Thanksgiving Wine Guide

The turkey is ready for carving and the corks are ready for popping! Uncork a great Thanksgiving feast this year with a wine list that will add perfect touch to your Thanksgiving meal. If the taste of your wine is way more important than knowing wine names (which we completely understand) check out our guide to choose the perfect wine --or wines-- for the biggest meal of the year. 

More wine is sold for Thanksgiving dinner than for any other meal of the year. Plan your wine list ahead of time to get the best value for your holiday wine.

Choosing a single wine for Thanksgiving dinner can be difficult, given the great variety of foods and flavors. There's white and dark meat. There are sweet and rich yams, tart cranberries, buttery mashed potatoes, stuffing made with any number of ingredients, and spiced pumpkin pie for dessert. A comprehensive holiday wine list will give your guests options to taste a little of each wine with a little of each dish.

There are no hard-and-fast rules for picking the right red, white or dessert wine. The most important consideration is the wine's taste, how it complements what you're serving, and what you like. Whether you favor whites or reds, lighter, livelier, less complex wines go better with the traditional Thanksgiving feast than heavier, more complicated ones. You don't want your guests to be asleep before the pies come out!

Here's a rundown of wines that are perfect with turkey and all the fixings.

Sparkling Wines

Nothing says "special occasion" quite like bubbles. Serve a flute or two as a starter as guests are arriving. Sparkling wine will encourage sparkling conversation. If you're serving a sparkling wine with dinner, be sure it is a dry wine labeled brut, and not a sweet sparkling wine such as Italy's Asti Spumante. 

Try making a champagne cocktail.

  • Prosecco: Citrusy and crisp. Generally less expensive and more accessible than it's French cousin, champagne.
  • Cava: Saltiness, with fruity flavors. Known as the "Champagne of Spain." Enhances strong food flavors without fighting them.
  • Champagne: Can vary from dry to sweet. More wheat-y than fruity. Pairs well with the salty, nutty, and creamy.

White Wines

Chardonnay is a great, everyday wine. But it is generally too intense to be served alongside Thanksgiving dinner.  Consider instead white wines that are refreshing, tangy, and fruity:

  • Viognier: Floral and fruity, with essences of peach, apricot, and pear. Low acidity.
  • Chenin Blanc: Spicy and slightly sweet with high acidity.
  • Sauvignon Blanc: Light and crisp, with grassy or herbaceous flavors. Higher acidity.
  • Riesling: Can be dry or sweet; spicy, fruity flavor with touches of peaches or apricots and a floral fragrance.
  • Gewurztraminer: Can be dry or sweet. The German word gewurtz means "spiced." These wines are highly aromatic with floral touches and spice notes such as cloves or nutmeg.

Get even more information on pairing white wines with food. 

Red Wines

Yes, you can serve red wine with turkey. You may not want to serve Cabernet because it is generally too tart and high in tannins to match well with turkey, but you can serve a lighter red. Red wine has long been the holiday wine of choice for Thanksgiving because its light berry brightness contrasts well with the heartiness of the traditional menu. Consider any of the following:

  • Pinot Noir: Younger wines are fruity with essence of plums, strawberries, cherries, and raspberries. Older wines have a smoky edge to them.
  • Syrah: Strong spice and black pepper qualities. Older syrahs are fruitier, with some smokiness. Also called Shiraz if it comes from Australia.
  • Zinfandel: Lots of intense, plummy, jammy flavors with spicy or peppery notes.
  • Beaujolais: Light and dry with fresh, fruity flavors. Choose more recent vintages and serve it slightly chilled.

Learn how to pair red wine with food. 

Rosés

Rosé is en vogue. Just check out Instagram, #rosé has more than a million posts. Hop on the trend for a Thanksgiving meal that will rack up those likes. Crisp, light, and fruity, this lovely light pink wine might be be the perfect holiday wine to accompany a heavy holiday meal. Serve it chilled.

Try these delicious recipes made with rose. 

  • Rosé of Pinot Noir: traditionally a red, the rosé version takes the complexities of a full bodied red, but with a touch more acidity. 
  • White Zinfandel: the most popular of the rosés and known for it's sweetness.
  • Pink Moscato: easy to find, inexpensive, and sweet. Perfect for dessert time, as long as dessert is sweeter than the wine.

Dessert Wines

Kick off the after-dinner celebration with dessert and a sweet wine. Dessert wines can be red, white or sparkling, and all are slightly sweeter than other wines. 

Learn how to pair dessert wines with cheese.

  • Muscat: Can be white, light, and slightly sweet or dark and quite sweet. Perfumy and musky, with essence of oranges.
  • Port: Sweet, fairly heavy fortified wine. Younger ports are fruitier. Older ports are less sweet, tawny in color, and have a nuttier flavor from longer aging in wood.
  • Sauternes: Sauternes comes from France and is delightfully sweet, with notes of vanilla, pineapple, and peach.
  • Riesling or Gewurztraminer: Reprise either of these -- in their sweeter incarnations (see entries under "The Whites," above) if you served them with dinner. Or break out a new bottle with the pumpkin pie.
  • Asti Spumante: A sweet or semisweet sparkling wine from Italy. Serve it well chilled.

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