American Thanksgiving typically involves a veritable feast, with a variety of dishes, flavors, aromas . . . and guests. From tart cranberry sauce to sweet pumpkin pie, and from roasted turkey to savory oyster stuffing, choosing the correct wines to serve with this iconic meal can be tough.
Don’t attempt to match individual wines to individual flavors or dishes, unless there’s really a standout pairing you want to promote. You will need to buy wine that’s adaptable and not too overpowering. When you buy wine online, be especially careful with red wine, which can often be too specific in its flavor and aromas profiles to complement a wide variety of foods. Sommeliers recommend blanketing the entire feast, though I would add the caveat that fine sparkling wine should have an indispensable place!
For red wine, light-bodied ones made without any substantial oak contact are hard to beat. You want fruit forward wines but always with sufficient balanced acidity to enhance the flavors in the full range of Thanksgiving dishes. Two great red options: Gamay Noir and Pinot Noir. Gamay’s fruity subtlety and red fruit aromas will enchant guests. Pinot Noir can be much stronger but still fresh and fruity, and again, try to avoid oaky Pinot. For Gamay, think France, particularly Cru Beaujolais. For Pinot Noir, I would tend towards cool climate wines from Oregon, Sonoma Coast, and Bourgogne, but don’t feel the need to buy red wine online that’s too refined. Delicate Pinot Noirs from such terroirs are extremely food-friendly featuring classic autumnal flavors such as allspice, blackberries, red apple skin, and even cranberry. Finally, a rarer choice, Pinotage from South Africa, which might add a bit more earthy and gamey flavors to the experience!
Here's some options from wine online:
- 2016 Siduri Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
- 2019 Domaine Roy & Fils Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
- 2020 Pierre Durdilly Domaine Les Gryphees Beaujolais Cuvée Les Balmes
- 2019 Domaine Confuron-Cotetidot Bourgogne Rouge
- 2020 MAN Family Wines Pinotage
For a Thanksgiving white wine some people like greener notes, as with a Sauvignon Blanc, but I prefer a little spice and maybe nuttiness! You can’t miss with a Chardonnay as a crowd pleaser, but I’d suggest unoaked versions. My suggestions: Gewurtztraminer, perhaps aged Semillon, and Rioja white.
- For a splurge on a Semillon dominated wine, the 2018 La Clarte de Haut-Brion Blanc.
- For a Viura dominated white from Spain’s Rioja, the 2020 Bodegas Muga Blanco.
And for Gewurtz there’s a range. Consider the following:
- 2021 Balletto Gewürztraminer from the Russian River Valley
- 2019 Domaine Zind-Humbrecht Gewurztraminer Roche Calcaire
- 2018 Thomas Fogarty Monterey Gewürztraminer
Thanksgiving provides a great occasion to try new varietals and styles of wine. There’s also so many flavors in the various dishes, you may find a new pairing you adore. So, experiment a bit!
More popular, full-bodied wines like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and oaked Chardonnay will be familiar to the dinner crowd, their bold tannins and oaky notes may miss the mark with the Thanksgiving spread. One idea is to server an aperitif wine with very suitable flavors and aromas. Try the Valdespino Deliciosa Manzanilla Sanclucar de Barrameda Sherry. Manzanilla may not be to everyone’s taste, but serve a small amount to everyone to get the festive event rolling.
Back to my strong recommendation: fine sparkling wines. Vintage Champagnes would be a great choice. Something like the 2011 Taittinger Comtes de Champagne Blanc de Blancs. A rose champagne will be a crowd pleaser and also match with a variety of dishes, like the Fleur de Miraval Champagne Exclusivement Rose, or, for a less expensive option, the 2013 Champagne Lelarge-Pugeot Rose Extra Brut.
Sparkling wines featuring lots of lees contact will give the nutty, floral, and fruit flavors suitable to Thanksgiving, all the way through the meal. Tertiary notes of pastry and brioche may arise in your glass as well. And there’s no better bargain for these kind of fine wines than Cava. Here’s a few options from sweeter to bone dry:
Finally, with the dessert course often featuring a variety of options, Thanksgiving is a great occasion to break out some sweet dessert wines! Consider the following:
- 2011 Chateau Coutet Sauternes
- 2014 Far Niente Dolce Napa Valley Late Harvest
- 2009 San Giusto A Rentennano Vin San Giusto
I hope this article helped with any doubts about wine for Thanksgiving. Be sure to read Bottle Barn’s other informative wine publications and leave us a comment. Did you try any of these wines?
By Charlie Leary