Food & Wine Wine Culture

Best Wine for Thanksgiving

Every fourth Thursday of November, families, and friends all over the United States gather together to celebrate the blessings of the year. This holiday is Thanksgiving Day and it’s considered to be the 2nd most popular holiday in the country, next to Christmas.

And the highlight of Thanksgiving Day is the Thanksgiving dinner, where a feast is prepared, with the centerpiece being a roasted whole turkey, with a wide range of side dishes, such as cranberry sauce, gravy, mashed potatoes, stuffing, and desserts like pumpkin pie and pecan pie.

With a large feast that’s consumed more like a marathon rather than a sprint, the best drink to make all this food go down is wine. But, what kind of wine? And does one wine pair well with all the food that’s prepared for a typical Thanksgiving dinner? What is the best wine for Thanksgiving dinner? Well, while there is a general rule, you can prepare a shortlist of different kinds of wine for a large Thanksgiving dinner menu.

In this Best Wine for Thanksgiving guide, we’ll discuss some of the best wine and Thanksgiving food pairings, as well as a few wine brands we think, will work great for all the turkey, side dishes, and desserts you and your guests will enjoy on Thanksgiving Day.

What Makes a Great Thanksgiving Dinner?

A great Thanksgiving dinner must always have a roasted whole turkey. It must also come with traditional side dishes, such as mashed potato, gravy, candied yams, pumpkin pie, pecan pie, corn, cranberry sauce, green bean casserole, and other dishes made from ingredients native to the Americans.

In terms of beverages, festive drinks definitely complete a scrumptious Thanksgiving dinner with family and friends. Drinks such as mimosa mocktails and apple pie punch refresh the palate, but the wine definitely elevates the festive spirit of any Thanksgiving dinner.

Moderate alcohol consumption can amplify the flavor of fatty and salty dishes while making turkey more delectable and juicier despite its notoriously dry texture. But the best thing about wine is that it makes conversations and the get-together with family and friends more meaningful.

What is the Best Wine for Thanksgiving Dinner?

With so many different kinds of food for Thanksgiving, such as salads, sauces, sides, and desserts, choosing the perfect pairing for the entire dinner can be tricky. Though different kinds of wine are best paired with certain kinds of food on the dinner table, the general rule is that wine that’s lighter, livelier, and lower in alcohol levels goes better with a traditional Thanksgiving feast.

Low alcohol content and acidic wine are best since they cut through the richness and heaviness of most traditional dishes.

And thus, if you have to choose one wine to serve, it would have to be sparkling wine. It is hands down, the most universal option for Thanksgiving dinners, as nothing else says festive more than a bottle of bubbly.

Sparkling wines offer relief from the heaviness of a traditional Thanksgiving dinner, and their crisp, sweet flavor pairs well with Thanksgiving desserts, such as pecan and pumpkin pies.

But, since this article is talking about the best wines for different food pairings for a typical Thanksgiving dinner, here are some recommendations for different kinds of wines typically served during this holiday.

The Best Wine To Pair with Turkey

In general, Pinot Noir is the best wine to pair with turkey. This is because Pinot Noir is considered to be the darling of poultry pairing in the wine world. It has a light to medium body and features subtle flavors of fruity and earthy tones.

It is a versatile wine that pairs well with different white meats, and its high acidity has been known to bring out the most succulent flavors of turkey. It also pairs well with ham, as its red fruit flavor matches the nuances of a piece of sliced ham.

And runner-up for the best wine to pair with turkey is Zinfandel. Zinfandel is considered to be America’s sweetheart, as it’s an ideal pairing with Thanksgiving dinner dishes for its low tannin levels and can moisten a dry turkey. Its flavors include clove, vanilla, and cinnamon, which are perfect flavors for fall.

  • The Best Wine for Turkey and Cranberry Sauce

Sweet Riesling complements the sweet flavors of turkey and cranberry sauce, while Red Burgundy offers fresh fruit flavors of berries, such as raspberries, cherries, and blackberries that make the wine the perfect choice for turkey and cranberry sauce.

  • The Best Wine for Turkey and Gravy

Dry Riesling features high acidity which balances out the rich flavors of turkey and gravy. It also makes for a great palate fresher, allowing you to enjoy other rich dishes after a serving of stuffed turkey.

Gamay is also a good wine pairing for turkey and gravy. Gamay has a medium body that elevates rich side dishes without overbearing the flavors. It is a great wine that pairs well with dark turkey meat and gravy.

The Best Wines for Thanksgiving

In this section, we’ll talk about the best kinds of wine to pair with Thanksgiving dinner food, such as types of red wine, white wine, sparkling, or rose wine that’s perfect for traditional Thanksgiving dishes.

The Best White Wines for Thanksgiving Dinner

White wines are perfect to pair with Thanksgiving dishes that are light, fruity, or creamy. The best white wine for Thanksgiving dinner must have a well-balanced acidity that matches well with the richness of certain dishes, such as gravy, mashed potatoes, and creamed corn.

Some examples include Vignier, which has a floral and fruity flavor, with notes of peach, and pear, and has low activity. Another white wine that’s great for Thanksgiving dinner is Chenin Blanc, with its spicy and slightly sweet flavors but also high in acidity.

Additionally, Sauvignon Blanc is perfect for traditional dishes with its light and crisp notes, making its higher acidity level perfect for cleaning the palate. Riesling is another white wine that’s great for Thanksgiving dishes, with its spicy and fruity flavors with notes of peaches and apricots, plus floral fragrances.

The Best Red Wines for Thanksgiving

Red wine in mild varieties is best for Thanksgiving because it complements the dishes rather than overshadows them. A lighter red with moderate acidity cuts through the richness of traditional dishes, and the light berry flavors of red wine pair well with the heartiness of Thanksgiving menus.

Some of the red wines best for traditional dishes include Pinot Noir, especially the milder varieties that have fruity flavors, such as plums, cherries, raspberries, and strawberries. Zinfandel is also a great wine, as mentioned earlier. Its intense and plump flavors with spicy notes go well with turkey and other meaty dishes.

Syrah is also a great red wine for Thanksgiving since it’s similar to Zinfandel with its spice and black pepper elements.

The Best Dessert Wines for Thanksgiving

Once the main dinner is over, it’s now time for the after-dinner celebration with sweets and desserts. The best pairing for dessert is of course dessert wine that is sweet with low acidity and alcohol levels.

Muscat is a great dessert wine for being slightly sweet, with a musky and orangey tang. Port wine is also perfect for its sweet and fruity flavors, as well as nutty notes from aging in oak.

The Best Rose’ Wines for Thanksgiving

Rose is great for Thanksgiving dinner because it’s easy on the palate and not too intense even for guests who’ve never drunk wine before. Rose is crisp, light, and fruity, making it ideal for a heavy meal.

Provencal Rose is a French option that’s considered to be the golden standard when it comes to Rose wines. It is refreshing and citrusy. The Rose version of Pinot Noir is also perfect for hearty dishes, which come from the full-bodied red wine.

10 Best Wines to Serve during Thanksgiving Dinner

Now that we’ve talked about the types of wine that are best served with Thanksgiving dinner, here are 10 of the best wines in the market that can elevate the festive experience.

1. Champagne

Bollinger Brut Special Cuvee

Serve this Champagne before dinner to welcome your guests to a festive mood. This bottle comes from Champagne, France, and offers a crisp taste, boasting nuances of frosted apple, pear, and notes of baked pastry. With vibrant bubbles, this aromatic Champagne also presents spicy aromas, peaches, brioche, and fresh walnut. It is simply perfect to welcome a beautiful time with family and friends.

2. White Wine

Chateau Puygueraud Blanc

Produced in Bordeaux, which is famous for growing and making red wines, this white wine comes from the region’s small area of land dedicated to producing white wine. It is made of 100% Sauvignon Blanc and Gris, and it offers a citrusy, crisp dry minerality that presents notes of florals and exotic fruit flavors.

3. Rose Wine

Chateau d’ Esclans Les Clans Rose

This Rose is considered one of the highest-priced wines from the Cote de Provence. It is also considered the 5th most highly rated wine and 3rd among the wines in the region in terms of the most number of prizes won.

It’s an impressive Rose which is an oaked version that has a peppery bite, bursting with flavor and is made from the Grenache wine grape variety.

4. Pinot Noir

Antica Terra Ceras Pinot Noir

Coming from the Willamette Valley in Oregon, this Pinot Noir features a brisk minerality with a rich fruit palate of blueberries, and pure red cherries, as well as hints of chocolate, woody spices, sweet tobacco, and stones.

5. Pinot Noir

Bourgogne Vielles Vignes Pinot Noir

This Pinot Noir is made from grapes that are grown on vines that are aged 25 to 30 years old. The grapes are grown in the Cote de Nuits et Cote de Beaune regions, offering a unique palate of plum, red currant, and black currant. It also features a pleasing finish and oaked notes.

6. Zinfandel

Cline Ancient Vines Zinfandel 2018

This bottle is perfect for dark meat turkey as it’s rich, bold, and features a higher alcohol content that cuts the heartiness of the meat. It features a 14.5% ABV, which is higher than most Zinfandels in the market.

7. Zinfandel

Frank Family Vineyards Zinfandel

Produced in Napa Valley, this bottle features dark fruit and pepper, as well as warm spices and herbs. It is a superior pairing for rich holiday flavors, and is beloved for its perfect ratio of acid-to-tannin balance.

8. White Wine

2019 Little Sister Sauvignon Blanc

This French-style wine from California features classic neutral citrus notes with hints of dandelions and sea breeze. It’s ideal for turkey meat, both light and dark, as it presents a fine minerality, with hints of pineapple, passionfruit, and a long and lingering finish.

9. Red Wine

Domaine des Billards Saint-Amour

This light-bodied red wine is made from Gamay Noir grapes. It is popular during Thanksgiving as its timing of the annual release happens in the 3rd week of November. Its primary flavors are black fruit and floral lilac, and have a perfect balance of tight and sweet tannins, with notes of tropical fruit flavors.

10. Sparkling Wine

Chandon Brut

A great budget-friendly sparkling wine, this bottle is made of 3 different varieties, which are Chardonnay Pinot Meunier, and Pinot Noir. The resulting wine is crisp and fresh, having notes of apple, pear, citrus, and spice. Chandon Brut pairs well with creamy and salty dishes, as well as nutty flavors like pecan pie.

Turkey and Pinot Noir

This is a classic pairing for a reason. The delicate flavors of Pinot Noir are the perfect complement to the lightness of turkey. If you’re looking for a particular bottle to try, we recommend the 2014 Willamette Valley Vineyards Pinot Noir. This Oregon wine has notes of cherry and spice, making it the perfect addition to your Thanksgiving feast.

Ham and Chardonnay

Ham is rich and savory, so you’ll want a wine that can stand up to its flavor. Chardonnay is always a good bet, and we recommend choosing one that is on the fuller side. The 2015 Joseph Phelps Freestone Chardonnay from Sonoma County is an excellent choice. This wine has aromas of honeysuckle and lemon, with just a hint of oak. It’s sure to please any Chardonnay lover at your Thanksgiving table.

Pumpkin Pie and Riesling

Riesling is known for its sweetness, which makes it the perfect match for pumpkin pie. If you want to bring a bottle of Riesling to your Thanksgiving feast, we recommend trying the 2016 Dr. Loosen Erdener Treppchen Riesling Spatlese from Germany. This Riesling has intense aromas of peach and apricot, with just enough acidity to balance out the sweetness of the pumpkin pie.

Final Thoughts

Thanksgiving is more than just eating a feast and spending time with family. It is a holiday that celebrates relationships, be it with family by blood or with friends, as well as thanking the blessings that have arrived in our lives.

With food being the center of this celebration, it only makes it natural that wine should be part of your Thanksgiving menu. Whether you just want to serve sparkling wine for the rest of the night, or have a wine list for appetizers, main dishes, desserts, and more, this list of the best wines for a typical Thanksgiving dinner will enhance the flavors of turkey and their dishes, as well as create a festive and celebratory mood for everyone involved.

No matter what your favorite Thanksgiving dishes are, there’s a wine out there that will pair perfectly with them. From Pinot Noir and turkey to Chardonnay and ham, there are endless possibilities when it comes to choosing the right wine for your holiday meal. So open up a bottle (or two!) of your favorite wine this Thanksgiving and enjoy all of the amazing flavors that the holiday has to offer. Cheers!

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