Wines to Pair With Your Thanksgiving Feast


Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday of the year, as it marks the beginning of an extended period of parties and celebrations.  I especially love Thanksgiving as it bring my family from near and far, to celebrate just being together and being grateful.   So with my favorite holiday I like to focus on my favorite subject, um that would be wine.  This time of year I get asked the same question repeatedly, what wines do I serve with Thanksgiving dinner?  When you go to various neighborhood wine shops, you can come away confused, as everyone has a different opinion.  The reason wine pairing can be so difficult on Thanksgiving is due to the variety of foods, flavors, aromas, and textures being served.  The menu may be a mélange of dishes that consist of dark meats, light meats, some  savory, some sweet, some rich and creamy, and some light.

Rather than tell you exactly which wines and what labels to buy, I prefer giving you guidelines and suggestions so you have the flexibility to experiment and try different wines.  So use my article to help you find the wines that would work with your guests and your menu. Be adventurous and follow my tips and you will have a sure-fire line up of incredible wines over this holiday.  A holiday marked by day long noshing and imbibing.

First off when deciding what wines to serve Thanksgiving Day, keep in mind there will be lots of drinking all day long so it is best not to pop open your Grand Cru Burgundy or prized Champagne.  You are most likely serving a large group, so try to find wines under $25.  Keep in mind to buy low alcohol wines, since the drinking usually starts early in the day and may not stop even when the clock strikes twelve midnight. Lastly don’t be shy to serve sparkling wine, even with the main course.  Champagne, Cremant, Prosecco, Cava and other sparkling wines can be extremely versatile and food friendly and can be served with appetizers, main course, sides, and even desserts.

Depending on your menu I would recommend four wines, sparkling wine, Riesling, Pinot Noir and Syrah. Have a variety of wines and let your guests decide what they would prefer with their meal.

Sparkling Wine –  The perfect way to start off the day would be to begin with sparkling wine(Champagne, Cremant, Cava, or Prosecco). Sparkling wines are typically lower in alcohol and thus great to start drinking earlier in the day and then gradually moving to heavier wines. They go wonderfully with light appetizers, cheeses and even the main course.  Sparkling wines also complement traditional Thanksgiving desserts like pumpkin pies, pecan pies and apple cobblers.  Sparkling wines are wonderful for celebrations and family gatherings.  Fill your guests glasses with sparkling wine as soon as they enter the home, it will immediately put them in the festive mood.

Riesling –  My favorite white wine for Thanksgiving is a dry or off dry Riesling.  The acidity, crispness, minerality, and depth of a Riesling is so versatile that it pairs wonderfully with a variety of dishes.  The flavor profile of a Riesling is full of lemon, lime, apricots, honey and ginger.  Rieslings pair perfectly with turkey breasts, yams, sweet potatoes and a variety of  vegetables prepared with fresh herbs.  Rieslings from Alsace, Germany, Finger Lakes and Washington would be the perfect choice.

Pinot Noir –  Pinot Noir would be a splendid choice for those guests that prefer a light red wine that has pronounced fruit and acidity.  Pinot Noir pairs well with traditional Thanksgiving turkey, ham, stuffing and mashed potatoes.  Lately I have been enjoying some fantastic Pinot Noirs from Washington and Oregon. If you are a Burgundy fan and your budget allows, look for a village level Burgundy.

Syrah  – For those guests that prefer a big, bold, full-bodied wine, I would suggest serving my favorite wine, Syrah.  If serving heartier meat dishes or richer foods, Syrah would be the perfect complement.  I love a glass of Syrah with a traditional creamy, rich plate of mac & cheese.  Syrahs have a very bold flavor profile, of blackberry, blueberry, cassis, spice, pepper and earthy qualities. The white pepper and earthy notes in Syrahs make it a great pairing with turkey or a holiday lamb roast.  Syrahs from cool climate regions will complement well, especially those from California and the Rhone Valley.

So this Thanksgiving make wine an important part of your tradition and celebration.  Find a wine with a great story and share with your guest.  Try and find wines that are popular and not intimidating so that you can please your Uncle James, who will drink anything you serve, as well as please your Cousin Sue, who is a wine connoisseur

Thanksgiving Day may be all about the Turkey, but your guests will truly appreciate and give thanks to a well thought out wine selection.  As you finalize your Thanksgiving Day menu, use my notes to help you find wines to complement your meal. The holidays can be stressful but picking wines should not be.  Cheers and Happy Thanksgiving!!!


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