The Best Wine for Thanksgiving

Turn your Thanksgiving dinner into an experience by curating a well-planned Thanksgiving wine list. Moderate alcohol consumption amplifies the flavor of salt and fat, making your rich Thanksgiving sides and turkey toppings even more delectable. We’ve created a comprehensive Thanksgiving wine pairing guide to teach you the following:

 

The best wine for Thanksgiving is an acidic wine with low alcohol content. Traditional Thanksgiving meals are notoriously salty and fatty, and acidic wines cut through the richness and high salt content of Thanksgiving sides.

Spices commonly found in Thanksgiving dishes such as clove and nutmeg become spicy to the pallet when they're consumed with high alcohol content beverages. To avoid altering your sweet potato or yam dish's flavor, opt for a low alcohol content wine.

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 to serve with your restaurant's Thanksgiving dinner.

Best Sparkling Wines for Thanksgiving

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

Sparkling wine is the most universal choice to pair with Thanksgiving dinners. Sparkling wine's bubbly effervescence offers relief from the heaviness of traditional Thanksgiving dinner's rich sides.

Crisp, sweet sparkling wines pair nicely with Thanksgiving's beloved pumpkin, pecan, and apple pies. If you can only serve one wine, a sparkling wine is the best choice to accompany your Thanksgiving feast.

Try any of these sparkling wines as an ideal Thanksgiving wine pairing:

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

Best White Wines 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 richness of traditional Thanksgiving dishes such as gravy, creamed corn, and mashed potatoes. Additionally, white wines with a creamy mouthfeel enhance the taste of your creamy Thanksgiving sides.

Any of the following whites are an excellent Thanksgiving wine choice.

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

Best Red Wines for Thanksgiving

two glasses of red wine with wine bottle and apples behind

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

Here are a few red wines to try with Thanksgiving dinner:

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



What Wine Goes with Turkey?

red wine pouring into glass in front of Thanksgiving dinner

If forced to pick only one, the wine that goes best with turkey is pinot noir. In the wine pairing world, pinot noir is the darling for poultry pairings due to its light, medium body, and subtlely fruity and earthy flavors. Pinot noir is a versatile option that will pair well with a wide variety of turkey preparation methods, 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. Determining what wine goes well with your turkey depends on which cut of turkey meat you are serving and how you plan to prepare it. We've created a pairing guide of the best wines to serve with turkey's various parts and preparation methods.

Wine Pairings with Turkey and Gravy:

  • Dry Riesling
    Dry riesling's high acidity balances out the rich flavors of turkey and dressing and makes 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 releasing 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, in which 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. Champagne's mild flavor blends with whatever seasonings you use in your deep-fried turkey batter.
  • 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 the darker parts of the turkey. It also blends well with sweetly seasoned turkey, such as honey-baked or chipotle-maple glazed turkey.
  • Malbec
    Rich and rustic, malbecs pair perfectly with smoked turkey. Malbecs are usually a deep, inky hue and are infused with the aromas of black currants, coffee, and anise that will enhance the smokey flavors of your turkey meat.

 


Wines for a Non-traditional Thanksgiving Dinner

Not everyone celebrates Thanksgiving with mashed potatoes, stuffing, or even turkey. Your restaurant can broaden its clientele base by infusing its Thanksgiving dinner menu with foods from different regions and cultures, and by preparing dishes to accommodate dietary restrictions.

If you’re offering alternative Thanksgiving dishes 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 exotic spices this year 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 rather than those with especially bold, oaky notes to pair with spicy Thanksgiving side dishes.

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 commonly found on a traditional, Southern Thanksgiving menu.

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 may 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. Pasta courses are a common alternative, or addition, to the traditional turkey dinner. From classic lasagna to a fall-inspired risotto, these pasta dishes can be decadent, cheesy, and infused with flavor.

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 Infographic

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.

Posted in: Holidays | Infographics | By Corrinn McCaule