Thanksgiving Wine Pairing Ideas

With Thanksgiving only a couple days away, I have been getting a lot of questions about what wines to pair with the Thanksgiving dinner. I've got to say that this is one of the most difficult meals to pair, as everyone does something different and there are so many things going on. I would venture to guess that most people have the traditional Turkey, but beyond that, it is a virtual cornucopia of different side dishes, and desserts. So how do you pair with them all?

The approach I take is to look at the whole meal. What are your predominant flavors, and weight of the meal. Are you going heavy on the spice, sweet, or vegetables? Here are my thoughts....You can never go wrong with a sparkling wine. I like the acidity and refreshing sparkle to cleanse the palate. I find that a Blanc de Noir (white of reds) has a little more flavor profile.

If you are a white wine drinker, I like Viognier with Thanksgiving dinner. It has some nice acidity to it, and adds some floral aromas that seem to pair well with many of the side dishes that accompany the typical dinner. If you are not familiar with Viognier...this is a classic grape from the Rhone region of France, but you can find many wineries in California that are producing wonderful versions. If you are a bit more daring, try an Italian Falanghina, or a Spanish Albarino, or even a dry Riesling from Alsace (the only dry Rieslings that I have found in California are Clairborne and Churchill, out of the Edna Valley - very nice, but a bit hard to find).
For the Red Wine drinkers. Stay away from the high tannin, heavy wines, and go a bit lighter and fruitier. I like a nice Pinot Noir (particularly from Oregon, which I find have a bit more earthy character, which works well with food), or a fruity/spicy Zinfandel. Even the odd Beaujolais Nouveau works with Thanksgiving dinner, but it is a taste you will need to get used to.

If you can't decide between red or white (you should probably have both anyway), why not a nice rose? I find that when I mention rose, most people immediately think of White Zinfandel. There really are some very nice roses on the market. If you can find Tavel or Bandol (from France) give them a try. They are are little hard to find this time of year, but are worth the search. I have also found some nice roses coming out of the California central coast (try Dragonette Cellars).

Lastly...Dessert. Always remember to have a dessert wine that is sweeter than the dessert you are serving. Tawny Port, Madiera, PX Sherry...all make nice additions. Try the PX with apple pie...YUM!

Hopefully this will give you a few ideas. Pairing sometimes gets too darn have fun, and experiment. Please share your pairing experiments here, and we can all add some ideas to our list!

Have a Happy Thanksgiving!

Jim Newcomb
Certified Sommelier/President Arrowhead Wine Enthusiasts


  1. Hi, if you really like Falanghina, you should try our for your Thanksgiving. We hope you will enjoy it and, please, let us know what you think about them.
    Come and visit us on our Facebook Fan Page "I Vini dei Feudi di San Gregorio"! Greetings Feudi di San Gregorio Team

  2. Love your Falanghina...have served it many times at home, and at my wine club.