Holiday Wines

Why Beaujolais Is the Best Wine for Thanksgiving Dinner: And Our 5 Favorites!

Image Credit: Apartment Therapy

Since it's Thanksgiving this week, I'm digressing from my usual one wine format. Normally I like to stick to American wines for Thanksgiving, but I just had to mention the most versatile Thanksgiving wine of them all: Beaujolais. Refreshing, fruity, not too full-bodied or tannic, with wines to meet everyone's taste and most importantly budget.

Beaujolais wines work so well at the Thanksgiving table. They are fruity, not very tannic, refreshing and essentially easy drinking, so the wine won't get in the way of conversation nor fight with the myriad of flavors on the table.

Quality has improved tremendously over the past decade in Beaujolais. That coupled with a recent string of consistently good vintages means that it is hard to go wrong with Beaujolais. When it comes to producers, one name reigns supreme: Georges Duboeuf, who is by far the largest producer and makes wines at every level of the classification system. But it is worth seeking out the smaller, more artisanal estates.

Mary's Five Favorite Beaujolais Wines for Thanksgiving

1. 2011 Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais Villages, $8: Consistently good and amazing value. Packed with refreshing, lively fruit. Light-to-medium bodied.

2. 2012 Domaine du Vissoux, Beaujolais "Primeur", Pierre Chermette, $13.99: Nouveau style, vibrant, packed with lively black and red berry fruit. Light-bodied and very juicy

3. 2010 Domaine de Terres Dorées, L'Ancien Vines, Brun, Beaujolais, $17: A house favorite of ours. Delivers so much more than you would expect from a regional wine. Lots of savory minerality and structure

4. 2010 Domaine des Mouilles Juliénas, Beaujolais Cru, $17: Very flavorful, and with two years of age, the savory minerlaity is more evident, but it still retains bags of refreshing fruit flavors. Medium-bodied with a long finish.

5. 2011 Lapierre, Morgan, Beaujolais Cru, $29: Okay, we're going all out here. Maybe not the wine to serve for the large Thanksgiving gathering - unless, there are only a few of you drinking wine. This wine is from one of my favorite producers in Beaujolais. Fairly full-bodied and mouth filling, tons of flavor, complex, minerally and very long.

More About Beaujolais Wine

Beaujolais: Red or Maybe Even White
While Beaujolais Blanc exists, for the most part when we talk about Beaujolais wine we mean the red wine made from the Gamay grape. Beaujolais is located in France, south of the Mâconnais area of Burgundy and north of the Rhône Valley. For interested readers Beaujolais Blanc is made from the Chardonnay grape.

Nouveau, Régional, Villages and Cru
Beaujolais is not just one wine. Maybe you are familiar with the 'Nouveau', the new wine released the 3rd Thursday in November with much aplomb and glitz. Simple, very fruity and refreshing these wines should be consumed within the next three months or so.

Regional wines are the straight up wines labeled simply as 'Beaujolais' and are made from grapes sourced anywhere in the Beaujolais region. Up a further level of official quality are the wines labeled Beaujolais Villages.This covers 39 communes in the more northern, hillier part of the region.

At the top end we have classification called 'Beaujolais Cru' of which there are ten. The ten 'Cru' communes are Chiroubles, St-Amour, Fleurie, Régnié, Brouilly, Côte de Brouilly, Juliénas, Chénas, Morgon and Moulin-à-Vent. Each has its own personality and characteristics. Some such as Fleurie are considered more perfumed, while others such as Morgan are considered fuller-bodied and age-worthy in style.

See also previous Beaujolais wines of the week: Pascal Granger, Moulin a Vent and Domaine des Terres Dorées, "l'Ancien VV".

Happy Thanksgiving everyone, and remember the Golden Rules: "Don't worry about the wine" and "Keep to your budget."

Mary Gorman-McAdams, MW (Master of Wine), is a New York based wine educator, freelance writer and consultant.

Related: Thanksgiving Wines: Keep It Simple

(Images: Left: 2011 Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais Villages via YumSugar; Right: Style Me Pretty)