Its almost that time to wake up early, watch the parade, make the pumpkin pie, and decorate the table for Thanksgiving! But what is Thanksgiving without some great wines around the table to share with your family and friends? In a way, I would say the wine is the most important part! And the greatest part about the holiday is you can open up a bunch of different bottles and styles and everyone can choose what they like--this is a great excuse to have reds and whites at the table. And usually, none go to waste ;)
Below are my top picks for wines to serve with Thanksgiving dinner based on how great they will pair with the meal. Have fun with choosing your wines and remember that Thanksgiving is one of the best times to try new favorites!
When in doubt, go with bubbles. This is true for almost any dinner you're planning, but even more so for thanksgiving, as there are so many different flavors going on in the meal. Dry sparkling wine, such as Champagne, Cava, domestic, will literally scrub away those different flavors on your palette, leaving your mouth after each sip ready for an entirely new flavor experience.
I feel like so many Americans stay away from this grape because its hard to pronounce (gah-verts-trah-meen-er), but it is an incredible varietal to break out to your guests who will drink nothing but Riesling. I usually prefer gewurztraminer at my Thanksgiving table over riesling because it tends to be a bit sweeter, fruitier, and better-priced. Some actually have a little spritziness to them, which adds a refreshing character. Plus, I can't tell you that I've ever had a bad bottle of gewurztraminer--no matter how cheap the bottle, the juice is still good. The sweetness of this wine pairs well with the sweetness you get from the side dishes, and its a light enough grape not to overpower anything. Splurge (~$30) on at bottle from Alsace, France, like the Trimbach gewurztraminer, for a real treat.
Like Gewurztraminer, Riesling is a very good wine to have at the Thanksgiving table. However, don’t go buying late-harvest dessert Rieslings as they are way too sweet and heavy to pair with dinner. Instead, opt for a Kabinett style from Germany or a domestic off-dry example. These wines are great pairings for Thanksgiving because the sweetness of the wine matches the sweetness in the food and won't overpower even the lightest dishes.
Thanksgiving is my favorite time to drink Beaujolais. Its the first red wine I think of when preparing my wine list for the big day. I partly enjoy it so much with this holiday because I never seem to drink it any other time of the year, even though its a great little wine with a very small price tag. A light red wine made from the gamay grape, it usually boasts vibrant flavors of bright red fruit and even a bit of candied "grapeiness". Its a crowd-pleaser, as usual sweet-wine drinkers even warm up to it, and it pairs incredibly with Thankgsiving. You can usually find a cheap Beaujolais under $10, but for a few dollars more, you can get the best of the best, cru beaujolais. I say if you get one wine to go with Thanksgiving dinner, make it this one.
Pinot Noir/Red Burgundy
Like Beaujolais, Pinot Noir is a great wine for Thanksgiving because it is light, fruity, and low in tannins. Thanksgiving dishes are not heavy (who has ever served steak at thanksgiving?) so they need these light-bodied wines to complement rather than overpower them. Personally I suggest a pinot noir from Willamette Valley or Burgundy as these are usually the lightest and have a bit more earthiness to them than their California counterparts.
- Adelsheim Vineyards, Willamette Valley, Oregon $$
- Erath, Willamette Valley, Oregon $
- Any red burgundy--look for Savigny-Les-Beaune or Nuits-St. Georges for good values
Okay, this one barely makes the list, but it’s the wine of choice if you need to serve a wine for guests who want a big wine with dinner. I will admit, there was a time when I was getting into wine where it was “go big or go home” mentality, so I would not have been satisfied with the light-bodied wines I suggested above. If you want to provide Cabernet as an option, keep it domestic and try to find a fruitier, lighter-bodied style. And don’t buy one that’s over 14% alcohol, as a wine that high will be very full and could be too “hot” for the delicate flavors of the side dishes.
Have questions on what you should serve with dinner? Send me a comment, below! Happy Pairings!