When picking a Thanksgiving wine, people will often throw a lot of money at the problem and pick up an “occasion wine”—one that’s heavy, deep and layered and has spent a lot of time building a character. Those are great wines, but turkey really begs for a bright, fresh wine with high acidity—the kind of wine a lot of sommeliers call a “drinker, not a thinker.”
That’s good news, since there are plenty of budget-friendly light and crisp wines that provide the perfect foil to the fatty indulgence of a turkey dinner with all the sides and extra butter. It also makes it easy to accommodate that friend who doesn’t like white or never drinks red—turkey wines come in all colours.
Follow a few easy tips, and picking the wine will be the easy part of Thanksgiving 2020.
Here are nine wines under $25—red, white and fizz—that play well with turkey:
Carmel Road Unoaked Chardonnay
When it comes to Thanksgiving dinner, some chardonnays work better than others. I look for a lightly oaked or unoaked version such as Carmel Road, which is fresh and citrusy with a mellow finish. Save the well-aged, rich and buttery chardonnays for another occasion—there’s enough fat on the table without them. Carmel Road is a certified sustainable pick from Monterey, California, but if you can’t track it down, look for a young, cool-climate option from Canada.
$24.95; LCBO 418251. Also available at private liquor stores in British Columbia and Alberta; ANBL.
Mission Hill Reserve Pinot Gris
You know you’re in for something special right from the moment you get a whiff of the aromatics on this pinot gris from British Columbia. It’s light, bouncy and tastes like stone fruit, thyme and a hint of honey, ideal flavours to play off the stuffing and starches.
$21.99; BCLiquor 00776545991171. Also available at the LCBO and SAQ.
Albariño from the Rias Baixas region of Galicia on Spain’s Atlantic coast is a wine we’re about to hear a lot more about, mainly because it’s easy-drinking, food-friendly and has plenty of cheek. This lively white is bone-dry but, somehow, still retains a lot of zesty citrus and melon notes, as well as its signature salty and highly-acidic profile, making it perfect for cutting through the fat. If you can’t find this specific bottle, try a different albariño—there’s a lot of value to be found in the expressions finally finding their way over to Canada.
$18.96; LCBO 336271
Pinot noir, three ways
Tantalus Maija Pinot Noir
Although there are a few light reds that pair perfectly well with turkey, everybody’s go-to Thanksgiving red is pinot noir—and rightly so. A west-coast, lightly aged pinot, such as this dry and slightly wild Tantalus expression, has plenty of bright acidity and the perfect amount of subtle berry fruit and baking spice to work with both white meat and dark.
Latour Pinot Noir
There’s a big difference between west-coast pinots and those that hail from France, such as this widely-available Latour pinot noir, which has a little more earthiness, weight and tannic complexity than your average North American pinot. This bottle is still great for Thanksgiving dinner, though, because its intense berry and sour cherry fruit flavour is a brilliant chaser for rich and tender white meat. It works with turkey for a lot of the same reasons cranberry and lingonberry sauce does.
$24.95; LCBO 69914. Available in every province except Prince Edward Island
Magnotta Pinot Noir Venture Series VQA
A little less on the crisp side and a touch more fruity than a lot of pinots from the Niagara region, this delicate, dry and light red is ideal for people who like a juicy red that doesn’t try to steal the show. Proceeds from the sale of this wine go to support Canada’s first Lyme Disease research lab at the University of Guelph.
$14.95; LCBO 698159
Parés Baltà Pink Cava
One of the world’s greatest pairings is turkey and lambrusco, but, sadly, it’s hard to find a really great lambrusco in the fall and winter seasons. Fortunately, there’s still plenty of pink bubbles to go around, including the always lovely pink cava from Spain’s Parés Baltà, a biodynamic and organic winery just outside of Barcelona. One of our all-time favourites, this cava has a soft and light body, a bold bubble and plenty of robust fruit and bright acidity to tamp down the richness of the bird.
$17.95; SAQ 12888043. Also available at the NSLC and private liquor stores in B.C. and Alberta. NOTE: In some markets, it’s easier to find the white, which is also a great match for turkey.
Oyster Bay Sparkling Cuvée Rosé
Made with chardonnay and pinot noir, this pale pink fizzy rosé has some of that classic “toast” taste that you’d expect from French bubbles with some herbal notes and a touch of sour at the end. It’s laid back enough that it’d be good for both pairing with food and savouring during that awesome gap between dinner and dessert. Or nap time, depending on your family traditions.
$22.95; LCBO 280172. Also available in Alberta, B.C. and at the SAQ.
De Chanceny Crémant de Loire Rosé Brut
This crémant is the kind of wine that could be paired with almost any dish, with the possible exception of a fatty rib-eye. Bursting with citrus and bright bubbles, this is a really perky wine with a ton of personality—perfect for small family celebrations.
$20.55; LCBO 211466. Also available at BC Liquor and private stores in Alberta.