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Every holiday needs great drinks and Thanksgiving is no exception. Whether your celebration is an all day drinking endeavor, or you’re just looking for something to accompany your meal, we have your Thanksgiving wine pairings covered. We heard from 17 different sommeliers and wine experts to get their best advice for turkey day. They weigh in on their favorite red and white varietals, as well as suggestions for each type of wine.
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We’ve broken the suggestions down into two categories – classic and contemporary. The classic wines are common varietals you can find even if you don’t have a specialty wine store in your area. Some guests may find the contemporary wines to be a little more obscure, but we hope to broaden your perspective and introduce you to some new favorites.
Our wine experts unanimously agreed that low tannin, low alcohol wines were the way to go when it comes to reds.
“I always look for lower alcohol, lower tannin, easy-drinking (also known as ‘glou-glou’) bottles, because we always end up drinking more of it than we originally planned or intended to.” – Cody Pruitt, Beverage Director, ANFORA
Tannin is the plant material in wine from when the grape juice is in contact with the stems and leaves of the plant. It gives the drying sensation you often find in big red wines like Cabernet and Tempranillo.
Pinot Noir is the clear winner when it comes to widely-available Thanksgiving wines. The increasing popularity of Oregon Pinot Noirs make them easy to find at your local liquor store, which will likely have a handful of bottles to choose from. These wines are sturdy enough to stand on their own before a meal, but not too overpowering to be paired with food.
“Pinot Noir from Oregon’s Willamette Valley may be the best bet to drink with the turkey, with fresh cherry and raspberry flavors and hints of baking spices.” – Michael Klinger, Advanced Sommelier, Peppervine
If you have a wine store in your area or even a well stocked liquor store, you may be able to find a Beaujolais. Beaujolais is made from the Gamay grape, but refers specifically to wines from the Beaujolais region in France. This light bodied, acidic wine pairs particularly well with turkey, potatoes, and stuffing as it’s able to cut through the richness of each dish without overpowering them.
“You can’t go wrong with Beaujolais when it comes to classic Thanksgiving dishes. Beaujolais’ grape, Gamay, is red fruited verging on cranberry with soft tannins, making it a crowd pleaser as well as a compliment to fall flavors.” – Emily Blackman, Wine Director, Bell’s Restaurant
The biggest mistake hosts make when choosing a wine for Thanksgiving is picking an oaky Chardonnay. These wines end up clashing with the food and presenting as more bitter than we prefer. Instead, our experts suggest options that do a better job of balancing classic Thanksgiving dishes.
A crisp Sauvignon Blanc is a crowd pleaser and will be familiar to your guests. The acidity and minerality of these wines lighten the overall feeling of a meal that has tendency to feel heavy otherwise, making them an excellent Thanksgiving wine.
“Sauvignon Blanc is known for its citrus-based flavors that can be surrounded by herb or mineral undertones, making it a great pairing candidate for turkey and mashed potatoes.” – Paul Nance, Sommelier, Cafe Rule & Wine Bar
We received a lot of great suggestions on white varietals, but the two recommendations we kept hearing were Riesling and Chenin Blanc. It can be difficult to find good dry Rieslings since most Rieslings tend to be quite sweet. Chenin Blanc, on the other hand, has a wider variety of dry options.
“Chenin Blanc is notorious for having high levels of acidity which cuts through all the fat and hearty dishes. It also tends to be a fairly neutral varietal, supporting the more dominant flavors in the meal.” – Trevor Gorham, Sommelier, Vino Veritas Wine Bar
Cakebread Cellars | Napa Valley | $29
Honig | Napa Valley | $18
Raats | Stellenbosh, South Africa | $17
Terre Brûlées | Swartland, South Africa | $14
Of course, it helps to have some alternatives on hand for people who aren’t wine drinkers or want a bit of variety. We suggest you check out some of our favorite Thanksgiving cocktails like our Apple Cinnamon Manhattan or this classic Old Fashioned.
Emily Blackman presents another excellent suggestion:
“If you’re lucky enough to have a local wine shop to scoop up some Beaujolias ask if they carry any Spanish vermouths. These vermouths, white, rosé or red, are made to be sipped over ice with a splash of soda water and are a great lower alcohol beverage for those whose Thanksgivings are more of a marathon. And luckily for us, there are lots of producers dabbling in small batch vermouths on the West Coast. You’ll sip on a wide range of fruit and spices, combined with a balance of sweetness and pithy bitterness. Keep an eye out for them and don’t worry, they are a far cry from that dusty bottle of Dolin your grandparents kept in the cupboard. You’ll be sure to impress when you serve your vermouth with its traditional garnish – an olive and orange wedge (trust me, it’s delicious!)”
Picking the right Thanksgiving wine is important, but you can always take it a step further. Beyond simply putting a few bottles on the table, there are a few things you can do to be an outstanding host.
Shawn Paul, Foxcroft Wine Co, suggests, “Don’t be afraid to splurge. Thanksgiving is about family, and food that we likely only eat once a year. Let the same mantra guide your wine buying.. Look for the wines that you love the most, but maybe don’t buy all that often. Don’t be afraid to splurge on a few special bottles that may be a little pricier than you’re used to.
Utilize your wine store’s knowledgeable staff. Whether you’re at your neighborhood bottle shop or your local grocery store, utilize the staff and ask them about things they may have tasted. If there’s a wine manager or some other person at the store who might be able to steer you in the right direction, don’t be afraid to ask questions.
Stick to what you know. The holidays are not the best time to try something entirely new, like sabering a bottle of Champagne or doing a flaming cocktail. But it’s the perfect time for big bottles (magnums or double-magnums) of your tried-and-true favorite wines, so everyone can share the same bottle.”
We hope our suggestions on Thanksgiving wines were helpful. Let us know in the comments if you have any other questions about hosting the perfect holiday gathering!
If you’re interested in learning a bit more about wine, we also have our intros to both red and white wines available:
Come hangout! We’ll email you once in awhile with food updates.