Thanksgiving kicks off our 5th annual Spirits of the Season feature series where we take a good hard look at what’s new and what’s delicious in spirits and wine.
Our Monsters and Critics picks are so much more interesting than the go-to Beaujolais Nouveau aisle endcaps at your favorite grocery store.
It’s not that we hate those, as much as there are equally affordable and far more interesting wines to serve with your meal than the heralded French newbie wine of the season.
The French may shout: “Beaujolais Nouveau est arrive!” but we say let France have it.
You don’t need to drop a wad when shopping to get top-notch pours.
Let’s go to New Zealand, Portugal and Italy as we feature cheerful, inexpensive and fantastic wines that will range from $6-28 dollars a bottle.
Ca c’est bon, non? Absolutely darling.
Bonus: We happened upon a great classic Emeril Lagasse 2001 recipe for brining and cooking a proper bird you might want to try this holiday season too!
Our 2016 Thanksgiving wine list by country:
Quality Vegan wines: Meet Italian reds and whites from Ciù Ciù
Did you know that most wines are not considered vegan? Meet Ciù Ciù Azienda Agricola, an Italian winery which produces a vegan and organic wine, and is one of only 10 wineries in Italy to have obtained the “Vegetarian Vegan Quality” label for their product.
The most common wine fining agents are animal products, egg whites, and gelatin, which are standard in winemaking. But vegan options employ bentonite and activated charcoal, so no animals are used and you can drink with no guilt.
The winery’s award-winning red wines are robust and have sturdy tannins and bright color variances to distinguished grape varieties like Montepulciano, Sangiovese, and Lacrima.
The whites offer a wide range of unique flavor profiles and feature the indigenous Trebbiano and Verdicchio varietals as well as integrating international varieties in recent years.
Ciu Ciu Marche Passerina Evoe 2015 is a crisp white with mineral notes and a citrus and rounded palate. This wine is the least expensive and perfect for serving with cheese trays and salty or fatty appetizers. Shockingly good for the price point.
Ciu Ciu Lacrima di Morro D’Alba 2015 demands more acid and tomato -based dishes but is terrific to swap out a Beaujolais with. At under $10 a bottle, it’s righteous too as these Lacrima grapes deliver a bold and sturdy red, but it’s not as leggy and long as a Cab or a Pinot. Very nice!
Next is a trip to New Zealand where Kim Crawford wines have all the bases covered, red to white, and especially their Sauvignon Blanc which is my go-to Classic Fondue wine these days, incredible!
Bang for the buck and so very good, New Zealand wines are an exquisite thing, thanks to the geology of the region and Kim Crawford’s vineyards that encompass a great deal of New Zealand.
We recommend you buy these three from Kim Crawford:
Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough
This picture screams “drink me” and yes, you should. Make a fondue with this wine and drink it alongside. The grapes were selected from vineyards in Marlborough’s Wairau Valley and Awatere Valley.
The soil composition in these valleys provides ideal growing conditions for vines ranging in age, up to 14 years, that net balanced acidity, and a crisp, full rounded pour that will blow your socks off.
Serving a seafood platter at the holiday table? This was made for unctuous dishes and fresh oysters, asparagus, lobster, or fried bits of yumminess. SRP is $17 but you can find deals, so go find already.
Our next lovely from down under is a perfect swap for the Beaujolais: Kim Crawford Pinot Noir
Kim Crawford Pinot Noir hails from a microclimate that is chillier on New Zealand’s South Island. Lots of rootstock and soil tinkering have netted one of the best Pinots going for under $20.
This is a medium-bodied red with stone fruit and cherry notes, aging in French oak barrels for a spell which nets a nice tannin structure and complexity.
Not a heavy beastie Cab but a refined ladylike red that will not overpower turkey. Gobble this one up. Goes wonderfully with lamb too.
Next up is Kim Crawford Pinot Gris, another Marlborough mineral beauty that is white and light for the people who just cannot with any red wine.
This is the wine for those who enjoy a balanced but present acidity to their wine, a crisp and not complicated cold pour.
Having said that, this is not a boring white either, just texturally and aromatically it is made for those lighter “before bites” and has less of a linger and complexity as the Sauvignon from the same region.
You know you have these red wine-hating people coming to celebrate, so make sure you have a tasty lighter white they can enjoy. This is your pick and a stone cold buy too, around $16.
The grapes hail from Wairau and Awatere sub-regions of Marlborough, delivering intense fruit aromas of pears, apple, melon, and some spice and honey. It makes a great “tough day at work” glass of wine too.
The Portuguese are in the house too, and we have three from Herdade do Esporão of Portugal.
Esporao’s brilliant (around $12!) Assobio, Quinta dos Murças, Douro, 2013 (grapes are Tinta Roriz 40% Toriga Franca 40% Touriga national 20%) and the night-capper or finisher to any meal, the Quinta dos Murcas Covelinhas Tawny Porto Wine (aged 10 years) and the Murcas Reserva Douro 2011 Esporao.
In the lovely sun-drenched valleys of Alentejo and the Douro region, home of Port, the winemakers at the Quinta dos Murças estate have created one of our favorite dry spicy reds, made for the holiday meal and so affordable.
Spice, currant, blueberry and cherry linger on the tongue. This wine is a must buy! In fact, that’s what we think Assobio actually means: “Buy me!”
Make sure to try an uncommon Port this year, serve with the dessert, and marvel at how many years you wasted afraid to “go there” thinking Port was the stuff of old ladies and men with pocket watches and a love for stinky cheese.
This is a revelation, the Tawny Port from Douro, a wine that the Wine Spectator gives an 89 score.
Esporao’s Tawny Porto has a nuttier finish and a subtle nose of plum and figs. Rich, peachy and toasty honeyed notes for an exquisite finish.
Ahh, I love this Port. SRP is around $25 but you can find sales!
We saved the best red for last: Quinta Dos Murças 2011 from the Douro region. It truly earned these awards: 2016, Concurso de Vinhos de Portugal – Medalha de Grande Ouro and in 2016, it took the Decanter Asia Wine Awards for 95 points, called by Medalha de Platina as the “Best Red Portugal”.
Wine snobs know that 2011 was an “epic” year for Douro wines, and this beauty is made from vines aged over 40 years with grapes that are hand-picked, hand-stemmed, stomped on by Portuguese feet and lovingly aged in French and American oak barrels.
It is silken, sturdy and a sexy velvety berry and stone fruit-laced spicy red. So affordable.
Please try these amazing Portuguese, New Zealand, and Italian wines, you will thank us. Happy Thanksgiving!