Articles on wines good for Thanksgiving might remain interesting to read each year, but they’re not the most exciting things to write. The wines that happen to play so well at that meal are without a doubt my favorite wines in all creation to drink, but I beat drums so frequently for them that when it comes time to generate a guide to Thanksgiving drinking, I’m afraid of being repetitive and boring.

Blah, riesling, blah, good Beaujolais, good bubbles, rosé, blah blah blah domestic pinot noir. It’s not as if the meal changes much each year, or the company, or the weather or anything. So why would the wines?

We are looking for flexibility, joy, deftness and occasional flashes of profundity. Riesling, Beaujolais and sparkling wine exude these exceptionally well. Riesling, Beaujolais and sparkling wines are, actually, the greatest wines on Earth. Can we call it a day here?

I thought one way to wriggle out of my weariness with the Thanksgiving wine question would be to have other people answer it. So this year, I emailed several people in the Portland area who work at shops and restaurants I respect, to ask what they plan to drink this year for Thanksgiving.

I didn’t ask for their “suggestions” or “principles” since that’s too salesy. Anyway, by now the suggestions for and principles of Thanksgiving drinking are basically drilled into our citizenry in grade school: low alcohol, heightened aromatics, bright acidity, touch of sweetness. No, no rules or pitches; I just wanted these fine and fine-palated folks’ actual wine loves.

I received them, and here’s the thing: They’re the same as mine! I swear I tried to open up the game. These are people with varied backgrounds who do different sorts of work from each other and from me. Yet as you’ll see below, we mostly attend the same church. I guess that proves there’s only one true religion, so take that Puritan Pilgrims.


Below are some of the responses I received. Many reflect our church’s core teachings, while some of the alternatives to the usual suspects are splendid: a light-pink primitivo, a vibrant Tuscan red, a zweigelt rosé, xinomavro, etc., and God bless you Zara Edwards for kickstarting your own beautiful vermouth-for-Thanksgiving cult.

The diversity of flavors at the Thanksgiving table, the emphasis on conviviality there, the combination of creativity and consistency in the foods, call for wine to be at its best.

That’s why the comments below, transcribed faithfully with only slight adjustments for space consideration, are so valuable. I have first-hand familiarity with all the wines mentioned (save for the Beurer, a situation I will rectify soon) and they’re in this column because I agree with the writers’ overall assessments.

Antonio Alviar, team member at Sur Lie, a small-plates-focused restaurant in the Old Port: “Thanksgiving is my favorite time of year for obvious reasons, drinking and eating. When I think wine(s) for Thanksgiving, I think specifically of rieslings. Something about a slightly chilled, acidic, rich riesling makes sense in every aspect of Thanksgiving food and drinking. It goes with anything/everything, it’s crushable and it’s just a badass grape. At the end of the day, it’s my personal must for Thanksgiving … every year.”

Joe Fournier, co-owner of The Farm Stand, a farm-based market in South Portland’s Knightville neighborhood: “I can’t have Thanksgiving without zweigelt on the table. One wine we’ll be drinking is the Tegernseerhof Mittelbach ‘T’ Zweigelt Rosé 2014 ($14). Lean, bright, strawberry fruit; vibrant citrusy acidity that will temper the richness of any turkey day feast. And the Messmer Pinot (emphatic expletive) Noir 2012 ($18)! It’s straightforward and versatile, with a mysterious Burgundian terroir, fruit, dirt and structure. The more I drink it, the more I love it.”

Erica Archer, sommelier at Wine Wise, a wine education program featuring wine walks, sails and cruises, and private and corporate events: “The 2008 Mount Langi Ghiran ‘Cliff Edge’ Riesling ($19), from Grampians, Australia, is a gorgeous and developed riesling that is drinking absolutely beautifully right now. It’s loaded with aromatic developed fruits: tropical – mango, pineapple, papaya; citrus – lemon, lime; and ripe orchard fruits – apple, pear, juicy peach. It has this bold minerality that shines through, and zesty acidity that balances out the fruitiness and alcohol. There’s a lot going on in this wine, just as there’s a lot going on on a traditional Thanksgiving plate.


“The 2011 Thymiopoulos Vineyards ‘Uranos’ Xinomavro from Naoussa, Greece ($27) is always on my Thanksgiving table. I am a big fan of the xinomavro grape. Every time I taste it, it reminds me of Thanksgiving with its warm red-fruit aroma and flavor profile of dark red cherries, red plum, exotic berries with a savory au jus characteristic, and notes of toffee and chocolate with just the right amount of baking spices – cinnamon, nutmeg, clove – to make it a perfect fit for the big meal. I also like that it’s not too extracted or high in alcohol, which allows you to taste the food along with the wine on the palate.”

Chris Peterman, director of American Sommelier Maine, and director of operations for Tao Yuan restaurant in Brunswick and Bao Bao Dumpling House in Portland: “Fatalone Teres Primitivo ($18). This has just a short period of skin contact, making it more like a rosé, but with a very distinct primitivo profile. It’s a really fun wine that is not too overpowering but can stand up to some of the heartier dishes on the table. It does very well at cellar temperature, not out of the fridge when it’s too cold.

“Domaine des Terres Blanches Sparkling Cabernet Franc NV ($21): This is just killer sparkling wine, with a whole lot of body and tannin. Not too dry as to absolutely need food, but strong enough to be a great pairing for dark meat. The bubbles play off many of the rich flavors and cooking spices involved with Thanksgiving.”

Stella Hernandez, co-owner and wine director at Lolita Vinoteca + Asador, a wine and small-plates-focused restaurant on Munjoy Hill: “I don’t like to stress too much about holiday wines. I want to have something delicious and approachable, but not esoteric. I don’t want to have to think too much!

“So, the Graham Beck Cap Classique Brut Rosé, NV ($18) is … bubbles and rosé – what else is there to say?! One doesn’t usually think of South Africa for sparkling wine, but this chardonnay and pinot noir blend is a stunner and a great value. It is made using all estate-grown fruit from vineyards in Stellenbosch, Robertson and Franschhoek. The flavors are of raspberry and strawberry, the wine is yeasty and minerally, elegant and widely appealing.

“I also love the Lohsa Morellino di Scansano, from Maremma, Italy. It’s 85 percent sangiovese and 15 percent ciliegiolo, full of juicy sour cherry and herbs. So easy and lovely to drink across a wide variety of foods. Great balanced acidity and tannin. Our current staff favorite at Lolita.”


Ilma Lopez and Damian Sansonetti, co-owners and chefs at Piccolo, an Italian restaurant in the Old Port: “We really love the Cantina di Sorbara ‘Nicchia’ Lambrusco NV ($12), because it isn’t too sweet or overly dry, it will go well with a lot of things you will have on Thanksgiving, and it’s light enough with small bubbles that will be better for those non-wine drinkers.

“The Tami Frappato 2014 ($18) from Sicily’s Arianna Occhipinti is juicy, fun to drink and accommodates a wide variety of pairings. It’s like Italy’s version of Beaujolais. Occhipinti makes one of our favorite wines of all time, too, the fantastic but more serious ‘SP68’ blend of frappato and nero d’avola.”

Zara Edwards, beverage director at Tiqa, an eastern Mediterranean-inspired restaurant in the Old Port: “Contratto Vermouth Bianco ($31), baby. The first early-morning step of cooking my first-ever Thanksgiving turkey will be to crack open my companion for the day, giving me the confidence and ‘holiday cheer’ I will be needing to survive it. High in alcohol, sweet but bitter, and spicy from the 50 different botanicals, herbs and flowers it is infused with, she is beautiful in her versatility.

“Add Prosecco for the breakfast round, ice and a lemon twist for dinner, and finish the pies off with a nice, full, aren’t-the-holidays-grand?-sized snifter.”

Peter and Orenda Hale, owners of Maine & Loire, a wine shop in the East End that focuses on wines produced in a minimalist, natural fashion: “We do think two obvious and yet oft-maligned grapes are our favorites this time (or any time) of year. Actually, they might even be our spirit animals. First, the Georges Descombes Beaujolais Morgon 2014 ($25). This is about as far away as you can get from the thin, acrid, bubblegum plonk that is typical Beaujolais Nouveau. This is gamay, fully realized: soft and bright, but with deeper hues of warm spice and a plump middle. Beaujolais this well-made always makes us feel like we’re in on a secret.

“Then, the Jochen Beurer Riesling Kieselsandstein 2013 ($29) from Swabia, Germany. Beurer eschews the heady, pungent, synthetic bombs of ‘blue bottle’ German riesling from Grandma’s table for ping-pong acid and wet-rock minerals, with delicate, perfect, breezy aromatics.


“With all the loud, broad-stroke flavors of the holiday (and the loud family chatter) it’s nice to carve out a clean, well-lighted place in the clamor.”

Joe Appel, cut-n-paster for the Portland Press Herald: Next week’s column will be published the day before Thanksgiving, and I’ll devote it to some unconventional choices of my own to help last-minute shoppers.

For now, though, I’m going negative. There is one wine I hope you will absolutely not drink, and that’s Beaujolais Nouveau from the best-known producers. Despite Nouveau’s heritage as an honest harvest wine, what it has become is a travesty, plain/simple.

It is an artificially flavored, artificially vinified gross-out cocktail, it doesn’t taste good, and it ruins true Beaujolais’ good name. Many people say to me something like, “Yeah, it’s a marketing phenomenon and it’s stupid, but ya gotta do it.”

No you do not bloody gotta do it. As my colleagues above have attested, there are plenty of actual wines you gotta do, f’real. Happy Thanksgiving!

Joe Appel is the wine buyer at Rose- mont Market. He can be reached at:

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.