Thanksgiving is the most singular meal of the year for most Americans.
It’s usually the biggest dinner party, with dishes cooked maybe once a year, often by many different people. It may also be the only day of the year when generally compartmentalized groups of family and friends blend together.
It’s no wonder we spend a lot of time thinking about how to pull it off. A week ago I wrote up our annual Thanksgiving wine tasting, which broke down exactly the sort of nimble, energetic wines that will go best with such an unusual feast.
I wanted to follow that up by recommending another dozen bottles, six whites and six reds, that would be great on the holiday table. But don’t think of them as merely Thanksgiving wines. They are so good and so versatile they are worth serving anytime.
It turns out, the characteristics that make a wine good for the unusual combination of foods and people at Thanksgiving are generally great qualities to find in wines most of the time.
As I suggested in the last piece, the crucial characteristic in a Thanksgiving wine is acidity, which, in the right proportion, gives a wine energy, lift and liveliness. It’s what makes a wine refreshing and it helps to keep you going through a long day full of heavy foods.
Did I mention these bottles are all at most $25? That’s our upward limit for the Thanksgiving wine tasting because we imagine many will have big gatherings, requiring a lot of wine at reasonable costs. I’ve stuck with those parameters for these recommendations as well.
Not that acidity and price are the only attributes worth seeking out in a wine, not by a long shot. Rich, powerful, discernibly tannic wines have their place, as do expensive, distinguished bottles.
For those sorts of wines you have to plan more carefully, especially if the wine is rare, well-aged or personally meaningful. These bottles are less versatile than those I am recommending. They require deliberate thought as to the sorts of foods and gatherings that will allow them to be at their best.
At Thanksgiving, and on most ordinary nights, we do not open those sorts of bottles. Whether at the hodgepodge feast of the holiday or the improvised nature of a Tuesday night meal, lively, refreshing wines — that’s the acidity — enhance the occasion.
Now, if your Thanksgiving gathering is a dinner party for six, then of course you can haul out the special bottles, matching each one to a particular course. But for the pastiche buffets that make up many holiday gatherings, stick with the more limber wines.
I found all 12 of these bottles in New York retail shops. Each fits the holiday criteria I’ve outlined. They have lively acidity, are largely 11 to 13.5 percent in alcohol and are not too tannic or oaky. Here they are in no particular order.
Markus Altenburger Burgenland Joiser Reben Grüner Veltliner 2020 $21
Here’s a grüner veltliner not only with the herbal and citrus aromas and flavors typical of the variety but with a vibrant texture that seems to cleanse the mouth, readying it for the next bite or sip. That ability to refresh and rejuvenate is just what you want at a heavy meal. Markus Altenburger farms biodynamically and does as little in the cellar as he can, a fact that’s clear from the hazy opacity of the wine. Regardless, it’s delicious. (Schatzi Wines, Milan, N.Y.)
Ponce Manchuela Bobal La Casilla 2018 $23
Over the centuries, few have given the bobal grape much respect. Grown mostly in eastern Spanish regions like Manchuela, bobal has largely gone into cheap bulk red wines produced by cooperatives. But recently, seriously producers like Juan Antonio Ponce, with access to old vineyards of the grape, have shown that it in fact has the potential to make superb wines. La Casilla, from bobal grown on limestone, is light, elegant and profoundly mineral, with stony flavors of red fruits, yet it goes down easy. (T. Edward Wines, New York)
Cruse Wine Company North Coast Monkey Jacket Red Blend 2018 $25
Michael Cruse makes wine in a warehouse off Highway 101 in Sonoma County near Petaluma, Calif. Like Broc Cellars, another start-up with a production facility that belies wine’s pastoral myth, Mr. Cruse seeks out less exalted grapes that are farmed conscientiously and treats them gently in the winery. Monkey Jacket is mostly valdiguié blended with carignan, petite sirah and tannat, among others. It’s bright and lively with focused flavors of earthy red fruits and flowers.
Nanclares y Prieto Rías Baixas Dandelión Albariño 2020 $25
Alberto Nanclares and Silvia Prieto make a series of organically farmed albariños that are among the best examples of the variety. Dandelión is an excellent introduction to their line, pure, fresh, deep, textured and mineral, with floral, herbal and fruit flavors. It’s the sort of wine that always seems to hold a little back, which keeps you moving toward that next sip in an effort to unravel its full dimension. (José Pastor Selections/Llaurador Wines, Fairfax, Calif.)
Anne and Sylvain Liotard Domaine des 13 Lunes Vin de Savoie Apremont 2020 $19
In an article in July, I called Savoie whites as refreshing as summer breezes. It turns out those breezes are pretty nice at the Thanksgiving table, too. This Apremont, made of biodynamically farmed jacquère grapes, is fresh, lively and low in alcohol at 11 percent, the sort of wine that invites another sip because it feels so good in the mouth. (Wine Traditions, Falls Church, Va.)
Domaine Cornu-Camus Bourgogne Hautes-Côtes de Nuits 2019 $24
Burgundy is now the world’s most exalted wine region, and you rarely find good bottles in this price range. But here’s a great example, from a little-known producer and an often overlooked terroir. The Hautes-Côtes de Nuits, in the hills to the west of the more famous and prestigious Côtes de Nuits vineyards, was historically a source of inexpensive reds, partly because the grapes were more difficult to ripen there. But climate change has made ripening easier and raised the general level of quality. This bottle is earthy and fruity, yet focused and refreshing. (Petit Pois/Sussex Wine Merchant, Moorestown, N.J.)
Southold Farm and Cellar Texas High Plains “Don’t Forget to Soar” White Wine Blend 2020 $21
I’ve been following Southold from their years on the North Fork of Long Island through their move to Texas. The proprietors, Regan and Carey Meador, have been unwavering in their pursuit of original wines that reflect their place of origin and their own spare aesthetic. This blend of roussanne and grüner veltliner, grown on the High Plains of Texas, is bright and vibrant, with intense earthy, herbal and citrus flavors that are neither complex nor complicated. It’s a true thirst quencher.
Beurer Württemberg Riesling Trocken 2020 $25
Jochen Beurer is an excellent producer of both whites and reds in the Württemberg region of southwestern Germany. This entry-level riesling is lively, dry and savory, almost saline, tangy and delicious. It’s broader and less fragile than a Mosel riesling yet not at all heavy or overbearing. It’s a terrific wine for Thanksgiving, and if you manage to find Beurer’s trollinger, a light red, it will be, too. (Vom Boden, Brooklyn, N.Y.)
Paul Cherrier Sancerre 2019 $25
Wine snobs tend to sneer at Sancerre because it’s so effortlessly popular, but Sancerre and other sauvignon blancs are the sort of crowd-pleasers that can be just right for the Thanksgiving table. The problem is, a lot of sauvignon blancs are mediocre. Yet the good ones, like this bottle, can be excellent: pure, fragrant, resonant, crisp, earthy and mineral. (Avant Garde Wine & Spirits, New York)
Bernard Baudry Chinon Les Granges 2020 $21
Bernard Baudry is one of the best and most reliable Chinon producers. Les Granges is the introductory bottle, made from young cabernet franc vines, farmed organically, and intended for early drinking. It’s lively, juicy and earthy, and easy to enjoy. It would be especially good with the dark meat and earthy tuber dishes. The Baudry single-vineyard cuvées, like La Croix Boissée and Les Grézeaux, reward aging and are among the best expressions of Chinon. If you are having an intimate Thanksgiving dinner and happen to have a 10- or 15-year-old bottle, it would be hard to do better. (Louis/Dressner Selections, New York)
The Whole Shebang California Fourteenth Cuvée NV $16
This red blend is a perpetually excellent value from Bedrock Wine Company, which makes a wide variety of terrific, unmanipulated wines from old California vineyards. The array of groups includes zinfandel, carignan, syrah and petite sirah, and vintages are mixed as well, a welcome tactic. The result is an easygoing, lively wine that is delicious and versatile. Too often, inexpensive California reds are inflated with oak flavorings and other enhancements intended to imitate the characteristics of more expensive wines. Not this one, and it makes you think about how good these humble wines could be if other producers would permit them the dignity of authenticity.
Raúl Pérez Bierzo Ultreia Saint Jacques 2018 $23
It’s always interesting to compare mencías grown in Bierzo in western Spain, with those grown in Ribeira Sacra, a little farther west in Galicia. It’s especially interesting when they are made by Raúl Pérez, a master of mencía who makes wine in both places. Ultreia Saint Jacques is his entry-level Bierzo. Grown mostly on clay soils, it’s fruitier and a little heavier than the more racy Ribeira Sacras, grown on slate soils. It’s juicy, spicy and balanced, with a touch of creaminess. (Skurnik Wines, New York)