Easy Thanksgiving Wine Guide

Follow these perfect pairing tips—whether you want to serve only a few bottles or pour wines to go with every side dish.

turkey

Wine is an essential ingredient of Thanksgiving dinner—more so than the turkey. After all, when has a roasted bird ever eased tensions after an ill-timed comment about politics or a particular family member’s life choices?

The real beauty of wine at Thanksgiving, though, is that you can be as easygoing or as exacting in what you serve as you like. For example, will dinner be a traditional family gathering involving diverse palates? It’d be smart to opt for a versatile red and white. Or is it a friends-giving for your wine-nerd circle? If that’s the case, you definitely want a wine paired with every classic dish. Even if you add just a couple of side-dish-specific wines to the mix, that promises a much more flavorful Turkey Day.

Perfect Pairings

There’s something undeniably, delightfully indulgent about uncorking multiple bottles at Thanksgiving and letting everyone sip a little of this and a little of that with each dish. Just be sure to give everyone two wine glasses, one for whites, one for reds, and let the bottles work their way around the table.

Dish: Turkey
Wine: Pinot Noir
Pinot has that perfect mix of berry flavors and earthiness. The fruitiness complements light meat, and the wine’s mushroom character cozies up to the richer flavor of dark meat.

Dish: Sweet potatoes
Wine: Dry Riesling
Ever tried baking sweet potatoes with chunks of green apple? The sweet-tart flavors of the fruit meld perfectly with the potatoes’ autumnal flavor. A crisp Riesling—with its classic green-apple flavor—will provide the same effect. Pairing perfection.

Dish: Cranberry sauce
Wine: Syrah-Grenache Rhône-style blend
Rhône-style reds marry rich, tangy fruit flavors with peppery, herbal notes. This flavor combo both matches and gives a complementary kick to tangy homemade cranberry sauce, while the wine’s acidity cuts through the sauce’s sweetness.

Dish: Mashed potatoes
Wine: Chardonnay
The more buttery you like your spuds, the better the match with an oak-aged California Chardonnay—which will have a buttery flavor of its own. This pairing is so delicious and rich, you might skip everything else on the table.

Dish: Stuffing
Wine: Zinfandel
Especially if you make a meatier-style stuffing with spicy sausage, pour a big, bold Zinfandel that can stand shoulder to shoulder with it. If you top your stuffing with gravy, that’s all the more reason to serve a brawny Zin.

Dish: Dessert
Wine: Tawny Port
Sweet, fortified wine—that means alcohol is added when it’s made—is the ultimate pairing with chocolate cake, apple pie, pumpkin pie, cheesecake—you name it. Look for a 10-year tawny, which offers the best value. Also, you needn’t finish the bottle at Thanksgiving dinner; Port, after a bottle is opened, remains drinkable over several weeks or months, whenever the mood strikes.

Keeping It Simple

Don’t force vino smarts on your friends and family if their interest lies simply in drinking tasty wine. Just uncork a bottle each of white and red, get on with dinner and let everyone drink whatever he or she prefers.
White: Serve a neutral yet fuller-bodied white such as a Chardonnay. It’ll be great with buttery mashed potatoes and won’t overpower the other sides.
Red: Serve a fruity, robust red such as a Petite Sirah, which has the heft to stand up to the heartier, richer flavors of classic Thanksgiving dishes.

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