Thanksgiving Wine Pairings, Dish by Dish

While prepping your Thanksgiving menu, don't forget to choose the right wines to accompany your dishes. An expert sommelier walks you through the perfect holiday picks.

People Cheers Celebrating ThanksgivingPhoto: Shutterstock / Rawpixel.com

Thanksgiving is fast approaching, so now is a fantastic time to start thinking about wine pairings for the feast. With a wealth of dishes and flavors gracing the table, be sure to offer your guests a nice selection of wines. (If you’re hosting a crowd, don’t be afraid to ask guests to bring a bottle or two.) Wondering what type of wine to pick up? Here’s my rundown of grape varietals and the dishes they pair well with. Get ready for the tastiest Turkey Day yet.

The Main Event

To do a perfectly roasted bird justice, you’ll want something fruity, without big tannins, to the tune of zinfandel, grenache, pinot noir or gamay. For the white-wine lovers, chardonnay, viognier and dry riesling are excellent choices.

Unless you’re serving roast beef or something similar, stay away from big, bold reds like cabernet sauvignon and shiraz. If you absolutely can’t live without these wines, look for blends such as cabernet-merlot or grenache-shiraz. The introduction of a second, less tannic grape variety helps round out these wines and makes them more drinkable with the standard Thanksgiving cornucopia. For more information on tannins and how they interact with food, head over here.

Green Bean Casserole 

Rosé is almost always a winner when it comes to green bean casserole. While many associate rosés with spring and summer, those who drink pink year-round will be thrilled to know that many a Thanksgiving dish is perfectly complemented by these wines. Favorites include rosés of cabernet franc or sangiovese.

Dressing

For dressing, with all of its delightful herbal, buttery goodness, wine with a touch of an herbal aroma is ideal. Sauvignon blanc plays well with the fresh herbs found in dressing, while its naturally mouthwatering acidity will cut through the fat from the butter to create a totally satisfying combination.

Sweet Potatoes

Simply follow this cardinal rule: Pair sweet eats with a wine that’s on the slightly sweeter side. In this case, an off-dry (i.e. slightly sweet) wine made from riesling or chenin blanc will do the trick. Just make sure to check the label to confirm you’re choosing the right style.

Cranberry Sauce

Lucky for those who love a generous helping of cranberry sauce next to (or smothering) their turkey, the same wines that go with the bird complement cranberry flavors.

Pumpkin Pie

For spice-laden desserts like pumpkin pie (find a few of our favorites here), a late-harvest riesling is stunning. Lusciously sweet but with enough refreshing acidity to cleanse your palate between bites, you can only go right when riesling is involved.

Want One Wine to Rule Them All?

If you want to keep things simple and stick to a single wine for the feast, pinot noir or grenache is your best bet. Both have lovely red fruit flavors to complement cranberry sauce, but they aren’t too tannic or dry, so they won’t clash with the turkey. And when in doubt, sparkling wine and champagne go with just about everything—including leftovers—and add a festive touch that any wine drinker can get behind.

Psst: Wine goes well with leftovers, too.
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Camille Berry
Part of the third generation in a family of restaurateurs, Camille was born with a passion for cooking and food. She embarked on a career in hospitality where she excelled as a sommelier and wine director. This hospitality experience has given her a wealth of first-hand knowledge about how to pair all manner of drinks with food—plus some serious kitchen skills. These days, she's hung up her wine key in favor of a pen and covers all aspects of food and drink.