Top 10 Thanksgiving Wine Types–And Why they Pair So Well
The range of flavors on the Thanksgiving table is tailor-made for the core pairing principles of complement and contrast, so why not open several wines and put them to the test? Below are my best-bet wines, and what to look for when pairing them.
The best wines to pair with the Thanksgiving feast are the ones somebody else is paying for, right? OK, jokes aside, to choose wine pairings for the classic Thanksgiving meal of turkey and trimmings, you should focus on the trimmings because simply put, any wine pairs beautifully with a roasted bird. Here are the core pairing principles at work:
Complement – Fuller-bodied reds and whites highlight pairing by complement – in this case with the body of the dish on a par with the body of the wine.
Contrast – But a lighter white or red with lively acidity works just as well as a contrasting pairing, with the acidity of the wine cutting through the roasted bird richness as deftly as your carving knife. As my friend Aline Baly from Chateau Coutet in Sauternes notes, sweet wines work well too, especially if your turkey’s been seasoned with some spice, whether just black pepper or your family’s signature dry rub.
With this in mind, here are my Top 10 Thanksgiving Wine Types, and what you’ll taste (and learn) when pairing them with your Thanksgiving feast.
American Pinot Noir – from cool climate areas like Monterey, Russian River, Santa Barbara and Oregon’s Willamette Valley, provide great acidity for contrast, with earthiness to complement stuffings, potatoes, turnips, etc. Another great pick is Calera Central Coast Pinot Noir. From Oregon I love Sokol-Blosser Dundee Hills.
French White Burgundy – The home region for Chardonnay offers benchmark barrel-fermented styles that are delicious but pricey and to me, worthy of the meal being tailored to them–think lobster or mushroom risotto. For Thanksgiving fare, the racier, no- or low-oak styles from Maconnais (Macon, Pouilly-Fuisse, Saint-Veran), Cote Chalonnaise (Rully or Montagny), or Chablis are my pick for their food versatility.
Aromatic Whites – This category–aromatic white grapes like Torrontes from Argentina, Gewurztraminer, or dry Muscat from Alsace, may surprise you but give it a try. Their juicy acidity does its contrast duty, while their floral/spicy notes make for flavor fireworks with the turkey, spicy stuffings, sweet potatoes, and more.
These specific picks are inspired by my Delta wine program, but if you can’t find them, ask your wine shop for a similar-style selection. I hope you’ll try several! Why? Because it’s fun, festive, and a great way to commemorate the day America’s founders set aside to be thankful for our country, with tastes representing the melting pot of cultures that makes us who we are. Cheers to that! For more about these pairings, watch my Facebook live post: