One of the most important parts of Thanksgiving is the wine, of course! But which wines go with the tastes, textures, flavors that are unique to Thanksgiving Day?
The art of pairing wine with food is mainly a matter of what you like — however, are some safe bets. With white wines, the pairing priority is finding a wine with well-balanced acidity, while with reds you are shooting for fairly tame tannins that will yield to and support the flavors of the food.
Champagne or Sparkling Rosé
This is a sommelier’s must-have wine for Thanksgiving because, for a somm, you can’t really start a meal without a splash of something sparkling! Sparkling wines are a popular pairing partner and not just for the holidays. They bring both elegance and phenomenal food-pairing versatility to virtually any meal, but for Thanksgiving, these wines really shine. They typically carry a decent dose of acidity, which amps the pairing potential, while adding a festive flair to the table in general.
These are a great choice for a pre-Thanksgiving aperitif, but bold enough to pair alongside dinner. Champagne’s fruit flavors accentuate the cranberry flavors in Thanksgiving fare, and it also acts as a palate cleanser to rich gravy and meat.
A few examples that are both awesome and affordable:
Beaujolais is a top choice for Thanksgiving wines due to the perfectly timed arrival of Beaujolais Nouveau. It is fermented for just a few weeks before being released for sale on the third Thursday of November. This wine is made with 100% Gamay, which has a lot of similarities to Pinot Noir, except with way more bang-for-the-buck. Beaujolais is a light, fresh and fruity red wine that goes quite well with turkey and all the fixings.
It pairs really well with wild rice, salads, roasted squash, and cranberries. It balances foods that have a high sweetness factor, such as yams, with its savory and earthy quality. And, its lighter, less tannic style works well with white meat turkey!
Beaujolais is best served chilled. This one is the most popular and very affordable:
That said, it turns out that 2016 was a tough year for Beaujolais, so I would steer away from Beaujolais Nouveau and choose a Cru Beaujolais wines instead – these are similar, but fermented longer, and higher quality:
- Duboeuf Moulin-a-Vent 2016
- Jean-Paul Brun Domaine des Terres Dorees Beaujolais L’Ancien Vieilles Vignes 2016
- Joseph Drouhin Hospices De Belleville Brouilly 2015
Zinfandel could very well be the top All-American Thanksgiving wine choice given that it was once the most planted variety in California! This is a fuller bodied red wine that ups the intensity from a Pinot Noir but one that still maintains a balancing effect on many traditional Thanksgiving side dishes. This would be a great wine pick for those looking for a heartier red wine with to accommodate spice, bitter and sweet flavors. Zinfandel enhances Thanksgiving spices such as clove, cinnamon, and allspice, and adds a touch of smokiness. They are typically bold and rich and so they pair well with dark meat turkey.
Here are a few great American Zin options:
- Seghesio Cortina Zinfandel 2014
- Ravenswood Big River Zinfandel 2013
- Storybook Mountain Mayacamas Range Zinfandel 2013
Finally, my favorite. I like to drink my dessert! Count on a late-harvest wine to bring rich, concentrated flavors of honey to a variety of desserts. These offer the sweetness and the viscosity to support the rich flavors and robust spice of pumpkin pie and the caramelized flavors in pecan pie.
Other good wines to pair for Thanksgiving:
Riesling can range from bone dry to fairly sweet and is excellent with many dishes. Riesling’s innate flavors of apple, apricot and honey and its clarifying acidity give it a significant pairing edge with things like sweet potatoes, turkey and spicy or herb-filled stuffing.
This crisp white wine is known for its citrus-based flavors that can be surrounded by herb or mineral undertones, making it a prime pairing candidate for turkey and mashed potatoes.
This red wine is a traditional favorite for Thanksgiving. Pinot Noir’s subtle earthy undertones and often mushroom-inspired flavors surround the fruit features of the wine and tend to show well with the traditional flavors of turkey and stuffing.
The Syrah grape can bring a spicy edge or a meaty character to the table, often increasing the complexity while pairing well with many flavors in a traditional Thanksgiving meal. The prevalent peppery notes of Syrah partner well with herb-infused stuffing and turkey.
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