Last Minute Shopping: Zwann Grays Weighs In On Holiday Wines

By Neat Pour Staff |

Are you one of those people who need to run into the supermarket to grab a bottle of wine on your way to a Thanksgiving feast? We’ve been there also. That’s why this year, we check in with Zwann Grays, Wine Director of NYC’s Olmsted.

Anyone who has ever looked at the wine shop floor stacks in late November can tell you that Beaujolais Nouveau is the popular push for the holiday. However, Grays prefers a different standard as a starting point. “Square one is bubbles. You can’t go wrong with bubbles,” she declared.

Grays advises that champagne, spumante, or just about anything sparkling pairs well with most flavors. It’s also a great aperitif and it won’t destroy your palate for the remainder of the day. “A lot of time the food is not ready right when everyone gets together. You don’t want to start red,” she noted.

Almost as important as the flavor profiles, Grays praised sparkling wines for their popularity; basically, everyone loves them. She observed, “Bubbles go a long way. Anything sparkling will get drinken.”

Another wine that is often overlooked in the rush to the typical Pinot Noir are whites according to the expert. While she cautioned to stay away from Sauvignon Blancs and American Chardonnay on Turkey Day, she offered a few alternatives and singled out white Rhône and Burgundys as perfect matches for the feast.

“White burgundy stands out to me,” said Grays. “It’s not my normally go to, but it’s a holiday. Burgundy reads ‘classic’. It says that you cared enough to bring something special.”

For those looking for a less pricey white, Grays suggested Riesling as an option. “Riesling is a great underdog and nine out of ten bottles are very food friendly,” she added. “The ABV is super low. Maybe, there’s a little residual sugar, but a little sugar is not going to hurt you.”

The sommelier also mentioned, current Languedoc darling, Piquepoul as an option. “They’re very inexpensive. Then fresh acidity pairs well and it refreshes your palate.”

Grays is not opposed to reds. On that side, she is a fan of Gamays and Spanish Garnachas. However, she offered, “Any type of fun light red can go a long way.”

However, on Thanksgiving, the emphasis is on light. “Look at ABV. Try to keep it around 12-ish or under. When you get to 13.5, it can obliterate the palate,” the pro explained. “People have been slaving all day on this meal, you want to to be able to taste it.”

If you’re really stuck, Grays provided one break-the-glass-in-emergency plan. “Any Kermit Lynch! If you see that on the back of the label buy it,” she exclaimed. “It will be good and it will please the masses.”

The key, according to Grays, is to be open-minded. “Thanksgiving is one of those times you try something different,” she told NP. “Don’t overloook the unfamiliar.”

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