Wines for the Turkey Day table should take into account the whole table, not just the bird.
For me, November is all about Beaujolais. I know, I know, you may have heard this before. It is natural to think about gamay this time of year thanks to Beaujolais Nouveau, a wine made famous by its annual release on the third Thursday of November, forever linking it to Thanksgiving.
Pause now, and let any preconceived notions about Beaujolais go for a moment. Every wine has its time to shine and gamay, the red grape variety grown in Beaujolais, is having its day.
Gamay has two things going for it. First, its price-point. Pinot noir (a similar style of wine, a light-bodied, earthy red), with its “Sideways” catapult to fame and fortune is known for its expression of terroir and its delicate beauty. Gamay is known for the same, but is just not as precious. It is more hearty, round, and still a very light-styled red wine that traverses white proteins as well as red. Basically, any type of poultry is great with this wine. Personally, I think gamay is not just a perfect wine for turkey, but for all of the fixings as well.
The second thing is the winemakers who love it. I have met numerous winemakers while in France who take on this varietal as a personal challenge. There are numerous “cru” Beaujolais that can be spectacular. These are not the jammy and almost candied wines that established the reputation of Beaujolais Nouveau. (We always offer Nouveau at Meritage, too, but it is not what stays on our list throughout the year. The “village” and “cru” Beaujolais do.)
What is the difference with “cru” Beaujolais? Mainly the quality of the fruit and where it comes from within Beaujolais. This is where the winemakers come in. Some of the houses famous for Nouveau also produce some stunning “village” wines (made from the prime grape-growing center of the region) especially for the price. A fun and educational exploration of wine for you? Try a bottle of each and evaluate the differences.
Nouveau, a fruit bomb, can stand up to all of the stuffing, cranberry sauce, and candied yams. Village, more sophisticated with some spice and earth to match the fruit, can be excellent with pumpkin pie, greens, beans, and that beautiful dark meat drummy. Cru is just more elegant still with its sophistication highlighted by the dense turkey protein, just perfect of the holiday. Look for wines from Morgon and Fleurie, two of the 10 “cru” areas in Beaujolais (and probably the most noteworthy and well-known). These wines will provide the perfect accent to your table and as you explore, they may provide an update to an old tradition to go along with it.
You can land these wines from $10 to $25 per bottle pretty easily—it is everywhere this time of year. Ask your wine shop peeps, especially the independents, and I am sure everyone will have their own short-list. Mine include Joseph Drouhin (my favorite Nouveau annually, and great village wines) and Domaine Jean Foillard (excellent cru).