Wine and Walnuts

A blog about eating, drinking, cooking and reading in the not so Deep South

Food and Wine Pairing: Thanksgiving


[picappgallerysingle id="185033"]I wasn’t going to write the obligatory post about which wines to serve with your Thanksgiving meal, because there is plenty of information already out there on that topic, especially if you follow other food and wine blogs.  But I changed my mind when a few people asked me to please write a short post about wines I think are great for the big day. 

I aim to please, so here you go . . .

The main rule for successfully pairing wine with your Thanksgiving meal is this:  drink what you like.  If you do that and don’t stress about finding the “perfect” wine that perfectly complements the main course, all the sides, AND dessert (doesn’t exist), you’ll be fine.

But here is some general info to help you get started:


What you want is fruity, aromatic whites that go well with the wide range of holiday flavors you‘ll be serving. Think Riesling, which pairs well with spicy, salty and sweet.  Riesling can be bone dry or fairly sweet, and you’ll find reasonably priced, very tasty versions from Alsace, Germany or Washington State.

Gewürztraminer is also a good choice, and one I‘m going to try for my holiday meal this year. This white wine is aromatic and spicy, and can stand up to the myriad of Thanksgiving flavors and dishes.

Other white varietals that work:  Viognier (France) and Albariño (Spain). These choices are a little more adventurous, so your guests might not be familiar with them, but that’s part of the fun, and again, these are wines that pair well with lots of Thanksgiving meal standards.


For reds, avoid high alcohol wines.  Look for juicy wines with easy tannins, such as Pinot Noir, a traditional favorite for this holiday meal. Pinot Noir is food’s very good friend, getting along well with full flavored foods and not bullying lighter dishes. Which is why you’ll hear and read so much about Pinot Noir being the perfect red for your Thanksgiving table. I agree.

This year’s Beaujolais Nouveau would also be an ideal choice.  Light and fruity with low tannins, this year’s Georges Duboeuf BN is only about $12 retail locally.  A few bottles of this and a few bottles of a value-priced white like a Washington State Riesling, and you’d be good to go.

Zinfandel can be a good choice too, but I’d go with the lighter, fruitier versions rather than the big, port-like ones, if we are keeping turkey in mind. Still, if it’s your thing (it’s kind of mine), you could choose a heartier, spicier version of Zinfandel, and that could work, given spicy, savory stuffing and other like side dish options likely to be on the table.


Sparkling wine, from your meal’s start to finish, is another good way to go. Sparkling wine pairs well with almost any food, and you can’t beat it for festive and fun!  These wines’ bubbles make them good palate cleansers, a nice feature when you are eating spicy, rich, fruity, savory, sweet and beyond with every bite of your holiday meal.  Go with the “extra dry” rather than the “brut” version for more fruitiness.  I think sparkling wines are always appropriate, under any circumstances, and for every occasion!  (See “Food for Thought,” above.)

So if you go into your local wine store and, let’s say, tell them you want a few whites and a few reds in the $15-$20 range from the above list of varietals, you’ll have lots of choices that will work well for you on Thanksgiving. 

Cheers, and Happy Thanksgiving!

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About The Author

Kimberly Houston


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