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Thanksgiving is a time for family, memories, and sharing great meals. It’s also a time for family squabbles, uncomfortable moments, and shouting matches.

Okay, that’s a bit harsh but annually holiday gatherings can have their moments of tension. Why add to the tension by over thinking the menu or the wine choices? Keeping it simple is never better advice than around the holidays.

Grape Sense LogoThe ‘annual Thanksgiving wine column’ is a staple for every wine writer. Today’s “Thanksgiving column’ is my seventh so I decided to look over advice and offer a ‘best-of” remarks for the holiday bird and juice match up. After all, there are only a few different ways to suggest the same wines.

“Thanksgiving is about family so make it a festive occasion,” I wrote back in 2011, still good advice. “Try a light sparkling wine before the big meal. It’s sure to be a hit. Look for a Spanish Cava, Italian Prosecco, or Gloria Ferrer’s delightful Sonoma County sparklers. For something really festive and delicious, I love Banfi Rosa Regale. The Banfi wine sells for right at $20, has just seven percent alcohol, and is delicious.”

It’s hard to improve on that start to your dinner or holiday wine recommendations.

turkey-and-wine-500x332Back in 2010 the column was largely about traditional Thanksgiving whites like Riesling which offers nice fruit and balanced acidity for foul. The great thing about Riesling is the availability. Any wine shop, and most grocery stores and liquor shops, will have a Riesling. New York’s Finger Lakes and upper Michigan wineries all produce great Riesling. If you want the classics look to the German Mosel region and France’s Alsace versions.

A really great choice, and personal favorite, is unoaked Chardonnay. More specifically, a premier cru or grand cru Chablis is unparalleled at the Thanksgiving table. The rich fruit along with the crisp acidity and mineralality mixes perfectly with the bird and most of the side dishes. Good Chablis of such pedigree will set you back at least $25-$30 for starters. There are many Chablis wines, non appellation specific, for under $20. But give the cru wines a try for an important family holiday meal.

Indiana’s signature grape Traminette also works well if you like sweeter wines. Gewurztraminer was a very fashionable pick for years but Traminette substitutes nicely. You can enjoy a floral, light-bodied wine and support Indiana’s wine industry. I prefer the drier versions of Indiana’s Traminette but they can be hard to find. Most Indiana Traminette has substantial residual sugar. A few wineries, like Turtle Run, Corydon, and others are producing Traminette in a dry version now days.

Pinot Noir is an easy red pick for your turkey and dressing but I prefer Beaujolais Grand Cru wines if I’m having red. No, we’re not talking about the gimmicky Beaujolais Nouveau wines but the Grand Cru wines which have some oak aging. There are 10 Beaujolais Grand Cru wines and all are reasonably priced in the mid to upper teens. Gamay is the grape of Beaujolais and it offers a wonderful light bodied wine with a wisp of earthiness that pairs well with the bird.

Happy Thanksgiving!