The Answer to Your Thanksgiving Wine Questions Is Bordeaux (Yes, Bordeaux)

published Nov 17, 2016
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(Image credit: Lauren Volo)

When you think of wine from Bordeaux, what comes to mind? If you’re like me a a year ago, you might have thought about rich, expensive red wine that old men keep in cellars for far too long. Bordeaux has a stuffy and sometimes intimidating reputation, but it turns out its future is anything but that.

New wine-makers in the Bordeaux region of France are embracing innovation and sustainability. Some of the most exciting wines I’ve had in the past year have come from Bordeaux, and most at a very reasonable price.

When it comes to wine on Thanksgiving, give Bordeaux another chance. There are a bunch of accessible reds that are ready to drink, and also surprising whites (yes, whites!) and of course delicious sweet wines perfect to end The Big Meal. The versatility of these wines lend themselves to all parts of Thanksgiving, from the relish tray to pumpkin pie.

A Brief Introduction to Bordeaux

With 275,000 acres of vines, Bordeaux has more vines than all of Germany. It’s huge! It’s also fairly diverse. Situated in the Southwest corner of France along the Atlantic Ocean, it is divided into two distinct regions by two rivers: the Dordogne and the Garonne. The Left Bank is known for its gravelly soil and is home to the Médoc region, known for its full-bodied reds; the Right Bank has more clay in its soils.

Bordeaux produces 85 percent red wine, about nine percent white wine, four percent rosé, and one percent sweet wine. The most commonly used grapes in the region for red are merlot and cabernet sauvignon. The most common grapes used for white wine in the region are sauvignon blanc and Sémillon. Most often the wines are blends, but younger wine-makers are experimenting with single varietals.

Bordeaux wines are age-worthy and can be expensive as a result. But if you’re looking to find something more accessible and affordable, you shouldn’t be deterred. New wine-makers to the region are creating accessible, ready-to-drink reds, surprisingly affordable dry whites, and delicious sweet wines.

Bottom line: You shouldn’t be afraid of buying a cheaper wine from Bordeaux, especially if it’s a white wine.

(Image credit: Lauren Volo)

Why Bordeaux Is Great for Thanksgiving

Bordeaux wines are meant to be consumed with food, and because there is such variety in the region, you can find a different wine for every part of the meal. I’m particularly enamored of the white Sémillon blends, which feel heavy in my mouth when consumed by themselves, but come alive with food. While bold reds from the region might usually be paired with red meat, a turkey with gravy also feels appropriate.

If you’re looking for something extra special for Thanksgiving but don’t want to break the bank, look for a red from 2011. While 2009 and 2010 receive a lot of attention and are generally more expensive, wine from 2011 is also delicious and a bit cheaper. Eric Asimov has some great advice in The New York Times on some bottles to look for from 2011, including one which costs about $30.

Thanksgiving is also the kind of meal that you would want to end with Sauternes, the totally delicious and (I think) under-appreciated wine that might just make you pass on a second slice of pumpkin pie in favor a couple extra sips. When done right, it basically tastes like liquid sunshine.

5 Bordeaux Wines to Try for Under $20

Do you have a favorite affordable Bordeaux? Share with us in the comments!