It’s that time of year when we ask ourselves “What wine should I serve with Thanksgiving dinner?”
The answer is so simple, you may not believe it.
When considering wines for a meal, the biggest question is “what type of flavors am I trying to pair with?” Are these flavors savory? Sweet? Salty? Umami? Are they intense or subtle? Is the dish fatty or lean? When you think about the foods on your Thanksgiving table, the answer seems to be YES to all the above. So where does that leave you when thinking about wine?
Answer: Any well-made wine will work with Thanksgiving dinner, so drink what you love.
Let’s look at a few grape varieties used in wines that pair well with the diverse flavors and textures of the Thanksgiving table.
Wine styles made from this well-known grape can range from bone dry to dessert sweet. Regardless of the style, what Riesling brings to the table is bright acidity and developed aromatics of citrus, pineapple and apricot mingled with lanolin and white flowers. On the palate, expect flavors of apricot, peach or apple. If in search of a German wine made from Riesling, but one that’s not too sweet, look for the words trocken (bone dry) or Spätlese (just a slight bit of sweetness) on the label.
Our Pick: J J Prum Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Spätlese 2021, $59
Refreshing, dry and medium-bodied, sauvignon blanc’s bold acidity often shows pleasant minerality. Sauvignon blanc is one of the main white varieties of Bordeaux, and it’s become popular around the globe. Quality producers abound in various regions of France and New Zealand, which produces highly popular brands, and all the way to South America and back to the United States. Styles vary by region from grassy and floral to lush, tropical fruit flavors. For your Thanksgiving table, check out some delicious sauvignon blancs from California, where it’s sometimes called fumé blanc.
Our Pick: Grgich Hills Sauvignon Blanc Fumé Blanc 2020, $29.99
You might think of grenache as the blending grape from the Rhône Valley or as garnacha in Southeast Spain. But the grape we’re talking about is its white variety. Grenache blanc goes into making wines that are full-bodied and a touch higher in alcohol. Often aged in wood, grenache blanc can present in a style like rich chardonnay, often showing flavors of green apple, white fleshy peach, Asian pear and honeysuckle.
Our Pick: Ridge Grenache Blanc 2022, $34.99
One of the world’s greatest winemaking grapes, pinot noir is responsible for the world’s most in-demand wines, with prices to match. While you should beware of cheap pinot noir (under $20), there are plenty of very good ones available in the $50-$100 range. Plus, it’s a holiday, so splurge a little. For a Thanksgiving meal we recommend pinot noir from a cooler growing region like the Sonoma Coast. These wines are subtle and very pretty, with high acidity backed up by flavors of bing cherry, underripe strawberry and rose.
Our Pick: Williams Selyem Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast 2021, $110
While the origins of this variety are in Croatia, zinfandel is often thought of as an American grape, so it’s appropriate for this American holiday. Styles of zinfandel can range from light to full-bodied. Often loaded with black cherry flavors, a well-made zinfandel can also show delicious blood orange-like notes with mouthwatering acidity and tannins that range from bold to smooth. If you and your guests prefer a bigger wine, you’ll love a well-made zinfandel for your holiday meal.
Our Pick: Bedrock Old Vine Zinfandel 2021, $21.99
Another grape from the Rhône Valley, syrah is sometimes called shiraz (when made in Australia). Often ruby to purple in color, it presents a nose of ripe blackberries, cherries, dried herbs, lavender and even herbes de Provence. Styles range from medium to full-bodied. Perhaps the best growing region for syrah in the United States is Red Mountain Washington. With vines first planted in 1975, Red Mountain syrahs are wines to watch even beyond your Thanksgiving table.
Our Pick: Betz Syrah La Cote Rousse Red Mountain Washington 2019, $59.99
The range of wines presented here support the proposition that for Thanksgiving, pick wines that you like to drink. And the chances are excellent that they’ll pair up with your turkey and mashed potatoes!