Let’s face it, Thanksgiving 2020 won’t resemble what it was last year or any year before that. Due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, there will be far fewer people attending family dinners and Friendsgivings. And with more than 11 million Americans (and counting) having suffered from the virus since it first emerged in the U.S., most folks are likely to skip even socially-distant gatherings in an effort to prevent further spread of COVID-19.
Fewer seats at the table means smaller Thanksgiving spreads this year. But just because you’re being responsible doesn’t mean you have to skimp out on the holiday fixings. Or all the bottles of wine you’ll need to pair with your stuffing, turkey, and sweet potato pie. It’s been a rough year for many of us. A lot has changed and a lot has been lost. But we’re still here, and that’s something to be thankful for.
It’s definitely a good enough reason to break out the good grapes.
Regardless of what’s on your menu this holiday, there are plenty of solid wines that should have a place on the table. To help with your Thanksgiving prep, we’ve rounded up eight superior bottles that will put you in the holiday spirit, whether you’re spending the day with your family over Zoom, sitting down with your quarantine cluster, or feasting alone. You don’t have to spend a gazillion dollars to enjoy any of these picks, either.
All of the bottles listed are under $40 and can be found at retail shops around the U.S., or ordered online via the linked prices below.
Banshee 2018 Sonoma County Pinot Noir
Average Price: $28
The vintners of Banshee Wines pride themselves on producing superior, standout Pinot Noir. They own several vineyards across Sonoma County, California where the grape grows with its own unique character based on its terroir, or rather the surrounding climate, soils, and various other earthly elements that add to a grape’s taste.
The 2018 label is a mashup of each Banshee Pinot plot, resulting in a wine that is both silky and savory, sour and sweet.
Here is the mixed berry pie you probably won’t be baking for Thanksgiving. A mélange of macerated berries is the aroma this wine gives. On the sip, blackberries and plum are most prevalent, but out-of-nowhere comes a splash of sour cherry. It’s a surprisingly tart note that’s followed up with a slightly herbal and savory, short finish.
Pair this wine with your holiday sweets like hot blackberry pie or apple crumble topped with vanilla ice cream. All that fruit and sweet creaminess of the ice cream—not to mention the contrasting temperatures—will make for one refreshing yet fully flavorful end-of-meal experience.
Marques de Murrieta Rioja Reserva 2015
Average Price: $29
This blend of Tempranillo, Garnacha, Mazuelo, and Graciano produced in Spain is quite simply harmony in a bottle.
Seriously, this wine is singing with ripe fruit, acidity, and body. It’s aged for 18 months in American oak barrels, then spends another year in the bottle to produce what is truly an elegant and refined vino, packed with as much character as the favorite aunt you may not get to see this holiday season.
This wine is rich in dark fruits that radiate from the bottle once the cork is popped. Dried black cherry and juicy black plum get a lift from cedar and tobacco while a touch of spice (that’s the Garnacha you’re tasting) simmers in the background. The wine is supple and plush with meaty tannins—the naturally occurring polyphenol found in plants, fruit skins, and seeds that lend to its astringency—that are rounded out with a hint of cardamon in the long and lingering finish.
The juicy complexities mixed with the velvety soft tannins and fruit flavors of this wine make it a mellifluous pairing for baked turkey and stuffing (and/or dressing, depending on where you live).
Château Malescasse 2017
ABV: 13.5 %
Average Price: $22
This wine is a blend of Merlot, Cabernet-Sauvignon and Petit Verdot from the Haut Medoc appellation in the Bordeaux region of France. It’s pretty juicy thanks to all the Merlot, which makes up 53 percent of the wine.
This wine shows a ton of black fruit—think blackberry, blackcurrant, and blueberry. You can taste a bit of menthol in the finish, which gives this jeweled red wine a pretty and light texture that also leaves a cooling sensation in the mouth.
This is no-fuss wine. It’s smooth and easy to drink and has just the right amount of juiciness to stand up to any roasted or baked bird that may be gracing the table. This one would also be great to cook with.
Consider adding a splash to cranberry glazes and sauces, and especially your red sauce pasta and after-Thanksgiving stews.
Oak Farm 2018 Barbera
Average Price: $25
Have you ever spent a sunny, brisk fall afternoon rummaging through the woods, foraging for mushrooms and herbs and berries? Well, you may feel like you’ve done all those things after a sip of this earthly deliciousness. Comprised of Barbera and Petite Sirah grown in Lodi — the center of California’s Central Coast — this wine is equal parts fruit, spice, and earth that adds up to a medium-bodied bottle that is truly dynamic.
Fragrances of fresh baked pie waft up from the glass. You can smell the bounty of berries and fruit that make up the filling, the flaky and subtly sweet crust enveloping its decadent insides. On the sip, the garnet red wine is a bouquet of hibiscus petals and leaves mixed with a blend of spices, seasoning, and an array of wild mushrooms that satisfy the palate.
The pairings for this bottle are endless. Drink this with your Thanksgiving meats. Sop up a side of mashed and sweet potatoes and buttered rolls with a sip or two of this. Use this wine for balsamic glazes and drink a glass while you dine.
Braised collard greens, roasted rainbow carrots, and even a cheese plate will be taken to new heights with this wine.
Umberto Cesari Moma Sangiovese Cabernet Sauvignon Rubicone IGT 2018
Average Price: $15
Who says red wine can’t be mouthwatering? This blend of Sangiovese with a tidbit of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot hailing from Italy certainly is. While it’s completely elegant with soft tannins, its flavorful finish completely washes the palate and leaves you salivating for the next glass.
Aromas of cocoa, raisin, and red berries are jumping out of the glass, while the sip feels like new suede. There’s some acidity that greets the palate and a hint of spice in the finish, but overall this is a delicately balanced wine that may likely leave you licking your lips after each sip.
The undeniable smoothness of this wine makes it incredibly easy to drink. Sure, it’s perfect complete on its own but it’s also very capable of moistening the palate after eating white meats that lean on the drier side.
Château de Villemajou Grand Vin Red 2016
Average Price: $33
This wine is a blend of Carignan, Syrah, Mourvèdre, and Grenache is one of the many fantastic wines derived from one of Gérard Bertrand’s massive estates in the Languedoc region of France. This is the big, bold, bad boy at the dinner table. This wine is full of body and structure just firm enough to cut through the heartiest of Thanksgiving dishes.
Aromas of toasted bread slathered with blackberry jam smother the nose, while the palate is cloaked in deep, dark cherry muddled with sprinkles of whole peppercorns. The finish is enticingly dry and heavy. You’ll feel the weight of this wine from the first sip to the last.
This is a full-bodied showstopper that’s meant to be experienced alongside more sumptuous meals like, ya know, Thanksgiving dinner.
William Estate 2018 Napa Valley Chardonnay
Average Price: $27
Chardonnay grapes picked all across Napa Valley aid in this wine’s creamy, sophisticated taste. Fruit from the St. Helena AVA influence the fruit flavors, and grapes from the breezy Carneros region bring the citrus vibes and crisp acidity. Meanwhile, Chard from the Oak Knoll AVA supplied the sturdy bones of the wine.
The blend of regional fruit was fermented and aged in oak barrels, lending to its bold body and distinctive taste.
This wine is oozing with aromas of buttery croissants and dulce de leche while the sip is fresh with notes of Bosc pear, yellow apple, and Meyer lemon. It’s rich and creamy with a velvety structure that gets a blast of character in its long finish that zings with acidity.
If you’re looking for something that is both voluptuous and refreshing, this wine is your go-to.
Valados de Melgaço Alvarinho Reserva 2019
Average Price: $25
Rarely do you find a wine as spritely and effervescent as Alvarinho paired with a holiday meal. But this Thanksgiving isn’t anything like the Thanksgivings of the past, so why not take a break from tradition and try something different?
This vibrant Portuguese wine from Monção e Melgaço is bursting with cheery character, which is really all you need to survive the holidays.
This wine tastes like apples and nectarines invited a few flowers over for a cute little party. Maybe lemon made an appearance and brought a little CO2 and turned the shindig into an all-out rave.
But seriously, this wine is bubbling with juicy fruit aromas and it is very lively. You can even make out a few bubbles when pouring it in the glass—a signature characteristic of Portuguese white wines. On the sip, the wine is busy — with apple notes like Delicious green and yellow apples, Pink Lady apples, and Royal Galas. There’s a hint of floral lingering in the shadows while zesty citrus fruit brings it all together. The finish is booming with minerality and, boy, is it looonnngggg.
This wine is a break from the norm, and it has just enough texture and personality to cut through the plethora of starchy sides that are loaded onto Thanksgiving plates. This holiday is full of tradition — this year, try something new for a change.