Planning a Thanksgiving menu often involves a long grocery list with ample potatoes, cranberries in one form or another, and of course, picking up that pre-ordered turkey. If wine has typically been an afterthought, change your game plan this year and think of it as an important part of the party. These Thanksgiving wine pairings are the perfect combos for turkey and all the fixings.
Tips for Choosing Thanksgiving Wines
First things first, selecting wine for your Thanksgiving dinner should be a fun and creative task, not a stressful one. If you are overwhelmed when thinking about what to choose, take a step back and simply think about what you and your family and friends like. This is your starting point. From here, you can really dig into some of the nuances of varietals and blends that will go with everything from that kale salad to leek stuffing.
Don't Wait Until the Last Minute
Grabbing wine off the shelf in a panic at the last minute isn't ideal. Rather, keep the occasion in the back of your head until you visit the wine shop leading up to the big day. This way, you'll have time to really think about the pairings, search out different producers or regions you want to try, and find some truly special bottles to showcase with your feast.
Select a Handful of Different Wines
It's a big day, likely with a big guest list - you're going to not only want a handful of bottles but also a smattering of styles that can please many palates and play into the various flavors and textures of the foods on the table. You can serve everything from bubbles to whites to orange wines and reds.
Look for Lower-Alcohol Wines
Whether you're the primary cook or the guest that sidles up and settles in at the appetizer table, some sort of beverage is in hand from mid-afternoon well into the evening. This is not the day to drink that 14.5 plus percent hot climate cab sauv. Thanksgiving is an eating and drinking marathon, not a sprint. So stick to lower alcohol wines that won't leave you dozing off on the couch before the turkey is even served.
Acid, Acid, Acid
Acid in wine is super food friendly and really brings a bright and lively element to any pairing, particularly with a multi-faceted, heavy dinner like Thanksgiving. Whether you're searching out a white, orange, or red, look for acid-driven wines that will bring balance to the meal.
Make Sure You Have Enough
Plan on having about one half to one bottle of wine per adult. Or, you can use a wine party planning chart to determine how much you need. Err on the side of having too much versus not enough.
Thanksgiving Wine Pairings
There are a number of grapes and styles that really tie into those autumnal flavors that are highlighted at Thanksgiving dinner. Leaning into these wines, as well as contrasting ones with racy acidity and distinct minerality, is a great way to make some unforgettable pairings.
Ease into the day with a splash of vermouth over ice. A white vermouth is light with notes of citrus zest and herbaceous aromatics. The apéritif sparks your digestive system without bogging you down. It's the perfect first drink of the day to sip on while you cut potatoes or mix that pumpkin pie filling. Dress it up or down, dilute it with a splash of water, or get semi-fancy and make it a vermouth spritz.
A brilliant expression of Sauvignon Blanc, Sancerre could be considered the definition of refreshing. The wine has a dry, crisp character with racy acidity that brings complexity and brightness to each bite. Its clean palate makes it the perfect wine to pair with everything from grain salad to rich scalloped potatoes. It's versatile, classic, and easy to love.
If you're looking for a chardonnay for the day, search out a lean, unoaked Chablis. This light-bodied, dry white has high acidity and a distinct minerality that will pair with the whole ensemble from the goat cheese and cracker appetizers to the sweet potato galette.
Orange Ribolla Gialla
Orange wine is excellent food wine and an aromatic, maceration blend that includes ribolla gialla will bring a lot of interest to the dinner. Not only will this pair perfectly served with lighter meat, like the turkey, it is also a great match for savory stuffing, mashed potatoes, and any salad that is served. Look for something dry with medium skin-contact that will bring both good acidity and tannins to the mix with a rounded profile of stone-fruit, almond, and honeycomb.
A classic Thanksgiving wine pairing, pinot noir is laden with all the flavors that mimic what's on the table. Delicately complex, it has notes of cranberry with undertones of forest floor, dried leaves, mushroom, and subtle spice. The lighter to medium bodied red can be poured over the course of a few hours without ever feeling heavy. If you have any traditionalists on your guest list, be sure to pick up a few bottles of pinot. Keep things interesting and grab one from Burgundy and another from the Willamette Valley, Oregon, to compare over dinner.
Another traditional bottle at the Thanksgiving table, Beaujolais Nouveau is juicy and bright. Released on the third Thursday in November, the wine is made to be enjoyed young and keeps the whole meal light-hearted with its poppy, fruit-forward notes of cherry and banana. You can also opt for any gamay you find. The grape pairs well with squash dishes, stuffing, and, of course, cranberries. Because it's lighter with mild tannins, it's also a great match for turkey. This is one wine that can hold its own at the table with whatever your guests show up with.
A classic blend of grenache, syrah, and mourvèdre brings some really full flavor to your Thanksgiving plate, matching the earthy and savory food profiles. If you've got a real red wine drinker at the dinner, this is a bottle you'll want to have at the table. The notes of dried red fruit, subtle smokiness, and dusty herbaceous characteristics pair particularly well with a turkey that's been grilled or smoked.
A probable relative to the pinot noir grape, St. Laurent is often grown in Austria and is a juicy, brambly fruit number that will leave you reaching for the bottle again and again. The notes of blackberry and raspberry are matched by good acidity with mild tannins, making it a great glou glou wine for the day that will pair with your crispy-skinned turkey and that savory mushroom salad everyone can't get enough of.
Bubbles are incredibly food friendly, and a dry Cava is a great way to start or end the meal. Not only do the bubbles act as a palate cleanser, they are also a celebratory element that is fitting for the occasion. If you want to set the mood for the evening when your guests walk through the door, pop a bottle and pour up a round of glasses.
Slightly effervescent, mildly sweet, low in alcohol, and light-bodied, Moscato d'Asti is a dessert wine that can round out the night when served alongside your pumpkin or apple pie, or be sipped all on its own. Without being heavy or sickly sweet like some night-caps, it's the perfect way to end a decadent meal when you are feeling like you are about to burst.
Keep It Light
The take-aways: Avoid the real heavy-hitter, tannic bombs that will knock you out early in the evening. Rather, stick to light to medium bodied wines with lower alcohol and good acidity that will pair with all the elements of the dinner. Select a variety of bottles from white to orange to red to keep things lively and make for some diverse pairings while appeasing all your guests. And finally, be sure to take a step back from any chaos in the kitchen, pour yourself a glass, and enjoy the moment.