By Alicia Adamczyk
November 23, 2015
Maren Caruso—Getty Images

With the turkey to prep, pies to bake, and potatoes to mash, it’s easy to overlook the wine pairings for your Thanksgiving feast until a last-minute scramble before guests arrive. A sparkling white for the first course? A deep red to accompany the bird? And what to serve to impress cousin Dave, the requisite family wine snob (seriously, Dave, who swirls and sniffs at family get-togethers)?

Most important, how can you avoid spending a fortune on all that wine, especially since prices of everything else in the Thanksgiving meal are consistently on the rise?

Never fear, great wine doesn’t have to be expensive—or complicated. Rather than indulging in a few high priced bottles (or a case of Two-Buck Chuck) your wine choices really only need to reflect your Thanksgiving table: varied and plentiful. Katie Delaney Owen, wine director of Club W, an online wine retailer, suggests providing a broader range at a lower price point (say $13 to $25), so everyone has something to choose from.

“Thanksgiving is the most food- and wine-centric holiday, so I like to experiment,” says Club W’s associate winder director Brooke Matthias It’s hard to go wrong, she says: “Pretty much every wine is going to go with something on your table.”

With that in mind, let’s uncork some suggestions.

Hors D’Oeuvres: Sparkling

To kick off the festivities, Delaney Owen and Matthias suggest starting with light wines and moving into fuller-bodied as the evening progresses. A sparkling wine or prosecco pairs perfectly with hors d’oeuvres like charcuterie, cheese, or tarts. “Sparkling wets your palate and gets it ready for the more intense wine and food,” Matthias says.

She suggests Oh Snap! Sparkling Chenin Blanc, $16, a light, dry white that she describes as “sweet, but not too sweet.”

Feeling extra adventurous? You might also want to try a sparkling red this holiday season. The reds, like Lambrusco, shot up in popularity over the summer in the States (and across the pond too: according to The Daily Mail, orders of Lambrusco were up 150% year-over-year), and are typically dryer with a higher alcohol content than their paler counterparts.

Salads and Starters: Light White

A lighter, fruitier white, like Sauvignon Blanc, pairs well with typical Thanksgiving salad ingredients such as goat cheese and cranberries. Matthias recommends 2014 Blue Highway, $13.

The Main Event: Pinot Noir and/or Chardonnay

Turkey, stuffing, roasted vegetables: You’re going to want a fuller-bodied red to accent your savory meal. Pinot Noir is the classic choice here, and there are a number of good, affordable bottles to choose from at pretty much any wine shop.

Another suggestion: Branch out and try a Valdiguié, a lesser-known red that both Delaney Owen and Matthias praised. “You don’t see it very often, and we like doing things that are a little cheeky, a little more unique,” Matthias says.

For those who prefer white, Mike Zima, the founder of SommPicks, suggests the 2014 Domaine Guiberteau Saumur Blanc Les Moulins. At $29, it’s a little on the expensive side, but the 100% Chenin Blanc pairs well with turkey and rich, starchy fixings. “There is a great play between the tangy, waxy fruit, and the zip and mineral component of the wine,” he explains. Chardonnay, too, will hold up well with the food and flavors.

Host/ess Gift

The folks at Club W and Zima suggest bringing Champagne as a token of your appreciation. “Everyone likes to get a bottle of Champagne,” says Delaney Owen. While you can’t go wrong if you look for the classic méthode champenoise on the label, Matthias suggests searching out “boutique-y,” smaller brands, which will often be more complex and unique for the same price as a name brand’s bottle.

Really trying to impress someone? Zima recommends the 2002 Louis Casters Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs Brut, $45. “Given the persistence and depth here, this wine overdelivers at the price point,” he says.

And if you still have a few more dollars to spend, Zima also likes the 2013 Jean Foillard Morgon Corcelette, $35, which he describes as “supple, persistent, complex and dangerously gulpable.” Thanksgiving and Beaujolais “are about as classic a wine pairing as any,” he says, “so why mess with what works?”

If You Can Only Have One: Sparkling or Pinot Noir

If your budget is tight, make your one bottle a sparkling wine or Pinot Noir. Sparkling is not only festive, but it goes well with pretty much any dish. If you’re looking for something a bit more Thanksgiving-specific, Pinot Noir is an especially good choice, as it suits someone who likes lighter wines as well as those who enjoy more full-bodied, and, perhaps most important, “keeps everyone happy and pairs well with the food,” Matthias says.

But as long as you’re drinking (and dining) with the ones you love, it’s hard to go wrong, no matter what you choose.

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