Boxed wine is the ultimate Thanksgiving side

Here are five crowd-pleasing pairings to tote to the family table (or wherever you happen to be going over the holiday weekend).

Boxed wine is the ultimate Thanksgiving side

In our experience, Thanksgiving wines tend to go one of two ways: Either someone overthinks, overspends and ultimately opens an array of bottles with mixed results, or somebody shows up with a box of a ubiquitous brand of wine that's been chilled outside in the snow.

This year, we're taking an egalitarian and budget-minded approach and suggest being a turkey-day hero by buying a box of really good wine.

Feast on these Thanksgiving recipes

It's time to get creative with your holiday menu, from starters to the final sweet bite.

Appetizers: Dips that do double duty as spreads for leftovers, too.
Stuffing: Three ways, including one vegan, to upgrade the traditional side.
Side dishes: From spuds to salads, 5 recipes that bring new flavors to the table.
Wine: Our favorite boxed wines to bring along to holiday gatherings, plus an N/A must-have.
Dessert: Tips to help you make pie crust like a pro, plus the recipe for a gluten-free chocolate tart.

Easy to self-serve, each of these handy bags-in-a-box contains a thoughtful blend that pairs beautifully with what's on the table and appeases a wide array of tastes. Plus, at 3 liters of wine, the equivalent of four bottles, these are all built for big gatherings, like our favorite feast day.

Here are our top picks, in order of lightest to heartiest taste — plus a bonus pick for sophisticated sipping by spirit-free drinkers.

Schplink 2018 Grüner Veltliner

This one is admittedly a bit spendier than some of our other selections, but it's a fantastic party trick if you have a couple of self-professed wine geeks at the table. This Grüner Veltliner is such a bright, crisp and clean sip that it'll wash away even the most unsavory of dinner conversations (we've all got that one family member). Organically produced in a cool climate near the Czech Republic, this wine has a bright minerality that contrasts some of the rich foods on the table and the herbaceous nose pairs splendidly with traditional turkey herbs like sage, thyme and rosemary.

Suggested retail $40; available at Solo Vino, St. Paul; Zipp's Liquors, Minneapolis; Thomas Liquors, St. Paul; France 44 Wines & Spirits, Minneapolis; and Kowalski's, several locations.

Domaine de Rochebin Bourgogne Passe-Tout-Grains Herisson Rouge

Beaujolais and Gamay are grapes that love a big party. In this blend, they show up dressed to the nines and are ready for a good time. Plus, guests will be charmed by the adorable box adorned with a festive hedgehog. The light tannins and fruitiness are begging to be paired with fat turkey slices decorated with zingy cranberry sauce.

Suggested retail $44 for 3 liters; available at Solo Vino; South Lyndale Liquors, Minneapolis; and France 44.

Sandy Giovese Vino Rosso Le Marche

Sangiovese has a solid and very long history as the red wine that gets plopped onto the center of the dinner table, ready to be shared. Sandy is a total people pleaser and ready to bend to the whims and needs of most around the table with an affable flavor that balances red cherry pops of fruit with a gentle twist of acid that enlivens the palate for the next big bite of something doused in gravy.

Suggested retail $35 for 3 liters; available at France 44; South Lyndale Liquors; Thomas Liquors; the Vine Shop, Hopkins.

Zabrin Garnacha

This Spanish blend is a juicy red with big, round berry and black pepper anchor notes and is perfect for sipping in the heart of cozy season. It's an ideal box if there's a wine fan in the group that tends to reach for the Apothic or Bota blends. Edge them into the wonderful world of Garnacha, a slightly higher-brow sipper that would never alienate an avowed deep, red wine die-hard.

Suggested retail $21 for 3 liters; available at Total Wine, several metro locations.

3Leche botanical beverage cans

It's always wise to keep something special on hand for the N/A crowd. Not only does it make the gathering a more welcoming place for those who skip the alcohol, it's also a nice treat to intersperse into the evening to help avoid any heady alcohol consequences that pop up later alongside the leftover sandwiches. 3Leche is a local maker of incredibly sophisticated beverages, stocked by many of the top bars in town. The layers of bitter, sweet, bright and sultry flavors are decidedly adult and make excellent food pairings. Stock up on these cans to serve in fancy stemware over ice and savor the smug satisfaction of drinking sophistication sans alcohol.

$4 each; available at Marigold bottle shop, Minneapolis and St. Paul.