The turkey will always be the cornerstone of a successful Thanksgiving. While every other dish simply orbits around that well-roasted bird, your wine selection is vital to tying the whole celebration together.
Like any art, pairing rules are meant to be broken. However, if you’re looking for some tried and true wines that’ll be the perfect spirited yin to that poultry yang, this guide is for you. From aperitif to digestif, let’s look at what you need to eat, drink, and be merry with confidence.
Somewhere along the way, Vermouth lost its position as a drink unto itself. Today, it’s the unsung ingredient in Martinis and Manhattans. Because of its unique herbal flavor and scent, few know that Vermouth is technically a wine that vintners and distillers infuse with botanicals (aromatized) and fortify with unaged brandy.
Be it the juniper and saffron or chamomile and coriander, the light body and bite of dry Vermouth makes it a steller aperitif. If you’re looking to avoid a food coma, pick up a bottle of sweet Vermouth as your digestif.
Continuing with aperitif options, Riesling can be an excellent option. With it’s crisp, fruity, and expressive notes, it’ll both cleanse your guests’ palates and stoke their appetites.
Although Riesling’s natural acidity allows it to age exceptionally well, the complex petrol notes of a mature Riesling aren’t for everyone. For this reason, aim for a party-pleasing, semi-sweet bottle with crisp flavors.
For the proper aroma and flavor, chill your Riesling in the refrigerator for about a half-hour before serving. As the wine’s temperature increases, its profile will become more expressive.
If your family and friends are more comfortable staying on the beaten path, keep it simple with a good chardonnay. It’s not only a perfect precursor to the Thanksgiving turkey, it also works wonders during dinner. In fact, the subtle, sweet, and—at times—smokey fruitiness of Chardonnay even goes well with a slice of pumpkin pie.
If you’re smoking or deep frying your turkey, a bright Chardonnay won’t stand up to the heavier flavors and seasoning. In this case, find a creamier, fruitier, oak-aged Chard that’s up to the task of pairing with rich flavors.
4. Sauvignon Blanc
For many people, Sauvignon Blanc, with all of its freshness and brightness, is a summer wine. But all those fruity, simple notes can be put to great use when it comes to Turkey Day.
The versatility of Sauvignon blanc is seemingly endless. It aligns with the clean, earthy flavors of white meat, pairs well with heavy, creamy soups, and stands up to some of the more aggressive roasted vegetables such as asparagus, garlic, and tomatoes.
5. Sparkling Wine: Champagne Blanc & Sparkling Rose
Pull out the flavors of Thanksgiving with a bit of bubbly. It makes meat meatier, creams creamier, and fruit fruitier. It’s crisp profile ties in brilliantly with the earthiness of poultry. Pop a bottle of Champagne Blanc as you serve up dessert.
Contrary to popular belief, sparkling Rose isn’t always sweet. If you’re aiming for a crowd-pleaser, grab a bottle of sparkling rose that’s mid to low range on the sweetness scale. Its hints of citrus and berries will provide a zippy tartness that complements turkey and other meats.
Sparkling wine is like the Pringles of wine; “Once you pop, the fun don’t stop.” In other words, if you’re going to have sparkling wine at Thanksgiving, load up because it often becomes a crowd favorite. There is a significant variety of sparkling wines, so let’s dive into the specifics.
6. Pinot Noir
Don’t worry red wine lovers; there’s something in the wine guide for you too. We recommend having a bottle of Pinot Noir at the table. Find one with a medium body, and it’ll fit in well with everything from the turkey to the side dishes.
With balanced aromas and fruity flavors, Pinot Noir makes turkey taste more succulent and is one of the few wines that can be sipped after a bite of cranberry sauce and not make you feel like your face will stay in a permanent pucker. On that note, the gentle tannins also make a Pinot Noir a good pairing with vegetable side dishes.
7. Cabernet Sauvignon
Prefer bigger reds? Go with a Cabernet Sauvignon with a smooth, round body. However, turkey is particularly lean, and Cab Sauvs are uniquely positioned to pair with fattier red meats. Because of this, it’s important to avoid overly tannic varieties. Otherwise, all of the flavors that on your plate will get overpowered by what’s in your glass.
If your family is known to get creative with the Thanksgiving protein (e.g., ham, meatloaf, prime rib, etc.), this wine is perfect for your festivities. Flavorwise, find a Cab Sauv with low to mild oakiness, peppery undertones, and a toasted finish for an excellent complement to just about everything on the table.
Become Your Family’s Sommelier
With the right wine, you can move the flavor meter from bland to brilliant. Be the sommelier of your family by having a few of these wines on your dinner table.