Start a fight at Thanksgiving with these wine grapes.


Yesterday we focused on consensus wine grapes. The grapes enjoy name recognition, and they won’t threaten the wine newbies at your holiday table. Wine geeks, however, shouldn’t hesitate to share their arcane wine knowledge. Just make sure you have an Everyman wine at your disposal in case your recommendations fall flat.

This Thanksgiving we are grateful to know that people want more wine. Overall wine consumption in the United States increased by 400 million gallons between 1993 and 2018. That’s an additional 1.6 billion bottles over twenty-three years.

Help spread the joy of unique wine grapes this holiday season. People are listening, and it’s really easy. Perhaps you’re already armed with some curious grapes. If not, here are a few favorites to start the conversation. Will they spark dissensus? It’s all delicious wine, enjoyed during one of the United States’ most widely observed holidays – so the answer is, probably not.


This white wine grape is indigenous to Italy’s Campania region, but most likely of Greek origin. Falanghina thrives throughout the provinces of Avellino, Benevento, Caserta, Napoli and Salerno. It produces a supple dry white with nuances of fruity vanilla notes. The various soils of Campania impart a panoply of distinct flavors. The Greeks taught the Romans to train vines by staking them to a pole (phalanga), thus the name Falanghina. There’s also an assumed relationship, based on the name, between Falanghina and Falernum, the most expensive and sought-after wine in the Roman Empire. Although Falernum is no longer available, you can find a nice bottle of Falanghina from Cantina del Taburno.


Godello is a white wine grape once widely planted in the Valdeorras region in Northwestern Spain. The grape was nearly extinct in the 1970s because it is susceptible to disease, difficult to grow, and just plain finicky. Skilled producers Horacio Fernandez Presa and Luis Hidalgo recognized that the heirloom varietal needed some TLC. Together they successfully delivered the grape from extinction. Forty years later, Godello is enjoying a renaissance; it has been described as "the next Chardonnay". The wines are zesty, with crisp citrus, apricot and peach notes. Reach for a classic from the Bierzo region to get started. Bodega del Abad is a wonderful choice.


Vernaccia roughly translates to “local grape”. It’s grown all over Italy, the provenance indicated by “di”, or “of”. The most popular of them is Vernaccia di San Gimignano. This wine is a beneficiary of the American tourist trade through Tuscany, with hordes of returning visitors searching out the light, refreshing white wine from the quaint town of San Gimignano.  It’s an easy-going wine with fresh citrus fruits and nutty accents, perfect for refreshing the palate after a long day of traipsing around Tuscany - or washing down an antipasto platter. Fortunately, you don’t need to go to Tuscany to get it. Fontaleoni is widely available at great values.


It was once known as Napa Gamay in California – although the grape has nothing to do with true Gamay. It hails from the south of France but has found success in the States. It’s a high-yield red grape, acceptable for every day drinking, that shares some characteristics with Pinot Noir - and Gamay for that matter. Carbonic maceration can be used to counter its astringent tannins. California varietal bottles are available at great values – see J. Lohr.

St. Laurent

It is one of the most common grapes in Slovakia (where it is known as Svätovavrinecké), but hails from neighboring Austria. Aromatics are the key to understanding St (or Sankt) Laurent. You’ll find blackberries, sour cherries, plums, and chocolate alongside firm yet silky tannins. The nose is strong. If its wines were more widely available, there’s a good chance they’d be more widely enjoyed. Schneider makes an excellent St. Laurent that’s fairly easy to find.


Carménère is an old grape variety from the Gironde. DNA analysis suggests that it’s a cross between Cabernet Franc and Gros Cabernet (which is itself a distant relative of Cabernet Franc). Fortunately for our collective palates, when it comes to wine grape parentage, breeding with a relative can be a very good thing. Carménère is a highly refined pedigree and it delivers a true range of flavors. You’ll find herbaceous notes like tomato and pepper evolving into young, tight bunches of fresh berry fruits. Increased levels of ripeness bring dark, moist clumps of blackberry and blueberry, coffee and dark chocolate notes. Look to Chile for the best examples.

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