Thanksgiving day is near, and with it comes probably the most frequently asked question in the wine world: What wines should we have with Thanksgiving dinner? The good news is that there is a wide range of options available to match everyone’s preferences.
Because Thanksgiving includes the main star – turkey – and many sidekicks, we’ve chosen a range of tried-and-true pairings for everyone’s favorite Thanksgiving dishes.
THANKSGIVING WINE PAIRING RECOMMENDATIONS:
- Sparkling Wine
- White Rhône Blends
- Pinot Noir
- Red Rhône Blends
- Sauternes or Ice Wine
- …and more
Pairs with: Shrimp cocktail, stuffed mushrooms, charcuterie, creamy cheeses
When don’t bubbles work is probably the bigger question here, but we’re true believers in the power of sparkling wine. What better way to launch into the festivities than with a glass of sparkling wine? Bubbly is so often associated with celebration that it just makes sense to usher in the holiday season with a bottle, but it’s also the perfect pairing for Thanksgiving appetizers and noshes.
Prosecco is fun and approachable, so that can be a first pick. Or, Cava tends to have those earthier notes that work well with appetizers like stuffed mushrooms, charcuteries, or mixed nuts. Champagne is, of course, the gold standard and works wonderfully with richer, creamy cheeses. Make sure the host has a glassful and toast to them for their hospitality.
Pairs with: Brussel sprouts, green bean casserole, stuffing, pies
Riesling has become a popular choice for Thanksgiving due to its incredible versatility. Honestly, we could probably pair an entire dinner with different Rieslings from sparkling, to dry, to dessert wines. So, how should we pair the many types of Riesling with Thanksgiving dinner?
Dry sparkling Rieslings are a little tricky to come by but could absolutely work as the sparkling mentioned above with appetizers. Dry Rieslings work well with dinner – younger iterations can work with side dishes like greens or stuffing while an aged Riesling can pick up those savory herbal notes of herb-roasted turkey.
Riesling’s natural acidity is the star here because it helps balance out the richness of gravy, gratin, or creamy casserole. And because Riesling can be vinified quite sweet as a TBA (trockenbeerenauslese), it can pair with pumpkin, apple, or pecan pie.
Pairs with: Seafood, mushrooms, creamy cheeses, mashed potatoes, roasted squash
Chardonnay lovers, unite! Thanksgiving is your moment to shine. Chardonnay is similar to Riesling in that it has a range of styles from lean and flinty to rich and buttery, which is why it works with a variety of Thanksgiving dishes. Look to Burgundy for leaner Chardonnays, which will work well with starters like seafood, mushrooms, creamy cheeses – or just conversational sipping (which is honestly underrated).
Unoaked or neutral oak Chardonnay also works very well with side dishes like green bean casserole or stuffing because the acidity is high enough to match the richer sauce and the weight stands up as well.
For those bolder sides – or even with turkey – a bold, buttery Chardonnay can highlight all that delicious creaminess. And, for those without a sweet tooth, Chardonnay can be a pleasant meal-ender with a mild cheese plate and mixed nuts.
Pairs with: Roasted root vegetables, corn, turkey and gravy, nut-based desserts
Ok so maybe Chardonnay isn’t your thing and that’s fine. Or maybe you just want to venture out into the world of white wines and try something different. White Rhône blends are here! They’re not quite as easy to find as Chardonnay but they’re absolutely worth seeking out.
Viognier, Marsanne, and Roussanne each work on their own, but together, they provide a medley of flavors to explore. The blend tends to exhibit honey, apricot, white floral, pear, hazelnut, and stone notes, all of which play off autumn vegetables and seasoning. In particular, white Rhône blends pair beautifully with roasted squash, sweet potatoes, and corn-based side dishes. They also work well with turkey and stuffing because they highlight herbals like sage and thyme. White Rhône blends can even pair well with shortbread or nut-based desserts as long as they aren’t too sweet.
Pairs with: Salads, deviled eggs, canapés, lighter stuffing
If ‘rosé all day’ is more of a deeply rooted principle for you, we have good news: rosé can be enjoyed all Thanksgiving day! In order to stick with rosé, consider the weight of the wine, and here, the color is a good indication.
Light, pale pink rosés are wonderful opening sippers. Slightly bolder rosés can work with salads, deviled eggs, canapés, and most lighter finger foods. For the main course, deeply colored rosés like Cerasuolu d’Abruzzo have enough body and heft to mimic light reds and therefore will pair well with turkey and gravy. Just be sure that stuffing or sides aren’t too bold – like stuffings that include sausage or very sweet casseroles – because they will overpower any rosé.
Pairs with: Vegetable pâté, fruit salad, cranberry sauce, roasted yams, turkey
If there’s ever a time of year to celebrate Gamay, November is it! The third Thursday of November is the much-celebrated Beaujolais Nouveau Day and it’s just one week before Thanksgiving. That means that your local wine purveyor is likely well-stocked with Nouveau!
Nouveau – which simply means ‘new’ – is a just-harvested-and-released kind of wine that is meant to be served at celebrations at the end of harvest. It’s fruity and fun and can pair well with a range of Thanksgiving appetizers, from vegetable pâtés to fruit salad. For dinner, go with a cru Beaujolais that has more weight and nuance than Nouveau. Morgons in particular work very well and provide the depth needed to make turkey shine while also picking up the savory fruit of cranberry sauce.
Pairs with: Turkey, stuffing, gravy, cranberry sauce, roasted vegetables
Pinot Noir is a favorite year in and year out, and it’s probably the most recommended red variety for Thanksgiving dinner. And, it just makes sense because Pinot is the bridge across pairings gaps. Pinots from Oregon or the Sonoma Coast are probably the best choices because they tend to have bolder fruit than Burgundies, which means they’ll stand up to turkey and cranberry sauce, but still have enough acidity to melt gravy and mashed potatoes. Mushroom and roasted veggies also love Pinot, as do cheese-based soufflés.
Pairs with: Deep fried turkey, bolder stuffings, gravy
Similar to their white counterparts, red Rhône blends work well with a variety of Thanksgiving dishes due to the combination of varieties involved: Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvèdre. These ‘GSM’ blends have become popular elsewhere as well, like Australia and California, but for Thanksgiving, we recommend sticking with French iterations because they tend to be earthier and more herbal. Châteauneuf-du-Pape is a favorite and includes the GSM blend plus a whole lot more. It’s got weight and depth and heft to stand up to your deep-fried turkey as well as a sausage-based stuffing. Decant in advance to allow it to shine.
Pairs with: Deep fried turkey, spicy sauces, turducken
Zinfandel has become increasingly popular as a Thanksgiving wine and we are here for it! Although it originally hails from Croatia under very different names, Zinfandel was long thought to be indigenous to California and has become a quintessentially American wine, so it only makes sense to have it on a quintessentially American holiday! The bold fruit, spice, and smokiness allow it to work with those stronger flavors and dishes, like smoked or barbecued turkey. If you’re the type to just go for broke and make turducken, Zinfandel should be your top choice. It also works well with autumn spices, like cloves, nutmeg, and mace, so it can pair with some desserts like poached pears.
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Pairs with: Pecan pie, apple crisp, honey glazes, foie gras
Do you love sweeter wine? We do too! And sweeter wines can actually work with non-dessert courses, despite popular belief. While Sauternes – the famous dessert wine from Bordeaux – and ice wines are usually saved for last, they can also work with dishes that have just a hint of sweetness or bold spice. So, for Thanksgiving, that means they can pair with honey-glazed proteins, sides with maple syrup, or foie gras and pâté. These dessert wines also work beautifully with very bold bleu cheeses and aged charcuterie because the bold flavors balance each other out.
Pairs with: Berry tarts, bleu cheeses, chocolate mousse
Port is another fun category because there are many different styles, though it is higher in alcohol and should be saved for the end of the meal. Different types of bleu cheeses work well with ports – from fruit ruby port to aged tawny ports. Ruby ports can also work with berry-based desserts, like cherry tarts, while the nuttiness of tawnies pair well with walnuts, almonds, or even dark chocolate mousse.
Pairs with: Light appetizers, roasted vegetables, turkey, pumpkin pie
And finally, we have sherry, which is almost like circling back around to Riesling because there are so many different styles that it can pair with every course!
Light, dry finos and manzanillas pair perfectly with appetizers like crispy crackers, olive oil, lighter cheeses, and seafood. Amontillados have wonderful hazelnut notes that partner with mushroom, roasted greens, and asparagus. Olorosos have more muscle and depth, and therefore can work with turkey, gravy, and stuffing – or even better, a pot pie made from leftovers. And finally, Pedro Ximenez, or PX, is a sweeter style that will align perfectly with pumpkin pie, pecan pie, or a strong cheese course.
Embrace Thanksgiving with a Full Heart & Glass
Thanksgiving is meant to be a time of gratitude and abundance. We delight in sharing the day and the meal with friends and family, so be sure to destress and enjoy whatever wine you personally love! And thank you from us all at Winetraveler for joining us and raising a glass.
If you’re so inclined, do share your favorite Thanksgiving wines in the comments with the community!
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best wine with turkey: comfort food and wine pairing suggestions