Five Conversation Starting Red Wines for Thanksgiving... and Not A Single Pinot Noir

Posted November 11, 2016

Stacy Brody


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Thanksgiving may feel like it's interesting enough, what with family members and in-laws all gathered at the same table. We all know how that goes. While I won't spill any family secrets or shed light on long-held grudges, I will admit that we usually serve Riesling. We probably will again this year. For us, Riesling never tires as a Thanksgiving pair. 

But I feel like we’ve been in a bit of a wine rut with our reds. We could try Pinot Noir or Zinfandel, which are surefire bets for the variety of food offerings and personal preferences gathered at one table. Alternatively, we could try something a little more off-the-beaten track, one that’s sure to start a conversation that doesn’t center around an old family grudge.


These are 5 killer reds for your Thanksgiving table. All should spark a lively discussion that is nothing like the debates this past election season.


1 & 2. Gamay in all its glory, old world and new

Gamay is the red wine grape variety behind Beaujolais. The child of a cross between Pinot Noir and Gouais Blanc, it was historically grown in Burgundy, later kicked out, and replaced by its parent Pinot Noir.

Like Pinot Noir, Gamay has high acidity and low tannins. The wines are generally light-to-medium-bodied, varying by vintage and site. With these qualities, Gamay is versatile on the table. It’s one of those reds that bends both ways, acting as your full-bodied white or light-bodied red, depending on the entree.


More than half of the world’s Gamay vines are planted in Beaujolais, the French wine region between Burgundy and the Rhone. If you want one of these Gamay classics for your Thanksgiving table, check out anything from 2015, a crowd-pleasing blockbuster vintage. The season was warm, and the wines are bursting with fruit. From rising star and fourth-generation vigneron, Michel Guignier Beaujolais 2015 is a classic example of juicy, fresh French Gamay.

As a modern spin on an old-world favorite, the Te Mata Gamay from Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand, is a no-brainer. This was a crowd favorite at a recent in-store seminar featuring wines from this highly-regarded estate. Light and vibrant, with gorgeous fresh fruit and white pepper spice, it’s perfect with so many different types of foods. I know our Thanksgiving table includes everything from the roast turkey and mashed potatoes to my dad’s latest Brussels sprouts experiment and my sister’s newest stuffing.

3. Zinfandel may be a popular favorite for the Thanksgiving table, but what about it’s old world cousin?

Before there was Lodi Zinfandel, there was Puglia Primitivo.

Primitivo found a natural home in Puglia, after having been brought across the sea from Croatia.  At the heel of Italy’s boot, the Mediterranean sun is strong but the sea breezes cool. Vineyards of Primitivo flourish. Round and rich, the 2014 Appollonio Elfo Primitivo fills the mouth with luscious fruit, gathered in by fine tannins and acidity. Everyone will love this… so hide at least one bottle for yourself when the guests all leave.


4. If not old vine Zin, what about old vine Nerello Mascalese

I admit, it doesn’t quite roll off the tongue the same way.

Like Pinot Noir, Nerello Mascalese is highly communicative of terroir, that is, of place and time and people. And if you’d rather not be at the Thanksgiving table in 2016 with your family, why not be in Sicily in the summer 10 years ago with a winemaker? You don’t often find wines like the 2006 Calabretta Nerello Mascalese Vigne Vecchie, wines with this kind of bottle age, this kind of finesse...and at this price point.


5. A little island flavor  

Sardinia is a large, centrally-located Mediterranean Island. While almost half of the island is devoted to grazing animals, particularly sheep, they also make some delicious wines. There’s this island effect that has nothing to do with little umbrellas in drinks. Rather, you get really bright Mediterranean sunshine and the cooling influence of the sea. Think about cold nights near the beach and you wondered why you didn’t bring a sweater. Those cool nights are great for grapes, preserving freshness. Which is precisely what you find in this Cannonau, known as Grenache and France and Garnacha in Spain. The Sardinian expressions of this variety offer intensity and freshness and sing pure red cherries. Bring a little island flavor to your Thanksgiving table with the 2012 Contini Cannonau Inu.

Keep the conversation flowing smoothly as long as the wine does with these amazing red wines!


Item: 89320

750 mL

Retail: $15.99

$11.99 per btl

Product Label.

Te Mata Hawkes Bay Gamay...

91 Campbell Mattinson - The W...

Item: 93809

750 mL

Retail: $21.99

$16.98 per btl

Item: 96012

750 mL

Retail: $15.99

$11.96 per btl

Item: 97572

750 mL

Retail: $29.99

$23.55 per btl

Product Label.

Contini Cannonau Inu

93 Ian Dagata - Vinous Media

Item: 97666

750 mL

Retail: $24.99

$18.93 per btl