How to Pair Wine with Traditional Thanksgiving Meals

Thanksgiving Wine Pairings
Ultima Classic Wine Glasses

The challenge filling the most seasoned Thanksgiving host with apprehension each November: What wine should I serve with Thanksgiving dinner? Let’s face it, selecting a single wine for the table is problematic. The savviest selection delivers modest satisfaction to a portion of the guests, and unless your feast features monochromatic flavors, this solitary offering will undoubtedly clash with a dish or two. Thankfully, you can easily elevate the holiday meal with these tips for pairing wine to Thanksgiving courses like a pro.

Appreciative of Appetizers

Master Sommelier Joseph Spellman once said, “You can’t start a meal better than with Champagne,” and it’s easy to understand why. The first course of a meal sets the pace for the rest of the evening’s energy, and nothing generates a celebratory vibe better than Champagne. The traditional, buffet-style appetizer course with bubbly operates as a social lubricant by bridging gaps left by a busy host juggling arriving guests and last-minute meal preparations. Champagne doesn’t stop at just creating the air of a special occasion; it pairs wonderfully with a wide array of foods and textures. For instance, the following traditional Thanksgiving appetizers found adorning a buffet-style spread are incredible choices for pairing with Champagne:

  • Deviled Eggs
  • Stuffed Mushrooms
  • Smoked Salmon
  • Popcorn
  • Salted Nuts
  • Cheese Platter

According to Chris Hallowell, the incredible versatility of Champagne can be attributed to the blending of different vintages for a well-rounded taste and acidity capable of cutting through rich, salty flavors.

Sweet on Soup

Thanksgiving Soup Wine PairingsWhen it’s time to be seated, a sublime, autumnal soup, like Camila Alves’s Roasted Butternut Squash and Pear Soup, creates a cozier ambiance around the table. Squashes reign supreme during the traditional Thanksgiving feast and an off-dry German Riesling is well suited for showcasing delicate flavors.

Industry insiders like Paul Grieco, General Manager of Hearth in NYC, describes German Rieslings as, “generally lighter and lower in alcohol, with more floral citrus notes about them.” When served with Camila Alves’s delicious soup, the lightness of these Rieslings keep the dish balanced while the floral aspects shine with citrus as the backdrop.

Additional wine pairing suggestions include: Viognier, Chianti, New World Pinot Noir.

Satisfying Sides

Thanksgiving Casserole

Heated debates regarding the proper preparation of traditional Thanksgiving classics abound, but sides have one thing in common: rich creaminess. Thanksgiving side dishes steal the show for many, and menus across the country offer variations of these top culinary comforts:

  • Green Bean Casserole
  • Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes
  • Corn Pudding
  • Sweet Potato Casserole
  • Asparagus with Hollandaise Sauce

Even if your guests are die-hard fans of these sides, serving so much richness at once runs the risk of exhausting the palette. Giving diners a sip of escape from the cream that will allow them to enjoy the dishes without fatigue, so pair this course with a wine strong enough to cut through the richness like a hot knife cuts through butter.

For a universal pairing, stainless aged Chardonnay tops the list of choices with a crisp, dry quality capable of clearing the palette between indulgent bites. Selecting a unoaked Chardonnay keeps the body of the wine mineral and light, so that side dishes don’t need to compete for attention.

Additional wine pairing suggestions: Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Franc, Petite Sirah, Vermentino.

Thankful for Turkey, Stuffing and Sauce

Thanksgiving Dinner with Wine

Flavors and spirits crescendo as the main course, turkey with stuffing and a dollop of cranberry sauce, are brought to center stage. Choose a worthy wine pairing for Thanksgiving’s main course that complements flavors while paying homage to the significance of the evening.

A Beaujolais-Villages best fits the bill. This red, French beauty is light-bodied and fruity which makes it a perfect pairing for a lighter meat, like turkey, as well as the salty accent of sausage sprinkled throughout the stuffing. Notes of red berries complement the roasted meat while maintaining perfect balance with the saltiness and woody herbs.

Additional wine pairings include: Zinfandel, Pinot Grigio, Pinot Noir, Sangiovese.

Delighted over Dessert

Pumpkin Pie Thanksgiving

Traditional Thanksgiving dessert finales involve sidebars adorned with flaky pies smoldering with deep, caramelized flavors, crisp apples, and candied nuts. Review this comprehensive list of the best pumpkin pie pairings for an inspired final course.

Tawny port is a traditional treat because it imparts warmth to that which is heavily sweet for a deep, complex flavor causing guests to linger on each bite over heartwarming conversations instinctively.

There are so many advantages to serving each Thanksgiving course with a perfectly paired wine. Spirits are a powerful tool for enhancing food and setting the mood of each course. Customized pairings also unlock unlimited flavors, so dishes don’t fall flat from repetitive tastes. If a guest dislikes a wine pairing for one course, a new pairing will appear for the next one. Traditional courses are reinvigorated with these thoughtful wine pairings that guarantee this Thanksgiving will be an unforgettable evening!


About the Author: Mike Jones is a culinary and lifestyle blogger. His most recent project, IceMakerExperts, focuses on sharing tips about ice machines and how to troubleshoot them. If your interested in keeping up with Mike’s latest work, check him on Twitter.

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