in the best possible way), is from Las Jaras. If you don’t like tannic wines, this is 100% up your alley.

On the white side of things, we’re really excited about the Octavin, Clé À Molette. Don’t worry that you or your guests don’t really know this grape. The wine is lower in ABV and would make an exceptional aperitif (though it also would do well with the meal itself). We also always love Riesling for hearty meals. The acid is the perfect foil for fatty turkey and buttery sides. Our current offerings range from the liter bottle of Brand under $20 to the lovely, pricier offerings from Joh. Jos. Prm.

And, as is our motto, when in doubt pick up a bottle of sparkling wine. It’s truly hard to go wrong with some bubbles during the holiday season.

How much wine do I need to get?

This question is always tricky because it really comes down to the drinking habits of guests. If you know someone isn’t drinking, order less (and think about a thoughtful mocktail for them). But if your guests are into wine, it’s good to consider a bottle per person. Remember that’s it’s always best to have more than you need. You can send people off with wine that hasn’t finished or save it if you haven’t yet binge watched The Crown on Netflix.

What about non-wine drinks?

We love the idea of doing an aperitivo before dinner. The Faccia Brutto, Amaro Alpino adds some cooling eucalyptus and pine notes to the mix. For after dinner, when bellies are full and that tired feeling has settled in, consider some freshly brewed coffee or a little Fernet to aid in digestion. The possibilities are really endless.

No matter where you end up on Thanksgiving or what you might eat and drink, we hope that this year’s holiday is full of food, laughter, and family, even if you’re smiling through a computer screen.

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