Thanksgiving is the culinary high point of the year in many American households. Great care is taken in the planning and preparation of this signature national feast, and the wine to be served is an important consideration. There are many approaches to pairing wine with Thanksgiving dinner, and the choice can be a matter of great controversy among wine lovers and Sommeliers alike. Given the variation of dishes served and the preferences of individuals, we will consider a variety of dishes and wines. We have compiled a list of wines in a variety of styles to pair with the most common Thanksgiving dishes. Of course, these are only suggestions, and you can feel free to make adjustments based on your own preferences. The most important thing is to drink wine that you enjoy.
Great Pinot Noir comes from regions all over the world. Some excellent examples are Burgundy in France, Sonoma County in California, the Willamette Valley in Oregon, the Mornington Peninsula in Australia, and Central Otago in New Zealand. Try pairing a Pinot Noir from one of these regions with your main dish of turkey, ham, or Tofurky.
Beaujolais Nouveau is released on the third Thursday of November each year, which has made it a convenient pairing with Thanksgiving dinner. Try instead a Beaujolais from one of the Cru villages that produce superior wines, such as Morgon, Moulin-à-Vent, Fleurie, or Julianas, especially if you’re serving cranberry sauce.
If your overall meal is on the heavy side, or if you happen to prefer fuller red wine, you could try Zinfandel from California. Zinfandel has a rich texture and strong fruit flavors of ripe strawberry, blackberry, and plum, mixed with notes of black pepper. Some excellent sources of Zinfandel include Dry Creek Valley and Amador County, both in California.
Riesling is exceedingly popular with Sommeliers at the moment particularly for food pairing, as it has naturally high acidity and can also have some sweetness. These characteristics make it a good choice with a wide variety of foods, and can help to refresh your palate throughout the meal. Consider a Riesling from Alsace in France, the Clare or Eden Valleys in Australia, or the Mosel Valley in Germany to go with a range of dishes – from turkey to apple pie.
Chardonnay is a great food wine and will go well with many Thanksgiving dishes. Oaky Chardonnay, while delicious on its own, clashes with some of the flavors on the dinner table. For Thanksgiving, try to find one that was fermented in stainless steel. Some Chardonnay has the word “unoaked” on the label, and others will be less obvious. White Burgundy would be a great choice – especially Chablis – but New World producers are making good unoaked Chardonnay these days as well, which will pair great with stuffing.
What better way to celebrate family, friends, and good food than with a cold bottle of Champagne? The bubbles will provide lift and refreshment, the tartness will contrast with the food and the toasty quality to the flavor will resonate with the baked elements in the meal. Try a Blanc de Noirs, which is white Champagne made from the Pinot Noir grape. You could also have a Champagne Rosé, which would bring a red-fruit flavor element and appealing visual aspect to the table.
Port or Sweet Sherry
Both of the these wines are fortified. In other words, they have a small amount of brandy added to them to interrupt their initial fermentation, resulting in a sweet, relatively high-alcohol style. They are under-appreciated wines, and would make a fabulous addition to the Thanksgiving table during dessert. Tawny Port is simply a style of Port aged in oak barrels. While Port is almost always sweet, Sherry can be dry, so make sure you look for a sweet style, rather than a dry.
Sauternes is golden, sweet, amazingly flavorful white wine from Bordeaux in France. It often has flavors of baked apple, apricot, honey, ginger, and spice, and will pair well with a variety of Thanksgiving pies and other desserts.
We’d love to see what you’re pairing with your Thanksgiving meal! Share a picture with us on our Facebook and Instagram. For tips and tricks on serving wine to your guests, stay tuned for a new post this Thursday!