Chardonnay, Cremant de Bourgogne, Glen Carlou, Louis Bouillot, Marlborough, New Zealand wine, Oyster Bay, Pinot Noir, South African wine, sparkling rosé, sparkling wine, Thanksgiving, Thanksgiving wine recommendations, wine
Last year I wrote a (very long) post about Thanksgiving wines. I’m going to be less wordy this year and merely recommend three varietals. I’m sticking with traditional Thanksgiving wines—Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and a sparkling—but from countries you might not expect. These wines will bring a little international flair to your Thanksgiving table.
South African Chardonnay
South African wine country is concentrated on the southwestern tip of the country, where the Atlantic and Indian Oceans meet. Known as the Western Cape, this area’s best-known city is Capetown. The area has a climate similar to the Mediterranean, with mountains, valleys, and ocean breezes that create the right conditions for grape-growing.
Wine grapes have been grown in South Africa since 1655; however, only since apartheid ended in the 1990s have South African wines been available worldwide. According to the trade group Wines of South Africa (WOSA), South Africa produced 4.2 percent of the world’s wine in 2014 and ranks seventh in terms of wine production. Over three dozen varietals are grown in South Africa, but only between five and seven percent of South Africa’s total wine exports reach the U.S., so to truly appreciate South Africa’s wines, you would have to travel there.
But to get you started, I recommend Glen Carlou Chardonnay, which is widely available in the States. Chardonnay is weightier than many other white wines, and can hold up against the bounty of flavors generally found on a Thanksgiving menu. The Glen Carlou Chardonnay is fermented in French oak and aged “on the lees” (lees is the yeast residue, or dead yeast, that settles after fermentation).
Expect a creamy, voluptuous mouth-feel with lots of stone fruits and citrus on the palate, and a hint of vanilla. Glen Carlou is available at wine.com for $19.99, but check your local wine shops too, because the average price in the U.S. is around $15.
New Zealand Pinot Noir
Pinot Noir is my favorite Thanksgiving wine. I usually choose one from California or Burgundy, but New Zealand is producing some surprisingly good Pinot Noir these days.
Pinot Noir is a cool-climate grape, so the island nation of New Zealand, where no vineyard is more than 80 miles from the ocean and its cool breezes, makes a lot of sense as a growing region. Marlborough and Central Otago, both on New Zealand’s southern island, are the two most widely planted Pinot Noir areas, but it is grown throughout the country.
New Zealand Pinot Noir tends to be very fruit-driven, with a lot of ripe berry and red stone fruit flavor. A good representative of the style is Oyster Bay Marlborough Pinot Noir. It has gentle tannins, making it a great accompaniment for food, but isn’t so powerful that it will overwhelm a lighter meat like turkey. Oyster Bay ferments its Pinot Noir in both new and older French oak, as well as in stainless steel tanks, giving it a nice balance of acidity and structure. It fairly bursts with cherry and plum flavors.
In 2014, around 25 percent of New Zealand wine exports went to the U.S., making wines from New Zealand rather easy to find here. The majority of those wines are Sauvignon Blanc (66 percent of New Zealand vineyards are planted to Sauvignon Blanc, versus only 8 percent to Pinot Noir), but NZ Pinot is getting easier to find. Wine.com currently sells the Oyster Bay Marlborough Pinot Noir for $16.99, Total Wine has it for $11.49, and the average U.S. price is around $15.
Crémant de Bourgogne
The most famous sparkling wine, of course, is Champagne, from the Champagne region of France. But did you know that other regions of France also make sparkling wine? By law, the wines cannot be called Champagne because they are not made in Champagne. Instead, they are called Crémant de [region]. Crémant de Bourgogne (from Burgundy) and Crémant d’Alsace (from Alsace) are the two you are most likely to see in the U.S.
I discovered Crémant de Bourgogne during law school when I had to satisfy my Champagne tastes on a shoe-string budget. Total Wine carries a delicious Louis Bouillot Perle d’Aurore rosé Crémant de Bourgogne that became my go-to sparkler for those dark years. At $18.99 a bottle, it’s good for special occasions without breaking the bank.
Much like Champagne, Crémant de Bourgogne is made primarily from Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Instead of Pinot Meunier, however, the additional grapes used are Gamay (the red grape of Beaujolais), Aligoté, Melon, and Sacy. Crémant de Bourgogne can be blanc de blancs (white in color, made from all white grapes), blanc de noirs (white in color, made from all red grapes), rosé (pink in color, made from all red grapes), or blanc (white in color, made from both white and red grapes).
The Louis Bouillot rosé is made from Pinot Noir and Gamay grapes. It’s loaded with red fruits like strawberries, raspberries, and cherries, and has delicate bubbles and a substantial mouth-feel. It’s perfect as an aperitif (before-dinner drink) to stimulate the appetite, but it’s substantial enough to serve with the Thanksgiving meal.
Lastly, tomorrow is Beaujolais Nouveau Day, so if you’re a fan, head to the wine store this weekend.
No matter what type of wine you serve, I wish you a bountiful Thanksgiving!