I love Thanksgiving. It is by far my favorite time of the year. Fall is in full swing. Squashes are abundant. The best spices are back in season. And, if you’re up north, the chilly weather is an excuse to keep the oven on all day!
To me, there is nothing better than gathering all of my favorite people into one room and feeding them delicious home-cooked foods until they fall asleep.
But I decide which wines to serve is almost more stressful than deciding the menu.
How can one list encompass the many varieties of Thanksgivings around the world?
- Some people love a New England Thanksgiving. Others die for a Southern one.
- Some people deep fry their turkey. Others slow roast it in the oven.
- Some people load up on the marshmallows. Others prefer to keep it savory until the pie.
Not only that, but you’ve got about 20 dishes already piling onto your table from mains to sides to sauces… How can you pick a wine to go with everything!
Never fear. There is a solution.
A Few General Rules
- If you’re hosting, you’ve probably spent oodles on food and centerpieces and assorted decorations. There is absolutely no reason to dip into your savings for the wine. You can find delicious bottles for under $20.
- Plan on one bottle per person, especially if guests are arriving in the afternoon. This ensures you won’t run out. If this makes your bank account wheeze…
- Ask your guests to chip in and bring their favorite bottle. People love to feel included. People love to bring gifts. This way you’ll guarantee you have enough wine, and everyone will have something they love!
- The wines should be light. Reds should be fruity and low on tannins. The whites should be bright and light on oak. High acidity is a good starting point. It keeps everything fresh.
Below are some options for reds, whites, sparkling, and even dessert. We’ve also listed which dishes pair best, so you can be sure your table will match your glass!
Wine Highlights: For those of you who do want to make wine the centerpiece of your Thanksgiving this year, we have special “Wine Highlights” listed under each section to help you pick the crème de la crème.
You Can’t Imagine Thanksgiving Without a Red:
Fall and Winter are the perfect seasons to bring out your deep seasonal red wines. How can you not? They even match the décor!
Keep away from your Cabernets and Malbecs. Those heartier wines go better with rich winter meals, so save them for Christmas. On Thanksgiving, the food is usually the standout and you’ll be eating yourself into a coma. No need to drag yourself down with a heavy wine too!
Pinot Noir: 2017 Laroque Cité de Carcassonne Pinot Noir, Languedoc-Roussillon, France, $12.99
The number one Thanksgiving choice and a certain crowd pleaser, Pinot noir is one red wine that has few tannins. Cité de Carcassonne is no exception. With the light tannic structure and a relatively uncomplex palate, it will add to the myriad of flavors at your table.
- Nose: Deep Cherry, Vanilla, Dried Spices
- Palate: Cherry, Strawberries, Banana, Chocolate
- Dishes it goes with Turkey, Stuffing, Salad with Fruit, Salmon, Pumpkin, Squash
Syrah: 2017 Domaine Vincent Paris Syrah Sélection, Northern Rhône, France, $14.00
A spicier option for adding a hint of richness without being overwhelming. This vintage is unoaked, so it’s lighter and more mineral than smoky. Pair it with the richer options at your table.
- Nose: Black Pepper, Blue fruit, Bacon
- Palate: Black Raspberry, Plum, Strong Black Pepper, Herbs
- Dishes it goes with Cranberry Sauce, Sausage Stuffing, Pumpkin Soup, Duck
Côtes du Rhône: 2015 E. Guigal Château d’Ampuis Côtes du Rhône Red, Rhône Valley, France, $13.99
Côtes du Rhônes are always good staples and you can usually find a very good one for fairly cheap. E. Guigal creates some of the finest vintages, and this is his most accessible. The tannins are smooth and well-balanced with fruit acids so they don’t overwhelm your food!
- Nose: Ripe Blackberries and Raspberries, Spicy Black Pepper
- Palate: Ripe Berries, Pepper notes mixed with Chocolaty smoothness
- Dishes it goes with Roasted, Smoked, or Fried Turkey, Ham, Mashed Potatoes, Duck, Brussels Sprouts
Zinfandel: 2016 Bogle Old Vine Zinfandel, California, $12.99
When in doubt, go American. Thanksgiving is, after all, an American holiday. You can always bring in fancier foreign wines for the Christmas feast to come! The tannins in Bogle’s Zinfandel are fine-grained, so it’s light, fruity, and smooth.
- Nose: Raspberry, Blackberry, Chocolate, Coffee
- Palate: Strawberry, Red Plum, Chocolate Cake, Oak
- Dishes it goes with: Turkey, Ham, Sweet Potatoes, Cranberry Sauce
Beaujolais: 2018 Pierre-Marie Chermette “Griottes” Beaujolais, France $13.99
On the third Thursday in November, the Beaujolais region of France releases a particular vintage for Beaujolais Nouveau Day. If you’re in the area, it’s a fantastic party. If not, you can find the vintage for your own shindig. However, there are other wines from Beaujolais that will be easier to find and less time-dependent. It’s high in acidity and low in tannins. Perfect for fall feasts and Francophiles alike!
- Nose: Fresh Berries, Wet Earth, Violet
- Palate: Raspberry, Pomegranate, Minerals
- Dishes it goes with: Cobb Salads, Ham, Squash, Duck, Roast Vegetables
*this is a red you can serve chilled slightly
Red Wine Highlight: 2016 Hirsch “San Andreas Fault” Estate Pino Noir, California, $65.00
Named for the geographical characteristic, the soil, and terroir of Hirsh Vineyards can change dramatically and impact the wine’s flavor. The vineyards are just 3 miles off the coast and 1,500 feet above the Pacific Ocean. These cooler climates and rich fogs lend an old-world Burgundy characteristic to this wine. It is deeply inviting. Even David Hirsch himself calls this “the Hirsch Hirsch.” This vintage definitely pairs well with a richer Thanksgiving feast.
- Nose: Bergamot, Raspberry, Mint, Sage, Firm Strawberry
- Palate: Tobacco, Orange Peel, Black Cherry, Crushed Minerals, Rose Petals
You Can’t Make it Through Without White Wine:
I hear you. In fact, I’m in your camp. (Don’t tell the red people.) While most people assume white wines are out of season in the fall, there are a few go-to options that will keep you happy until the season’s turn.
Leave the Chardonnays in your cellar. While perfect for every day, they’ll overwhelm a table already bursting with flavor. Stick with tangy and lighter wines that will complement the vast array of dishes and refresh you with every sip!
Sancerre: 2015 Domaine Girard Sancerre La Garenne, Loire, France, $12.95
If you’re going for elegant whites, pick a Sancerre from Loire, France. It can be very difficult to find a Sancerre under $20 these days, but Domaine Girard’s 2015 vintage is excellent. Sancerre provides an excellent herbal palate cleanser for a table full of flavor!
- Nose: Honeydew Melon, Asian Pear, Jasmine, Lime
- Palate: Lime, Grass, Honeydew, White Flowers
- Dishes it goes with: Carrot Dishes, Greens, Green Beans, Most Salads, Mac and Cheese, Cauliflower
Sauvignon Blanc: 2018 Tablelands Sauvignon Blanc, Martinborough, New Zealand, $12.99
Talk about the classic tangy wine! Sauvignon Blancs tend to be lighter and peppier, especially the New Zealand variety. Tablelands pairs excellently with any bread options at your table and nearly every green vegetable you can imagine.
- Nose: Green Apple, Honeysuckle, White Flowers
- Palate: Apples with: Honey, backed by Mineral Finish
- Dishes it goes with: Green beans, Brussel Sprouts, Dinner rolls, Most Salads, Cornbread
Dry Riesling: 2016 Cave Spring “Estate Bottled” Riesling, Niagara Escarpment, Ontario, Canada $14.99
An added benefit here is you can reintroduce a sweeter version for dessert! The Finger Lakes region of NY is doing some great things with Riesling, so take a look at some of their bottles. But Cave Spring in Canada does create an excellent dry option that pairs with typical Thanksgiving staples!
- Nose: White Pepper, Citrus Rind, Lime
- Palate: Lime Notes, Peach, Apricot, Pepper
- Dishes it goes with: Turkey, Sweet Potatoes, Stuffing, Corn
Viognier: 2016 Domaine Triennes Sainte Fleur Viognier, Var, France, $15.99
Viognier wines are extremely balanced with fruit and acidity. Choose this to surprise your guests with something different that still pairs well! Sainte Fleur is incredibly light and flavorful. There’s an almost un-oaked Chardonnay quality to it, which makes sense (in order to retain the acidity of Viognier grapes, growers stop them before malolactic fermentation). This helps it pair with creamier dishes
- Nose: Peach, Lime, Orange
- Palate: Peach, Nectarine, Tart Apples
- Dishes it goes with: Turkey, Carrot Dishes, Corn, Oyster Stuffing, Creamed Greens, Squash
Be sure to only chill this slightly, don’t serve it ice cold.
Gewurztraminer: 2017 Banyan Gewürztraminer, Monterey, California, $14.99
A “spiced” wine that highlights typical Thanksgiving flavors like cloves, nutmeg, and allspice. If you’re like me and rejoice at these fall flavors, this is the perfect option to bring them to the foreground in your dishes.
- Color: Pale Yellow
- Nose: Lychee, Gardenia, Nectarine, Orange, Pear
- Palate: Gardenia, Pineapple, Mango, Nectarine
- Dishes it goes with: Turkey Breast, Stuffing, Salads with fruits and nuts, Gravy, Roasted Cauliflower
Unlike Viognier, this wine should definitely be chilled for a few hours before serving. Pop it in the fridge right when you’re putting the turkey in the oven!
White Wine Highlight: 2015 Pascal Jolivet Le Roc Sancerre, Loire Valley, France, $54.99
Flint soils of the Le Roc Vineyard a layer of minerality that makes this a particularly elegant wine. This vintage is just reaching its peak, so this year’s Thanksgiving would be the perfect time to enjoy it! The notes of orange and gooseberry are particularly interesting, especially when paired with Thanksgiving staples like stuffing and turkey.
- Nose: Orange Peel, Gooseberry, Vanilla, Steel Minerals, Hay
- Palate: Gooseberry and Oranges, Metal, Honeysuckle
You Jazz it Up. Sparkling Wine for Thanksgiving:
Is there anything that screams holiday more than sparkling wine? It’s the perfect way to welcome your guests in from the fall chill and get the festivities started!
Rosé Champagne: Graham Beck Brut Rosé of Pinot Noir N.V., $14.99
Sparkling rosé allows it to stand up to the heavier dishes on your table, especially dark turkey meat and stuffing. The fruity flavors lighten and refresh your palate. Graham Beck’s Brut Rosé adds in hints of cranberry, and we all know that’s a perfect Thanksgiving treat.
- Nose: Strawberry, Cranberry, Pink Grapefruit, Roses
- Palate: Raspberries, Peaches, Candy, Tart Cranberry and Grapefruit Peel, Pepper
- Dishes it goes with: Turkey Legs, Cranberry Sauce, Biscuits, Gravy, Salmon, Duck, Roasted Vegetables
“Champagne”: Gruet, Blanc de Noirs – NV, New Mexico, $14.96
In order for a bottle to be classified as Champagne, it must come from France’s Champagne region. Unfortunately, prices for these are on the rise, but there are several bottles of sparkling wine that very similar at more reasonable prices! The terroir of New Mexico produces a surprisingly delicious wine. Created by a Champagne native, Gruet combines 75% Pinot Noir and 25% Chardonnay grapes for a bone dry, refreshing bubbly!
- Nose: Green Apple, Lime Zest, Peach, Birthday Cake, Ripe Berries
- Palate: Green Apple and Peach dominate, Lime and Pear
- Dishes it goes with: Turkey, Cranberry Sauce, Mac and Cheese, Asparagus, Collards
Prosecco: Mionetto Prosecco Doc Treviso, Veneto, Italy $13.99
If you’re looking for a very simple bubbly with a broad audience, look no further than Mionetto. It’s not the most complex or particularly exciting. But it will go wonderfully with all sorts of dishes and it certainly will inspire a celebratory atmosphere!
- Nose: Gardenia, Golden Apple, Honeysuckle
- Palate: Green Apple, Lemon
- Dishes it goes with: Sweet Potatoes, Cranberry Sauce, Collards, Any Mousse or Paté
Cava: Bohigas Cava Brut Reserva-NV, Penedès, Spain, $14.99
Bohigas has been family-owned since the 13th century, so they are no strangers to Cava. The aging and secondary fermentation add some spicier notes of toast and cinnamon – perfect for a Thanksgiving palate! The fruit flavors keep it light, so you won’t overwhelm your taste buds.
- Nose: Lemon and Lime, White Currant, Pear
- Palate: Citrus, White Flowers, Cookies, Cinnamon
- Dishes it goes with: Cranberry Sauce, Cornbread, Salmon, dishes with Rice, Nuts and Cheeses
Sparkling Highlight: Perrier-Jouet Grand Brut Champagne, Champagne, France, $49.99
A blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier, this bubbly has an excellent balance of fresh fruit and minerality. The flavors are clean and pure, not overdone with oak or butter, yet creamy enough to make this a smooth and delicious treat for your guests!
- Nose: Lilies, Peach and Pear, Green Apples, Citrus
- Palate: Quince, Ginger, Citrus, Vanilla and Butter near the finish
But what about my pies?! Dessert Wines for Thanksgiving.
This is an opportunity for you to bring out your favorite sweet and fortified wines to sweeten up the evening.
Port: Quinta do Infantado, Tawny Port, Portugal, $16.69
Port is an especially good choice to pair if you’re serving pecan pie! You can splurge on port, but the Quinta do Infantado Tawny Port is an exquisite example of richness for the price range.
- Nose: Caramel, Roasted Hazelnuts
- Palate: Coffee, Vanilla, Dried Fruits, Spices
- Dishes it goes with: Pecan Pie, Pumpkin Pie
Sherry: Emilio Hidalgo Morenita Cream Sherry N.V., Spain, $14.99
Sherry pairs well with hearty apple pies. Morenita is particularly creamy but it is still refreshing and not too sweet. Its spicier notes will complement your fruit and nut desserts.
- Nose: Almonds, Raisins, Toasted Nuts
- Palate: Mocha and Coffee on the front, Dates, Raisins, Smoke, Green Tea
- Dishes it goes with: Apple Pie, Pecan Pie
Sweet Riesling: 2017 Washington Hills Late Harvest Riesling, Washington, $9.99
If you served a dry Riesling during dinner, this is the time for an encore. Bring out a sweeter variety this time as you wind down your evening with scrumptious goodies. Washington Hills Late Harvest bursts with sweet flavors, but it has high acidity so it doesn’t overwhelm fruit desserts.
- Nose: Honeysuckle, Jasmine, Peach, Lime
- Palate: Creamy Peach Flavors, Honey Sweetness, Hint of Lime acidity
- Dishes it goes with: Pumpkin Pie, Pumpkin Cheesecake, Pear Desserts, Apple Pie
White Zinfandel: 2017 Buehler White Zinfandel, California, $11.99
A notoriously sweet wine, here is the chance to let it shine and showcase its flavors. Buehler chooses riper grapes for their White Zinfandel, so you can really taste the fruit flavors and end up with a less sweet overpoweringly wine. The result is a White Zinfandel reminiscent of a red one, but more refreshing and light!
- Nose: Roses, Cherry, Strawberry
- Palate: Strawberries, Sweet Cherries, Pomegranate
- Dishes it goes with: Cranberry Tart, Apple Pie
Dessert Highlight: W& J’s Graham’s Vintage Port 2011, Douro, Portugal, $109.99
There’s no question that 2011 is an excellent Port vintage – one of the best in recent years. Excellent weather conditions and unique grape blends created remarkably powerful and balanced wines. Graham’s Vintage Port is no exception. It is an attractive option now, but you could also age it another 5 years. The acidity is fresh and the tannins don’t emerge for a few hours, so it won’t overwhelm your dessert. I’d almost recommend saving at least one glass of this wine for after dessert to really enjoy its flavors. Treat your guests and give them something to be thankful for!
- Nose: Blue violets, China Tea, Blackberry, Tobacco, Cloves
- Palate: Blackberry, Raspberry, Cherry, Black Currant, Chocolate, Cloves
Now I’m even more lost. Key Thoughts on Thanksgiving Wines:
A sure bet? Pick one that has a story.
It can be a personal story of your own. (The wine you drank when you met your spouse.)
Or you can do a little research into wines grown in your region and choose you find interesting.
Everyone loves a good story and it just makes any bottle that much more enjoyable!
Sample Pairing from My Table:
I open different wines for each course.
- Welcome and Appetizers – a light fizzy prosecco to get everyone in the party mood
- Main Course – Two Reds and Two Whites
- Viognier – A unique choice that goes with most dishes without overwhelming
- Gewüztraminer – A spicier addition with a hint of sweet
- Pinot Noir – A lovely, open red that goes with nearly everything and everyone
- Syrah – A spicier, richer option
- Dessert – A tawny port that goes with most Thanksgiving dessert flavors
Frequently Asked Questions
The amount of wine you should have in hand for a thanksgiving dinner is very relative. Will you have other drinks? Are all the guests wine lovers? One of the best ways to accurately calculate this is by counting how many glasses of wine you want to offer to each guest, and take in mind that one bottle of 750ml can serve 6 glasses.
Thanksgiving is the perfect day to be as generous as you can be with your table. We all know Turkey is the star of the night, nut what about the side dishes? It is recommended to add at least two veggies options. It doesn’t have to be anything complicated, but a good plate of sautéed green beans, baby carrots, or some well-roasted sprouts should be enough.
It might be the case that not all your guests can enjoy a glass of wine, and at that moment, having another option (or even a non-alcoholic one) can come really handy. Cranberry is an amazing flavor to have at your Thanksgiving dinner; a cranberry sparkling drink can be great for the nonalcoholic drinkers. Besides that, any “apple-flavored” cocktail, or even eggnog will be a success between your friends and family.
In the End…
It’s really up to you. Pick something you know you’ll love. Thanksgiving is a holiday of comfort and family.
Pro-tip: If you’re hosting, you can always ask your guests to bring their favorite bottle. Not only does that ease the financial burden, but you can be sure that everyone will have something they like!
The most basic tip: have a red option and a white option and you’ve got your essentials covered!
If you want to go more in-depth: try to pick lighter reds with softer tannins and lighter whites with crisp tang.
The key thing is: Don’t Stress!
What you drink won’t make or break your holiday. As long as there is enough wine for everyone, you’ll have happy guests!
Now if you’ll excuse me. I’m going to go practice spatchcocking my turkey.