Just as important as the holiday turkey: the wine. (Photo: Sushiesque/Flickr.)

Whether you’re heading home, meeting your significant other’s parents for the first time or throwing the “Friendsgiving” of the century, there’s one thing that will be just as important as the turkey (or turducken) on your table: the wine.

Here are a few Thanksgiving wine recommendations, with options for both the budget-conscious and those who thirst for something a little fancier. These wines are listed in order of lightest to fullest, so you can chart pairings for your meal. But if you feel like veering off the prescribed path, that’s fine — rules are made to be broken. If you can’t find these exact producers, just ask your local retailer for something made with that grape, or in that style, so you can get the closest thing.


Jacques Lassaigne Les Vignes des Montgueux, NV
A special occasion calls for bubbles, and the classic choice is Champagne. If you didn’t know, Champagne is actually an appellation in France, so only sparkling wine from that region can technically be called Champagne. When selecting one of these elegant, complex wines, look for a “Grower Champagne,” meaning the winemaker also farms the vineyards where the grapes come from. This is an extreme minority — about five percent of the Champagne imported to the U.S. — but it is still possible to find these bottles, at around $50 retail. They are better representations of Champagne terroir. Even better: They taste great. This one, from the Lassaigne domaine, currently run by Emmanuel Lassiagne, is 100 percent Chardonnay from chalky soil; it is dry, mineral and bright and will start your holiday meal off perfectly. Pair with foie gras for extra French fanciness. $52;

Clotilde Davenne Crémant de Bourgogne, NV
There are so many quality sparkling wines in the $20 to $30 range. The trick is to look for one by a great producer, made in the methode champenoise style — i.e., it’s been treated as if it were Champagne itself, with the bubbles allowed to develop naturally during a secondary fermentation in the bottle, and aging on the lees (skins and stems) to add texture and body. France has a wide array of beautiful crémants for you to choose from — meaning a methode champenoise wine that’s simply not from the Champagne appellation. Some of the best ones are made from Chenin Blanc in the Loire Valley or from Chardonnay in Burgundy, like this one from Clotilde Davenne. Based just outside Chablis, Davenne is an independent winemaker, and all of her bottlings are affordable, elegant and incredibly versatile with food. This one is a blend of estate-grown 80 percent Pinot Noir and 20 percent Chardonnay and is vibrant, completely dry and savory. $19.49;

Crisp, Bright Whites

Agnès and Rene Mosse Savennières, Arena, 2013
Aged, completely dry Chenin Blanc can be simply otherworldly, with flowers and wet stones on the nose, and that magical combination of texture and acidity on the palate. Huet, a Loire Valley domaine in the Vouvray appellation, is considered by many to be the world’s greatest producer of Chenin Blanc, and if you can find an aged Huet on your local wine retailer’s shelves, grab it — these wines are hard to come across, and the younger vintages on the market are really for cellaring rather than drinking now. But there are other producers to choose from, as well as other appellations besides Vouvray — notably, Savennières and Montlouis. The small domaine run by Agnès and René Mosse, who make natural wines from biodynamically farmed old vines, makes beautiful Chenin Blanc. In particular, their Savennières is quite stunning: rich, complex, saline. The 2012 Savennieères is drinking particularly well right now, but the 2013 is also a great buy. They also make beautiful Chenin Blanc from the Anjou appellation. Chenin Blanc, especially when aged, may deserve a decant. $44;

Dressigacker Riesling Trocken, 2013
If the thought of a Riesling wine brings ideas of sweet, viscous juice, forget that — dry Riesling is an incredibly mineral, food-friendly wine that belongs on your holiday meal table. And its home is Germany, where producers have applied the French concept of terroir to make stunning wines from their world-class vineyards. One of the leaders of the Rheinhessen’s quality revolution, Jochen Dressigacker is making terroir-driven, organically farmed, dry Riesling with his group Message in a Bottle, which promotes better vineyard practices. This is Dressigacker’s most affordable wine, as his estate holds some of the top vineyards in the area (and they are all actually organic, but he only puts the word on the label for this wine, because of the market he is targeting). In general, Dressigacker wines are high acid and mineral and simply beautiful. $16.99;

Full-Bodied Whites

Domaine Boyer-Martenot Mersault, 2006
The region of Burgundy, France, makes some of the world’s best Chardonnay, and its top wines are aged in oak so as to enhance the grape’s capacity for roundness and texture. Wines from the appellation of Mersault tend to be particularly rich, but they’re balanced by acidity and minerality, so the wine is never too heavy or buttery, the way some New World Chardonnay can be. Your best bet with white Burgundy is to look for a wine that is at least five years old. Otherwise it will be too tight, with underdeveloped flavors. Whites from 2006, 2008 and 2010 are particularly good right now. It’s not a bad idea to decant this wine, or at least open the bottle early to allow aromas to develop. $48;

Foradori Manzioni Bianco, 2014
Amid the dramatic landscape of the Dolomites, in the hills above Trento, Elisabetta Foradori is making some of Italy’s most profound and elegant wines from biodynamic vineyards. Manzoni Bianco is a local grape, which you could compare to Chenin Blanc in that it is floral, aromatic and also mineral. This wine, with grapes from iron-rich limestone soils, is powerful, with wonderful acidity. It is fermented in cement, then aged in acacia tanks, which results in smoky, vegetal notes. All of the Foradori wines are beautifully made and versatile with food, and this one is no exception. $26.99;

Light, Racy Reds

Montebruno Momtazi
Thanksgiving calls for a celebration of the domestic. So drink some Oregon Pinot Noir, often compared to Burgundy’s finest for its minimal use of oak, earthy flavors and ability to enhance almost any dish. Montebruno is a relatively new Willamette Valley label that will convert you to a lover of New World wines, if you weren’t already. Pinot Noir, by the way, is one of the most food-friendly grapes out there, but it definitely rocks with turkey. You may notice the price on this bottle is a touch on the higher side — on par with some Premier Cru red Burgundy wines, also made from Pinot Noir. Well, that’s because: a) It’s a great wine made from top-quality vineyards, and b) land in Oregon is expensive. For a holiday meal, especially one celebrating our national culture, it’s worth the splurge. $36.99;

Domaine de la Tournelle Uva Arbosiana, Poulsard, 2014
If you’ve never had a red wine from the Jura, in eastern France, then prepare to be blown away by the gracefulness, gentle power, and beautiful color of Poulsard (also known as Ploussard). Only grown in the Jura, Poulsard has a nose like a bouquet of fresh flowers, and it is vibrant, mineral, and light enough to seem almost like a dark rosé. It’s a wine to be drunk young and does not require much time to breathe; serve it with lighter meats or vegetable dishes, or really with anything. This producer makes a particularly good bottle, with organically farmed, hand-harvested grapes and completely native yeasts, but you’ll find other tasty ones in the same price range. $26;

Full-Bodied Reds

Bernard Levet Côte Rotie, Syrah, 2008
Rhône Valley Syrah graces your table like an elegant, well-dressed woman, with its soft-spoken charm and ability to flatter everything around it. This is a far cry from the Shiraz of Australia. French wine made from this full-bodied, dark-fruited grape is less oaky and more about concentration of fruit. Côte Rotie is a top site for Syrah in the Rhône, and Bernard Levet is a much-respected producer. It’s a wine that benefits from five to ten years in the bottle, so if you can find this 2008 bottle, definitely grab it; otherwise, you’d be fine with anything from 2012 and back, although the wine may still be a little “tight,” meaning the full complexity isn’t there yet. Syrah, with its soft tannins and black olive notes, is amazing with red meat or turkey, as well as richly flavored vegetable dishes. Two other Rhône Valley appellations that make wonderful and relatively affordable 100 percent Syrah are St. Joseph and Crozes-Hermitage. Decanting is recommended. $53.99;

Steltzner Vineyards Claret 2013
A Claret is basically a Bordeaux style wine; the word comes from the affectionate nickname that thirsty Brits bestowed on this rich red blend. Steltzner Vineyards is a family-owned and -operated winery that represents some of the best value Napa Valley has to offer. For $20, you get an earthy, complex wine that’s also high in acid and finishes with soft tannins. It’s made up of 65 percent Merlot, 31 percent Cabernet Sauvignon,and a touch of Petit Verdot. This is a great wine for pairing with meat and gravy; it’s also a real crowd-pleaser that will satisfy most palates. $20;

Dessert Wines

Chateau Lafaurie Peyraguey, Sauternes, 2004
Sauternes is a pricey, delicious, sweet limited-production wine made from botrytized Semillon grapes from Bordeaux. Botrytis is essentially a favorable rot that develops when the grapes hang on the vines late into the harvest season, which heightens their ripeness and sweetness factor and lowers the alcohol content. The acidity in the Semillon grape makes Sauternes infinitely ageable, so the older a bottle you can find, the more incredibly complex it will be, with flavors ranging from dried apricots to baked peaches to fresh flowers. Serve slightly chilled, with stinky cheese and pie. $29.99;

Otima 10-year-old Tawny Port
Port is a fortified wine from Portugal’s Douro Valley, which is classically paired with blue cheese, and it has just enough sweetness to work beautifully with your Thanksgiving pies. Two common Port styles are Ruby, the least expensive and youngest, and Tawny, which is aged longer in barrel to take on a darker color. Aged Tawny Port is left in wooden casks for at least six years and develops a soft, silky characteristic that will be a wonderful finish to a special meal. Serve slightly chilled. $18;