Thanksgiving 101 ~ Wine Suggestions

We found some lovely wine suggestions for the big feast this November 23rd!

A good and simple strategy for Thanksgiving wine is to select at least one good label of white and red, offering guests their choice.

In order to taste good with the range of flavors turkey and all the fixings include, wine (red or white) needs to have generous fruit flavors. Happily, this gives Westerners the perfect excuse to drink local, because our regions tend to get a lot of sun, and consequently our reds and whites ooze fruit compared to, say, their Old World counterparts.

The other general character a good Thanksgiving wine needs is a lack of tannin, that drying, astringent texture you feel when you’re sipping a heavy red like Cabernet Sauvignon. Even whites can have a bit, generally picked up from barrels instead of skins and seeds (which is why a heavily oaked Chardonnay isn’t your best bet). The parts of the meal that lean sweet and spicy turn a dry, tannic wine astringent and sour.

For reds, look for soft tannins that will yield to and blend with your dishes, like Pinot Noir, Syrah, a fruity Zinfandel, Merlot, Beaujolais Nouveaux or a (more expensive) Beaujolais Grand Cru will delight most red wine lovers without overpowering lighter turkey flavors.

For whites, look for well-balanced acidity. Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling & Gewürztraminer, are all good choices for those who prefer traditional white wines.

When it comes to dessert, what pairs with traditional thanksgiving offerings like Pumpkin or Pecan Pie? We suggest a glass of sweet Moscato, Port, Ice Wine or Sauterne. The basic idea is to choose a wine that is as sweet or sweeter than the dessert itself. Otherwise, even a very good wine will come off as bitter or ‘sour’ by comparison.

The exception to the rule seems to be sparkling wine or champagne… which both pair beautifully with chocolate and most other sweet desserts.

A bit more info about a some of your excellent options:

Grenache (and Blends)

Cherries and cinnamon often team up in Grenache, with a freshness that balances the heft of most turkey menus (keeping everyone from hitting the carpet way too soon). In a traditional “GSM” Rhône-style blend—Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvèdre (which in the West sometimes includes other Rhône reds too)—wild and dark layers complement both the exuberance and the savoriness of traditional American fare.


Deep, jammy fruit laced with warm spices and chocolate makes Zin a friendly red partner for all things Thanksgiving. Plus, it’s the only mainstream wine the country (more specifically, California) can claim as its own: We make the best in the world; in fact, we make most of the Zin in the world. Just stay away from the highest-alcohol versions if your menu pushes the spice envelope; alcohol punches up the heat effect.

Rosé Sparklers

No need to abandon the bubbly when the appetizers are gone! Their texture, plus the lovely acidity of sparkling wine and the stealthy red fruit that rosé versions harbor, add up to one of the best Thanksgiving matches of all time. Bring on the spice rub, the oysters in the dressing, the nuts in the salad, the cheese sauce on the broccoli … and, of course, that cranberry sauce.


One of the most aromatics of whites, Riesling meets the big flavors of the day with a bushelful of fruit. And as whites go, the variety is also deceptively mouth-filling and braced with acidity, giving it the wherewithal to keep up with everything from the sweet potatoes to the sausage in the dressing. And in this case, a touch of sweetness in the wine is your friend.

Pinot Noir

With its typical baking spices and red berry flavors, Pinot doesn’t just work well with traditional Thanksgiving dishes—it’s a seamless extension of what’s on the table. But it’s not all about fruit: The wine’s loamy qualities beg for the likes of mushroom gravy. If wine-loving friends are ringing your doorbell this year, consider springing for a special bottle.


Muscato is a fragrant dessert wine produced as both a sweet semi-sparkling wine (Moscato d'Asti) or a sweet still wine. It can be a fortified dessert wine, as in de Beaumes de Venise (Rhône), a late-harvest dessert wine, or a liqueur. Great with everything from fruit & cheese to creamy pies.


Intensely sweet and indulgent, icewine is a delightful dessert wine. Serve this rich, sweet wine with a dessert that is a little lighter and a bit less sweet. Avoid serving icewine with overly rich or very sweet desserts that may compete with the wine. It's also excellent with a simple dessert of fresh fruit and cheese, or enjoyed as an aperitif.

Red icewine pairs well with chocolate.


Port is classified into two groups: barrel aged and bottle aged port. The taste profile of ports includes nuttiness (hazel nuts), leather, jerky, bacon and currant. Because of its range, many feel it can stand up to sweeter desserts, such as pecan pie.


Sauternes is the Queen/King of all sweet wines. Sauternes wines carry decades of history and prestige and are often expensive.

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