How to Choose the Best Wine for Thanksgiving Dinner

How to Choose the Best Wine for Thanksgiving Dinner

Thanksgiving is a time for family, friends, and a delectable feast that often includes a wide array of flavors. Choosing the right wine to complement the diverse dishes on your Thanksgiving table can elevate the dining experience. Whether you’re a wine enthusiast or a casual drinker, this guide will help you select the perfect wines to enhance your Thanksgiving meal.

In This Article

Key Takeaways

  • Versatility Matters: Choose versatile wines to adapt to the diverse flavors of Thanksgiving.
  • Course-Specific Pairing: Match wines to specific Thanksgiving dishes for the best pairing.
  • Start with Sparkling Wine: Use sparkling wine as an aperitif and palate cleanser.
  • Balance Sweetness: Select wines that balance sweet Thanksgiving dishes.
  • Experiment and Enjoy: Find the wine you and your guests enjoy the most for a memorable Thanksgiving celebration.

Consider the Variety of Dishes

The key to selecting the best wine for Thanksgiving dinner is to consider the diverse flavors you’ll be serving. From roast turkey to cranberry sauce, stuffing, and sweet potatoes, there’s a wide range of tastes to harmonize with. Therefore, versatility is the name of the game.

  • Why Versatility Matters: Thanksgiving feasts are a culinary journey with a spectrum of flavors. Versatile wines that can adapt to both light and rich dishes are essential. This flexibility ensures that your wine pairs well with various courses, enhancing the overall dining experience.

Start with a Sparkling Wine

Kick off your Thanksgiving celebration with a sparkling wine, such as Champagne, Prosecco, or Cava. Sparkling wine pairs well with appetizers and helps cleanse the palate, preparing it for the array of flavors to come.

  • Aperitif Role: Sparkling wines serve as an ideal aperitif. The effervescence and crispness of these wines stimulate the appetite and offer a delightful contrast to savory appetizers and snacks.
  • Cleansing the Palate: The acidity and bubbles in sparkling wine work to refresh the palate between bites, ensuring that you can fully savor each course without palate fatigue.

White Wine Options

For your main course, consider these white wine options:

  • Chardonnay: A medium to full-bodied Chardonnay with good acidity can complement roast turkey, creamy side dishes, and buttery sauces.
  • Sauvignon Blanc: Known for its crisp and refreshing profile, Sauvignon Blanc pairs beautifully with herb-roasted turkey and green vegetables.
  • Riesling: If you have sweet dishes like honey-glazed ham or sweet potato casserole, a slightly sweet Riesling can balance the sweetness and provide a delightful contrast.
  • Chardonnay’s Versatility: Chardonnay, when oaked, exhibits flavors of vanilla and caramel that complement the richness of roast turkey. Unoaked Chardonnay, on the other hand, with its bright acidity, pairs well with herb-infused dishes and seafood.
  • Sauvignon Blanc’s Vibrancy: Sauvignon Blanc’s crisp acidity and herbal notes create a dynamic pairing with herb-roasted turkey. The wine’s zesty citrus flavors also complement green beans and asparagus.
  • Riesling’s Sweetness: The slight sweetness in Riesling can balance the sweetness of glazed hams or candied yams. Look for a Riesling labeled “off-dry” to maintain a harmonious balance with your meal.

Red Wine Options

For those who prefer red wine, consider these choices:

  • Pinot Noir: Its light to medium body, red berry notes, and earthy qualities make Pinot Noir a versatile partner for turkey and the wide variety of Thanksgiving side dishes.
  • Zinfandel: Opt for a Zinfandel if your meal features dishes with some spice or smokiness. Its fruity and spicy characteristics can complement such flavors.
  • Syrah/Shiraz: This medium to full-bodied wine with dark fruit and peppery notes can stand up to the richness of a roast turkey and pair well with savory dishes.
  • Pinot Noir’s Elegance: The delicate nature of Pinot Noir ensures it won’t overwhelm the turkey’s flavors. Its red fruit and earthy notes harmonize with a variety of dishes, from traditional stuffing to cranberry sauce.
  • Zinfandel’s Boldness: Zinfandel’s bold character and spicy notes make it an excellent choice for dishes like smoked or spicy sausages, where it can hold its own against robust flavors.
  • Syrah/Shiraz’s Richness: The dark fruit and pepper in Syrah/Shiraz make it a suitable partner for roasted meats, such as turkey or ham. Its richness and body add depth to the meal.

Think About Rosé

If you’re looking for a versatile option that bridges the gap between white and red wines, consider a dry or off-dry rosé. Its fruity and floral notes can harmonize with many Thanksgiving flavors.

  • Balancing Act: Rosé, with its fruit-forward yet dry profile, serves as an excellent middle ground for guests who enjoy both red and white wines. It complements the entire meal, from appetizers to dessert.

Consider Your Guests’ Preferences

Take into account the wine preferences of your guests. If you know that some have a strong preference for white or red wine, be sure to have both options available to accommodate their tastes.

  • Guest-Centric Selection: Cater to your guests’ preferences by offering a variety of wines. Consider a balanced mix of white and red wines to ensure that everyone at the table finds a wine they enjoy.

Balance the Sweetness

Thanksgiving often includes sweet dishes like cranberry sauce and pies. It’s important to ensure that your wine isn’t overly sweet, as this can clash with the flavors. A wine with some sweetness, like a Riesling, can complement these dishes without overwhelming them.

See Also
How to Choose the Right Wine Based on Grape Varieties

  • Sweet Dish Harmony: When serving sweet dishes, opt for a wine that has a touch of sweetness but maintains balance. A slightly sweet Riesling or a Gewürztraminer can enhance the experience without overshadowing the flavors of the dishes.

Remember the Dessert

For dessert, consider serving a sweet wine like a late-harvest Riesling, Moscato, or a dessert wine like Port. These wines pair beautifully with pumpkin pie, pecan pie, or other sweet treats.

  • Dessert Wine Pairings: Dessert wines with rich, sweet profiles, such as late-harvest Riesling or Moscato, harmonize with traditional Thanksgiving desserts like pumpkin pie and pecan pie. Alternatively, a fortified wine like Port can be a luxurious choice.

Taste Test Your Wine

To ensure a perfect pairing, do a wine tasting with your Thanksgiving dishes before the big day. This will help you identify which wines work best with each course and give you the opportunity to make adjustments if needed.

  • Practice Makes Perfect: Prior to the Thanksgiving dinner, organize a wine and food tasting session. This allows you to fine-tune your wine selections and ensure that each wine complements the dishes on the menu.

Serve at the Right Temperature

Lastly, make sure you serve your wines at the appropriate temperatures. Whites should be well chilled, reds at slightly cooler than room temperature, and sparkling wines should be cold to enhance their effervescence.

  • Temperature Matters: Serving wine at the right temperature is crucial for the best flavor. Whites should be chilled (around 45-50°F), reds should be served slightly cooler than room temperature (around 60-65°F), and sparkling wines should be well chilled (around 40-45°F).


Selecting the best wine for your Thanksgiving dinner involves thoughtful consideration, a bit of experimentation, and an emphasis on enhancing the overall dining experience. With these tips in mind, you can create a memorable and harmonious Thanksgiving feast that delights the palate of your guests. Cheers to a wonderful celebration filled with great food, wine, and togetherness!

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