Thanksgiving Wine Pairing Guide

Thanksgiving wine pairing

Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and we’ve put together this helpful guide to assist you with choosing wines to pair with your holiday feast. Whether you’re cooking a traditional turkey or putting together something a little more unconventional, we’re here to help you choose your Thanksgiving wine pairing. This guide will help you elevate your meal from traditional to transcendental.

What’s on the menu?

Appetizers

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Cheese plates: Pair with dry, mineral-driven white wines such as Chenin Blanc, Cava, or Champagne.

Seafood Canapés: White wines are a no-brainer for seafood snacks. Look for Sancerre, sparkling Vouvray, or rich and minerally Catalan whites.

Aperitifs: If you want to skip the pre-feast delicacies and go straight for an aperitif, try a vermouth cocktail, pétillant naturel from the Loire Valley, or any joyful sparkling wine to get the conversation flowing. Cocktails are also a great option, and one of my favorites for a pre-dinner libation is the French 75.

First Courses

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Soups: Many rich and creamy soups will pair beautifully with an equally rich and creamy white wine. Try a Cour-Cheverny, California Chardonnay, or aromatic Viognier. If the soup has some sweetness (like butternut squash bisque), try to find a wine with a little sweetness to match.

Salads: Pair your wines according to the dressing on your salad. If you’re doing a bright and acidic vinaigrette, stick with wines with lots of acidity like Melon de Bourgogne, crisp and dry Chenin Blanc, Chablis, or Gruner Veltliner. If you’re using a balsamic vinaigrette, pair it with a Provencal Rosé instead of a white wine. If you’re doing a creamy dressing, choose fuller-bodied whites with creamy texture such as white Burgundy, California Chardonnay, or Viognier.

Main Courses

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Turkey (or any other poultry): Nothing says Thanksgiving like your traditional turkey. Whether it’s thoughtfully brined and roasted, deep fried in your back yard, or smoked in a fancy smoker, the right wine will bring it class and elegance. You can go for a white wine, a rosé, or a lighter-bodied red – any of them will knock it out of the park. Consider fuller-bodied whites such as white Burgundy, California Chardonnay, Rhone whites (Marsanne, Roussanne, Viognier), or even a light and fresh Provencal Rosé. For reds, excellent choices would be Beaujolais (gamay), medium-bodied Zinfandel (look for examples from the Russian River Valley), light red Burgundy, Pinot Meunier, fresh and juicy Carignan blends, or even Cheverny rouge (Pinot Noir/Gamay blend).

Ham: Another old standby for Thanksgiving Day is a honey-baked ham. My go-to in this case would be an off-dry rosé, fruity Pinot Noir, cru Beaujolais, Gewurtztraminer, or hard apple cider.

Lamb: Although a bit unconventional, it’s not unheard of for people to prepare lamb for Thanksgiving. My go-to for fall lamb would be wines to compliment the gaminess such as Counoise, new world Pinot Noir, Gamay, red Bordeaux, Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Rioja, or Malbec. Choose medium-bodied wines with an herbal component if you’re doing herb-roasted lamb served rare, and fuller-bodied wines if you’re braising shanks or shoulder.

Beef: If you’re anything like me, you might be preparing something untraditional such as beef. Maybe you’re roasting prime rib, or braising meltingly-tender beef cheeks. In this case, excellent pairings would include Cabernet Sauvignon, red Bordeaux, rich Italian Teroldego, or smoky Austrian Blaufrankisch.

Vegetarian dishes: Most of us have a beloved close friend who prefers their protein from vegetable sources. For mushroom-based dishes, look for earthy wines such as red Burgundy and other French Pinot Noir-based blends. For tomato-based dishes, look for spicy Italian reds or tomato-y Cabernet Franc. For something creamy like a veggie pot pie, equally rich and creamy whites like white Burgundy, Viognier, or Grenache Blanc. Orange wines are a great option for roasted vegetable dishes.

Dessert Course

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Pairing wine with dessert can be difficult to wrap one’s head around. Our very own Colleen McGarry wrote this helpful article to assist you with pairing wine with dessert. In a nutshell, you want to pair wines that have an equal amount of sweetness, or that are sweeter than your dessert. Try Sauternes with your apple pie or blue cheese, eau de vie (fruit brandy) with dishes made from the same fruit, or Gewurtztraminer with your spicy pumpkin pie. Chocolate-based desserts will be complimented best by ruby or tawny ports.

Need help choosing which wines to pair with your Thanksgiving feast? Feel free to reach out to us by emailing info@winelandia.com!