Thanksgiving Wines

Tis the season…

Americans consume more wine on Thanksgiving day than any other day of the year. If you have any interest in wine at all you will start to notice, much the same way Christmas decorations start going up in stores around the end of September, that everyone who has any opinion about wine will share their tips for choosing a good wine for your Thanksgiving celebration. So here are mine.

People often don’t realize that with all the many and varied side dishes served with the traditional turkey (not to mention all of the non-traditional hams, lasagnas, turducken, tofurky, and such), matching your wine to the meal is not so easy. Food pairing basics match the dominant flavors, how heavy the meal is, etc. Do you prefer red or white? The list below goes from crisp whites to reds, and includes dessert wines and digestifs.

Sauvignon Blanc – a crisp white wine that is noted for its earthy, herbaceous flavors – a prime candidate specifically for turkey and herb-filled stuffing.

 Viognier – an aromatic white wine with low levels of acidity and characterized by light floral flavors often surrounded by delicate touches of peaches and pears. Shout out to my friends in Virginia, where they make excellent Viognier.

 Riesling – a white wine that may either be bone dry or fairly sweet, excellent with any dishes that may have a bit of spice to them.

 Pinot Noir – this red wine is the very versatile and traditional favorite for Thanksgiving. It is easy going enough to complement just about any flavor you can throw at it. Elegant, but plays well with others.

Zinfandel – a  fuller bodied red wine that has a balancing effect on many traditional side dishes. This would be a great pick for those looking for a heartier wine with deeper flavors.

Syrah/Shiraz – another red wine that picks up the intensity and flavor, yet graciously handles the cornucopia of flavors in a traditional Thanksgiving meal. The peppery notes will accent a flavorful helping of stuffing as well as both the white and dark turkey meats.

Beaujolais – a light, fruity red wine from the gamay grape that goes very well with turkey and all of the fixings. It is like the cranberry sauce to the turkey! The tradition of serving a beaujolais has something to do with the annual release of Beaujolais Nouveau on the third Thursday of every November, a week before Thanksgiving in the U.S. This fruity wine is supposed to be drunk while young and fresh.

Sparkling Wine– Always a perfect accompaniment, especially with salty foods and foods with unusual texture- like the mashed potatoes or dishes with higher fat content (turkey gravy?) Can’t go wrong if you bring this wine as a guest.

Dessert Wines– Sometimes a good dessert wine is a sweet finishing touch to the meal, as with an ice wine (made from grapes left on the vine after regular harvest to concentrate the sugars), or Hungarian Tokaij, or Italian Vin Santo or Piccolit, or a Trokenbeerenauslese Riesling from Germany, or even a Moscato D’Asti or Bracquetto D’Acqui if you like the bubbles. Don’t overlook the dessert wine as a choice because you think they are all syrupy sweet. Many wines in this category are very fine and elegant expressions of their grape variety. Continuing on there are  fortified (wines with additional alcohol added, raising the final alcohol by volume) ports, sherry, vermouth. Be bold and try something new.

In our house we have the tradition of going around the table to say something we are thankful for. Some years we struggle but we always have something to be thankful for. I wish you, and those you celebrate with all the blessings of the holiday season. Happy Thanksgiving, and Cheers!

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About WiningWays

Wine writing, appreciation, and education, including tasting, evaluation, and food pairings a specialty. Member, Society of Wine Educators.
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4 Responses to Thanksgiving Wines

  1. Renee says:

    Thanks for sharing! We also go around the table and state what we are thankful for – a great tradition. I usually pick a sparkling or white and then a red option too for the meal. May throw in a dessert wine or special cocktail depending on the dessert being served. Have a Great Day & Cheers!

  2. Jennifer Moerler says:

    Thanks for the advice. Wine is very important on Thanksgiving due to all the family involved in the event.

  3. Anne Lyons says:

    Lorie this is a beautiful and helpful site for people like me that have no knowledge of what wine goes with what meal. And of course on that note, I am very thankful for you and your expertise! Good Luck and Happy Thanksgiving to all of your family.

  4. WiningWays says:

    Reblogged this on WiningWays and commented:

    Still valid, though now I would add Chile’s Carmenere to the list, especially if you like a little peppery spice. Once thought to be a Chilean varietal of Merlot called Tinto, recent DNA testing has proven it to be the lost Bordeaux blender. Carmenere iin Chile arrived vefore the European Phylloxera epidemic and therefore did not require its rootstock to be grafted in order to prevent the dreaded louse that has killed thousands of vines.

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