Thanksgiving originated as a harvest celebration. A festival that was started by the Pilgrims after they had their first bountiful harvest in their New World in 1621.
Alexander Pope so rightly captured the spirit of the first thanksgivings by saying:
“Our rural ancestors, with little blest, patient of labor when the end was rest, indulged the day that housed their annual grain, with feasts, and offerings and a thankful strain.”
The current depiction of thanksgiving still pays homage to food and gratitude for blessings. But because of the big football game during Thanksgiving, the holiday has become synonymous with beer. However, the sumptuous meal made on this day deserves a more celebratory drink like a fine wine. And there are so many wine pairings to choose from to accompany Thanksgiving dinner.
When choosing a wine pairing for Thanksgiving dinner it’s crucial to ensure that the wine goes well with the entire meal. Let’s take a look at some of the best Thanksgiving wine pairings below:
10 Best Thanksgiving wine pairings
Sparkling wines are excellent for prepping the palate for the coming feast. Light and crisp they work well with both sweet and savory dishes served on Thanksgiving. Sparkling wines are excellent before, during and after dinner because they don’t argue with anything and they remain crisp and refreshing. Consider options with hints of cherries, peach or apricot with citrus notes.
This robust red pinot noir hits all the taste buds leaving the decadent flavor of rich red in its wake. It’s a highly versatile wine that goes well with the turkey and sides like mashed potatoes but it’s also very accommodating of desserts and fruits. The earthier tones of this wine resonate with greens like collard greens and pea while its high acidity is toned down by the white meat and rich sauces like mushroom sauce. Pinot Noir is the go-to Thanksgiving wine of all time.
Related: Cooking with red wine dos and don’ts
Riesling is a favorite for many during thanksgiving especially the fruity but flavorful option with a dry sweet finish. This is moderately alcoholic, which complements the vegetables beautifully. The sweet dryness stays on the tongue with every sip and is the perfect accompaniment to the savory turkey (and other dishes) on the table. Rieslings tend to favor the fruity over the oaky taste which is what needs on the Thanksgiving table.
White wine with white meat is always a winning pairing. Chardonnay is food-friendly and has a classic taste. Unoaked chardonnay is excellent during Thanksgiving as a mineral base doesn’t compete with the flavors of the dishes. The oaked Chardonnay can be overpowering messing up the palate with its buttery, oaky taste.
Wine pairing during Thanksgiving is all about balancing the wine flavor and the food flavor. Opting for restrained chardonnays means the food flavor comes through and is complemented by a fine wine finish.
Champagne brings the celebration to Thanksgiving. It can be served on its own or used to create a variety of fun drinks to accompany the meal or dessert. Champagne punch or champagne cocktails are a great way to use champagne while prepping the meal.
A glass of champagne during the meal is not too overpowering to stifle the taste and flavors of the turkey and stuffing. Plus, it leaves a slight, pleasant tingling sensation with every sip. The great thing about champagne is that it’s an elegant drink with a soft approach. This guarantees that it’s very food-friendly.
Syrah gives red wines a good name because of its peppery flavor that sits so well within the grapes. The sweet red grapes and peppery flavor combine well together to compliment the savory and sweet flavors of all the dishes on a Thanksgiving table. In a Syrah, one will notice the unmistakable notes of red grapes and raspberries as well as a lingering hint of smoke and the rasp of black pepper. The aromatic scent of a Syrah also compliments the aroma of the food.
Another red that should surely grace a Thanksgiving table is the Zinfandel. This wine is popular with people who love a full-bodied red wine that’s much more intense than a Pinot Noir. Despite its intensity, the Zinfandel is not obnoxious, and it does a great job of cutting the spice in some of the spicier dishes. The hearty flavor is also an excellent complement to bitter or tart flavors.
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Just like Thanksgiving dishes are typically comfort foods, Gamay is a comfort drink. It’s comfortable with all the flavors at the table and this red does the perfect balancing act. It remains smooth and easy on the palate without being too sweet or dry. It has a good level of intensity but it’s no Zinfandel or Pinot Noir. Because it’s served chilled, it allows the hot food to shine through and provides a nice refreshing break to the palate with every sip. The gentle tannins make it pleasant and juicy.
Related: 10 Great food and wine pairings
The Viognier can sometimes be overlooked because it’s the quintessential white wine, unassuming and politically correct in the wine world. However, these are the same qualities that make it ideal for pairing with the Thanksgiving meal. This wine doesn’t compete with flavors from the dishes and keeps the refreshing consistency of white wine. It has a nice contrast to the rich bases of most dishes on the table. Voignier tends to utilize a soft, subtle floral base and a little citrus flavor to keep it clean and crisp.
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The Chenin Blanc is a white wine with character, because of its bold flavors and complex fruitiness. The complex characteristics make it the perfect fit to serve with turkey. It also accommodates the richness of mashed potatoes and compliments the spicy undertones of seasoning used in thanksgiving dishes. It’s rich in flavors like honeysuckle and citrus.
Whichever wine pairing you choose this Thanksgiving, be sure to give compliments to the chef!
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