Thanksgiving Wine Pairings

By Ryan Snyder on November 16, 2006

Category: Winegeeks Opinions

Thanksgiving is just a week away, and while Mom may have the turkey and the rest of the menu covered, what about the important part of the meal? You know, the wine! I recently asked the Winegeeks writers what they think are the best wines to serve with Mr. Gobbles and the rest of the Thanksgiving meal. While they provide a smorgasboard of responses, like most holiday dinners, I'm sure you'll notice a number of similarities in their wine pairing choices!

What are the best wines to serve with Thanksgiving dinner?

E. S. Brown

Is it that time of year again already? Another day of friends, football, feasting and rockin’ out with the fam? Or maybe falling asleep on the couch in a tryptophan-induced haze? So what to drink with Tom Turkey? Lot’s of people say Beaujolais is OK, but I prefer something with more body and spice- both red and white.

The thought of yams, roast turkey, ham (my grandfather didn’t dig on turkey, so we always had ham as well) and lots of great stuffing turns my wine thoughts toward spicy Alsatian goodies. Pinot Gris for me, all day long on the 23rd. The mix of body, weight, spice and rich fruits stand up well I think to the abundance of riches on the table. I also enjoy throwing down a pleasant Spätlese Riesling. Riesling is one of the most versatile grapes around, and can pair with such a wide range of foods that magic is sure to be had.

When it comes to red I like Rhône-styled wines made from primarily Grenache or Syrah. The body, fruit, earthiness and richness are a real treat when served next to brisket or a Viking-sized turkey leg. Most French versions also sport higher levels of acidity than their new world counterparts, and as we all know acidity is the key when pairing wine with food.

And let’s not forget the delicious bubbly to start off the day. It is a celebration, after all. We celebrate our friends and families, and we give thanks for the riches we have. What better way to celebrate than with a glass of Champagne or sparkling wine?

Matthew Citriglia

Thanksgiving is a special occasion so people spend a lot of time looking for that one unique wine to compliment the meal. But Thanksgiving is a feast of diverse food so picking the ideal wine to impress your guests is difficult. I understand it is a special occasion but stop being so uptight about having that perfect wine with your turkey and sides – It’s a freaking celebration dude! So celebrate and have fun! Greet everyone with large tumbler full of chilled Nouveau or if it is really cold out serve a mug full of warm spiced nouveau. Once the glow of life is restored and people have had chance to relax, pull out some type of bubbly to enjoy with the pre meal appetizers. If you have budgetary constraints, get some sparkling Prosecco or Spanish Cava, but personally I like to enjoy any NV Champagne heavy on the Pinot Meunier.

When dinner is ready don’t limit the senses to one type or style of wine. A thanksgiving feast is a potpourris of flavor and texture, so slap down 3 glasses and expand the flavor potential exponentially by pouring every one a little red, white and rose wine to enjoy. The only guidelines I will provide: stick with high acid grape varietals that are less than 13.9% alcohol; have low tannin and little or no oak; Oh, and be creative! Dessert usually brings a variety of very sweet pies made from pumpkin, sweet potato, pecan, or cranberry. These pies scream for high acid, densely sweet botrisized wines, my vote, ice wine made from Vidal Blanc. Finally, a feast of such magnitude should be finished with a proper digestive. Fernet Branca is a very dry, incredibly bitter and pungent drink. Depending on your stamina, enjoy 1/2 to 2-1/2 oz. of this elixir straight up or with a few ice cubes. The first sip will burn and anestitize the palate, but this slowly turns into a warm glow and gives way to exotic dreams.

Dana Pickell

Thanksgiving feasting not only makes me think of the house smelling of roasting turkey, nutmeg, and stewed cranberries, it also makes me think of the post-feasting food coma and the belly full of too much fun. While I think there are red wines out there that pair perfectly with this particular meal, white wine, and Gewürztraminer more specifically, seems like a better palate cleanser and a lighter combination with the food.

And where better to look for spicy, round Gewürz than Alsace. While the wine maintains its posture throughout the dinner, it rushes the palate with bright minerality to keep the yams tasting like yams and the green beans tasting like green beans. And while it doesn't weigh me down, it reminds me of terroir, of the time and place that this wine came from. That's something to be thankful for.

Ryan Snyder

I'm embarrassed to say this, but I don't drink wine on Thanksgiving. Now wait, wait, wait – hear me out. This isn't by choice. You see, both my mother's and father's sides of the families come from a prohibitionist background and there's nothing I can do to change that fact. Surprisingly, they accept that I partake in fermented beverages, and even accept the fact that I toss back enough juice to write for a wine website! Anyway, enough about my family. What about the wine?

Hypothetically speaking, if I were to guzzle down a few glasses this Thursday, I'd start with a glass of bitter Campari with an orange to get the appetite going. I'd follow this with bubbles, and I think a bottle of non-vintage Champagne should do the trick. I mean, who's not grateful for Champagne? With the appetite thoroughly worked up, I'd pour myself a glass of Alsatian Pinot Gris and yell to that turkey, "Bring it!" Finally, at the end of every Turkey Day meal, I waddle over to the dessert table and pile 3 slices of Mom’s apple pie onto my plate, with which I'd love to pair a glass of Moscato d'Asti.

But this is all a moot point, as I'm only preparing myself for another wretched letdown. As for gratitudes, the only thing I'm thankful for is that you, the reader, will enjoy wine with your Thanksgiving dinner this Thursday. Please, I'm begging, please have one more glass of wine for me.