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What Wine Should I Serve for Thanksgiving?

friends toasting wine over a holiday meal
Zivica Kerkez/Shutterstock

Planning the menu for Thanksgiving is arguably easier than selecting a wine to serve with it. When options abound, narrowing things down is the hardest part. And that’s why we’ve done it for you. Whether you’re an amateur sommelier looking for a gourmet selection or an average joe seeking out a simple bottle, we can help!

What To Look For – In General

Choosing wine for the holiday table can feel overwhelming, but there are some guidelines you can follow to ensure success. The traditional American Thanksgiving fare is rich in fat and low in acid. To complement that, most prefer a wine that’s fruit-forward and low in tannins.

That means big, bold, wines like Cabernet Sauvignons or buttery, oak-aged Chardonnays, are better left to other occasions. While lighter, fruitier options, like Pinot Noir or Riesling, are better options.

But even within those delineations, there’s a lot to choose from. So, we’ve put together a few options, meant to cover the wide range of family Thanksgivings. Maybe you’re seeking a high-end vintage to impress your friends, or perhaps you want to surprise your guests with something new but not necessarily expensive. Regardless, we’ve got a few suggestions for you.

For the True Gourmet

Pinot Noir is sometimes described as the queen of wines. It’s typically fruit-forward, and lower in tannins, but it can still hold it’s own next to your holiday fare. For a white option, we recommend a riesling. The sweet taste, reminiscent of stone-fruits and citrus, is perfect alongside turkey.

Unlike some other varietals, paying substantially more for a good Riesling or a Pinot Noir isn’t a waste. Pinot Noir is hard to grow, and many lower-end bottles are actually blends. A good bottle can easily be in the $50 range and above.

Excellent rieslings also tend to be pricey too. And many have a misconceived notion that they’re overly sweet. In reality, rieslings can be quite dry. The one we recommend here is a Kabinett, which means it’s on the far side of the dry spectrum. For a slightly sweeter take, look for one marked with the designation “Spotlase” instead.

Red Suggestion: Anaba Wines- 2015 Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast, WestLands ($56)

White Suggestion: 2017 Joh. Jos. Prom Whelener Sonnenuhr Riesling ($48).

To Satisfy the Masses

An easy-drinking, table wine is usually the best bet for a family gathering. To complement the traditional Thanksgiving fare, try a Barbara or a Sauvignon Blanc.

Both are low in tannins and considered complementary to most food. Plus, there are many decently priced bottles from recognizable brands. And, when guests can pronounce the name on the bottle, they tend to feel more comfortable with drinking it.

Red Suggestion: Terra D’Oro 2017 Barbara  ($18)

White Suggestion: Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc 2018 ($18)

For the Adventure Seekers

If your friends and family are apt to appreciate something a little different, we suggest giving one of these unique choices a try. Beaujolais Nouveau is a somewhat controversial table wine. Some love it, and others consider it’s growing popularity to be more about its story than its flavor.

The grapes are harvested each year in Beaujolais, France, around the beginning of November, although often in late October. Per tradition, the grapes are only fermented for three weeks and then are pressed and released for sale. Early on, only the wine growers drank from these bottles, as a celebratory end to the grape harvest. Now, you can find this wine throughout the world, but only in late November, making it a somewhat exclusive experience.

Gewurztraminer doesn’t have as exciting of a story, but it’s still somewhat unique. Like rieslings, it can range from dry to sweet, and typically has a lot of floral undertones. It’s delicious alongside Thanksgiving fare. And, trying to pronounce its name at the table is its own sort of family ice-breaker.

Red Recommendation: Doboeuf Beaujolais Nouveau 2019 ($13)

White Recommendation: Alexander Valley Estate Gewurztraminer 2018 ($15)

Picking out wine to serve with a feast doesn’t have to be a stressful choice. If none of what we recommended suits your fancy, head into a local wine shop. Their buyers are always knowledgeable, and now that you know to ask for something low in tannins and fruit-forward, they can easily direct you to the ideal bottle at your chosen price point.

And if you don’t love what you pour, just remember this. What’s on the table matters far less than the people around it!

Lauren Sakiyama Lauren Sakiyama
Lauren Sakiyama is a freelance writer with over a decade of experience in the hospitality industry. She has managed restaurants, country clubs, and large-scale event operations, but her passion has always been about the food. Read Full Bio »
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