Thanksgiving Wine

Thanksgiving is a time for gathering with loved ones, expressing gratitude, and indulging in a delicious feast. And what better way to enhance the festive atmosphere than with the perfect wine pairing? When it comes to selecting wines for Thanksgiving, there are a few key factors to consider. The variety of flavors on the table calls for versatile wines that can complement a range of dishes. We offer a comprehensive Thanksgiving wine pairing guide so you can update your restaurant wine list for the holiday.

What Is the Best Wine for Thanksgiving?

The best wine for Thanksgiving is an acidic wine with a low ABV. Traditional Thanksgiving meals are notoriously salty and fatty, and acidic wines cut through the rich, saline Thanksgiving sides.

To avoid altering the flavor of your sweet potato casserole or candied yams, opt for a wine with a low ABV. Clove, nutmeg, and other spices become hot to the pallet when they're consumed with high alcohol content beverages.

Wine for Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving dinners include many flavor profiles, so we recommend creating a full Thanksgiving wine list to complement each dish in your full-course meal. Below, we offer suggestions for the best sparkling, white, and red wines for Thanksgiving dinner.

Best Red Wine for Thanksgiving

two glasses of red wine with wine bottle and apples behind

The best red wines for Thanksgiving are mild varieties that complement, not overshadow, your dishes. Red wines with sweet or spicy flavor profiles are ideal holiday drinks and pair well with traditional Thanksgiving dinner flavors. Below, we suggest bright red wines that will uplift your turkey, stuffing, and potato options.

Here are a few good red wines for Thanksgiving:

  • Pinot Noir - smooth and fruity
  • Chambourcin - bold and jammy
  • Syrah - oaky and tart

Best White Wine for Thanksgiving

glass of white wine next to empty glasses and pumpkins

The best white wines for Thanksgiving possess a well-balanced acidity that cuts through the rich, traditional Thanksgiving dishes like gravy, creamed corn, and mashed potatoes. White wines with a creamy mouthfeel enhance the taste of your creamy Thanksgiving sides.

The following white wines are excellent choices for Thanksgiving:

  • Gewurztraminer - warm and spicy
  • Traminette - fruity and spicy
  • Viognier - floral and fruity

Best Sparkling Wine for Thanksgiving

two hands holdings glass of sparkling wine in front of Thanksgiving dinner table

If you can only serve one wine, sparkling wine is the best choice to accompany your Thanksgiving feast. Its bubbly effervescence relieves the heaviness of the traditional Thanksgiving dinner ingredients. Not just a dinner wine, crisp, sweet, sparkling wines pair nicely with Thanksgiving's beloved pumpkin, pecan, and apple pies for dessert.

Pair these sparkling wines with your Thanksgiving feast:

  • Prosecco - floral and creamy
  • Cava - crisp and lemony
  • Sparkling Rose - sweet and fruity

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What Wine Goes with Turkey?

red wine pouring into glass in front of Thanksgiving dinner

Pinot noir is the best wine for turkey. In the wine pairing world, pinot noir is the darling for poultry pairings because of its light, medium body, and subtlely fruity and earthy flavors. It is a versatile wine that lends itself to any turkey preparation method, and its bright acidity will bring out the most succulent parts of a turkey.

However, turkey meat has a subtle flavor that will pair well with many wines. The best wine for turkey depends on the cut of turkey meat, how you prepare it, and what you're serving it with. Discover the best wines for your style of Thanksgiving turkey below so you can plan your holiday drink specials and make sure you have the types of wine glasses you need to serve your wines of choice.

Wine Pairings with Turkey and Gravy

  • Dry Riesling - Dry riesling's high acidity balances out the rich flavors of turkey and dressing and makes for a crisp palate refresher.
  • Gamay - This smooth red wine offers a balanced yet juicy mouthfeel that pairs well with both white and dark turkey meat. Gamay's medium body enhances richer side dishes without overwhelming more delicate flavors.

Wine Pairings with Turkey and Cranberry Sauce

  • Red Burgundy - The fresh fruit flavors of raspberries, cherries, and blackberries found in red Burgundy wines make them a perfect pairing choice with turkey and cranberry sauce.
  • Sweet Riesling - Sweet riesling varieties complement the sugary flavors of turkey and cranberry sauce.

Wine Pairings with Dark Meat Turkey

  • Shiraz - This bold red has a full body that goes well with the darker parts of the turkey and its skin, which contains most of the fat. The fat content cuts shiraz's acidity and releases its fruity undertones. The turkey's savory flavors complement shiraz's slightly peppery taste.
  • Sauvignon Blanc - With citrus flavors and a light body, sauvignon blanc provides a perfect base to wake up the palate without overwhelming it, preparing guests to enjoy a savory turkey dish.
  • Pinot Grigio - Similar to sauvignon blanc, pinot grigio invigorates the palate between bites, and it also offers a sweet pop of flavor to contrast the gamey taste of turkey.

Wine Pairings with Light Meat Turkey

two hands clinking glasses of white wine over Thanksgiving dinner
  • American Dry Rose - Most American rose wines are made using the saignee method, where vintners drain 10% of the red wine juice before it becomes too red. Through saignee, American winemakers produce rose varieties that carry the richness of red wines while remaining juicy and light, making American rose the perfect pairing choice with white meat turkey.
  • Chablis - Chablis wines come from Burgundy, France's Chardonnay winemaking region. In contrast to other Chardonnay varieties, Chablis wines are rarely aged in oak barrels, producing a crisp Chardonnay variety that pairs wonderfully with turkey breasts.

Wine Pairings with Fried Turkey

  • Champagne - Champagne's high acidity cuts the high-fat content of a deep-fried turkey. If you make a bold spice blend for your deep-fried turkey batter, naturally neutral champagne is the perfect pairing.
  • Lambrusco - This sparkling red wine's bright acidity aids in digestion and its fruit flavors serve as a pleasant contrast to savory fried turkey. If you choose to make a cajun fried turkey, the low alcohol content of Lambrusco keeps your spice levels from overwhelming patrons.

Wine Pairings with Smoked Turkey

  • Red Zinfandel - With hints of sweet tobacco and candied fruit, such as raspberry, red zinfandel goes well with smoked turkey or dark meat turkey. It also blends well with chipotle-maple glazed turkey and other sweet turkey recipes.
  • Malbec - Rich and rustic, malbec wines pair perfectly with smoked turkey. Infused with the aromas of black currants, coffee, and anise, malbec wines enhance the smokey flavors of your turkey meat. Their deep, inky hue enriches the aesthetic of your Thanksgiving table.

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Wines for a Non-traditional Thanksgiving Dinner

Not everyone celebrates Thanksgiving with mashed potatoes, stuffing, or even turkey. Make your Thanksgiving menu stand out by serving regional foods, dishes from other cultures, or vegan-friendly feasts.

If you’re offering an alternative Thanksgiving menu this year, we've created wine pairings for spicy Thanksgiving dinners, Southern Thanksgiving recipes, and a meat-free pasta Thanksgiving meal.

Wine Pairings for Spicy Thanksgiving Recipes

glasses of white wine behind plate of curry

If you are preparing foods with a plethora of global spices such as cumin, jerk seasoning, hot peppers, or curry, you’ll want to find a wine to soothe the palate without being overbearing. Stick with wines that are crisp, light, and refreshing to pair with spicy Thanksgiving side dishes rather than those with especially bold, oaky notes.

High-acidity wines are ideal for toning down the palatal heat produced by spicy dishes. Alternately, sweet wines with fruity notes create a balance between heat and spice.

Wines to pair with spicy foods this Thanksgiving include:

  • Riesling - acidic and crisp
  • Viognier - floral and aromatic
  • Pinot Noir - smooth and fruity
  • Zinfandel - sweet and light-bodied

Wine Pairings for a Southern Thanksgiving Dinner

mac and cheese in red bowl

Thanksgiving in the South takes the rich dishes of the North and amplifies their flavor by deep-frying, bacon-infusing, and cheese-covering. These irresistible additions require their own wine-pairing strategy. You’ll need to find the right wine to complement and cut through the richness of creamy mac and cheese, deep-fried turkey, and gravy-smothered biscuits found on traditional Southern Thanksgiving menus.

The crispness and acidity of sweet whites and sparkling wines make them great contenders for pairing with your Southern-style Thanksgiving meal. Alternatively, bold and rich reds fit right in with heavier meat dishes and hearty sides. Wines to pair with Southern foods this Thanksgiving include:

  • Rose - sweet and crisp
  • Champagne - dry and effervescent
  • Merlot - silky and cherry-like
  • Syrah - oaky and tart

Wine Pairings for Meat-Free Thanksgiving Pasta Dishes

two glasses of white wine next to plates of pasta

Whether you’re planning a meat-free Thanksgiving or celebrating your Italian roots, you’re in good company. From classic lasagna to pumpkin and sage gnocchi, pasta courses are a common alternative, or addition, to the traditional turkey dinner. With the right pasta sauce, your pasta dish will make meat lovers forget the turkey. You can convert your pasta dishes into satiating vegan Thanksgiving dinner entrees with plant-based meat alternatives.

Pair your rich pasta dishes with earthy, bold wines to complement hearty spices and herbs. Wines to pair with pasta this Thanksgiving include:

  • Pinot Grigio - citrusy and smooth
  • Chardonnay - citrusy and buttery
  • Cabernet Franc - spicy and earthy
  • Cabernet Sauvignon - dark fruit and spice

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Thanksgiving Wine Pairing Chart

Thanksgiving Wine Pairing Infographic Back to Top

With so much care put into the dishes and flavors of your Thanksgiving dinner, don’t do it a disservice by neglecting to find the perfect wine pairing. Stick to one kind throughout the meal, or offer patrons multiple wines to complement each of their favorite dishes. From traditional turkey dinners to a spice-filled feast, we’ve got a few suggestions to help you find the best wine for Thanksgiving Day. Make sure you know how to hold your wine glass properly, and you're sure to impress your guests on Thanksgiving.

Posted in: Holidays|Infographics|By Corrinn McCauley
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