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Sure, we all look forward to Thanksgiving for the usual suspects—turkey, stuffing, cranberries on everything, and the like—but often, it’s all too easy to forget about another important element of the meal: the wine pairing. If you’re having guests over, chances are they’ll come with a bottle or two in tow, but there’s nothing quite like curating your wine list to bring out the best in any one dish or combination thereof (whether you’re hosting or visiting).
We asked a handful of experts to recommend their go-to wines for turkey-centric meals, and they did not disappoint—from bright, zippy Columbia Valley riesling to an Israeli red blend, these are the top wines to stock for your Thanksgiving gathering.
Sarah Tracey, a New York-based sommelier extraordinaire, is a fan of Chateau Ste. Michelle’s Eroica Riesling as a turkey pairing. “This is a perfect Thanksgiving white wine option because it's cool, crisp, and light," she says. "I love that this bright and zippy wine can balance out all the rich dishes on the table—it keeps your palate clean and refreshed through buttery mashed potatoes and rich casseroles."
It's important to keep in mind that Thanksgiving dinner is typically pretty filing. "I always recommend staying away from bold, heavy, high-alcohol wines on such a marathon day of eating and drinking!" she explains. "The green apple, peach, and citrus notes in riesling are so versatile that it's one of the only wines I can confidently say truly pairs with everything, [which is] a must when there are so many family-style dishes on the table.”
“Légende R Bordeaux Rouge has been at every Thanksgiving dinner I have been to over the last several years—it is truly a versatile high-quality wine,” says Robert Barron, sommelier at The Cellar in Los Angeles: "[It] pairs amazingly with turkey, especially when served alongside a dried cranberry stuffing, green bean casserole, or fresh cranberry sauce. The slight vegetal notes in the wine blend seamlessly with the green beans and sauce in the casserole; pairing with the fresh cranberry sauce truly awakens the red and black fruits in the wine and also melds well with both the herbs and the dried cranberries in the stuffing.”
This Bordeaux, which is a cabernet sauvignon and merlot blend made by winemaker Diane Flamand, is not only a great representation of the region but it also won’t break the bank (especially if you go for the more recent vintages).
Barron also recommends the Légende R Bordeaux Blanc, a blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon, paired with oven-roasted turkey and oyster stuffing: “The high minerality and slight salinity dance very nicely with the salt in the oysters and the herbaceousness of the stuffing. I also find that this particular wine adds a perceived subtle sweetness from the Semillon that heightens the slight sweetness of the turkey. Finally, the bright acidity cleans the palate with each sip. It's as if you’re tasting the meal for the first time every time."
"My favorite wine to recommend during the fall—and especially around Thanksgiving—always surprises my clients, but Altered Dimension Rosé will be your new ‘go-to’ wine all year long,” says Phoenix-based sommelier Samantha Capaldi. According to Capaldi, the flavor profile of this wine is a crowd pleaser and can appeal to plenty of different types of wine drinkers (even lovers of big, bold reds).
“This is your happy medium of the wine list when curating around different palates during Thanksgiving. Not only does this crisp, Provence-style rosé taste delicious on its own, but it can also complement your veggie side dishes, your mashed potatoes, and even your smoked meats," she declares. "I don't want to call it magic, but if you need one wine on your Thanksgiving table (and all year round), this is it."
Rosé Champagne is a treat we'd recommend partaking of whenever you can, and a good go-to is Billecart-Salmon Brut Rosé, perfect on its own and with a variety of different dishes. Revered pastry chef Pierre Hermé agrees, according to the Champagne house’s website: “For me, this Champagne can be drunk at any point, breakfast lunch or dinner. At any time, it’s like a ray of sunlight that transcends the beauty of the moment.”
If you’re planning to follow your turkey dinner with an elaborate citrus-forward dessert, this wine is an excellent strategic choice to carry you through from appetizer to main to finale—Hermé loves to serve this bottle with an all-lemon dessert from his menu. You can expect light, bright, crisp notes of citrus, florality, and ripe red berries from this award-winning bubbly.
If you’ve ever dreamed of trying an Israeli wine, Covenant is the perfect place to start. California winemaker Jeff Morgan (along with late winery co-founder Leslie Rudd) opened an Israel outpost of the California wine business in 2013 after an inspiring visit to the country, and today Morgan makes and sells fantastic bottles on both sides of the world all across the color spectrum from white to rosé to red.
This 2019 Viognier is the winery’s first white wine, though it tastes as if it’s coming from someone who’s been making whites since the dawn of time—it's bright, tropical, and balanced, deriving rich texture and soft vanilla notes from neutral oak barrels without the punch-you-in-the-face-with-wood qualities that new oak tends to impart. You can easily pair this wine with any roasted or grilled turkey recipe.
If you've never tried chilled red wine, you're missing out. This one has the cool, refreshing nature of a cellar (or sub-cellar) wine but with some of the lovable elements of red wine that you don’t tend to find in whites or rosés. Some Douro wines take on their best form after 30 minutes to an hour in the fridge and pair extraordinarily with poultry thanks to crisp, subtle nuttiness and bright fruit.
Portuguese winemaking icon Casa Ferreirinha has been around since the 18th century and is responsible for some of the most delicious Douro Valley reds out there, and Papa Figos is no exception. This is a seriously good fruit-forward wine that belies its shockingly low price point. Try pairing it with a super hearty stuffed turkey as the temperature, body, and bright fruit notes of the wine will stand up well to this kind of flavor profile.
"This is truly a wine for everyone due to its amazing balance on all fronts,” says Barron. “I would serve Amancaya with fried turkey with a dried cherry fig dressing, arugula and endive salad with a balsamic dressing, clove-dusted candied yams, and cherry or pumpkin pie. The pepperiness of the arugula salad would accentuate the bold side of this wine by enhancing the black pepper cherry notes in the wine.” Amancaya is the product of a collaboration between two powerhouse wineries (the Catena family and Domaines Barons de Rothschild [Lafite]) and is made up of majority malbec and cabernet sauvignon (a Bordeaux-style blend highlighting Argentina’s prized grapes).
Barron continues, “The gentleness of the malbec would not overpower the turkey and instead accentuate the subtle sweetness of the meat with the small amount of cabernet, which would easily cut through the fat left over from the frying process. Both the minimal sweetness and spiciness of Amancaya will blend effortlessly with the yams, but yet this wine is so well balanced that the cherry and baking spice notes will even allow it to easily pair with either one of these pies."
The McBride Sisters Black Girl Magic collection, like the rest of its portfolio, is a representation of the winemakers’ story—one of two sisters coming together after having grown up on opposite sides of the world—and now, the duo is known for their combined signature style, one of “old-world elegance and new-world finesse.”
This perfectly dry, crisp rosé is almost too easy to drink, known and loved for its orange blossom and bright berries on the nose with a citrusy palate balanced by juicy stone fruit. We'd recommend this wine year-round but would suggest pairing it with a simple oven-roasted turkey glazed in brown butter for Thanksgiving. If you’re doing stuffing, opt for something sage-forward.
This 2016 cabernet sauvignon is another all-time favorite cab, thanks to its freshness, minerality, and lingering finish. We asked Winemaker Braiden Albrecht for some insight on pairing this wine with turkey.
“The abundant red fruit and savory qualities of the Mayacamas 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon pair exceptionally with a classic Thanksgiving turkey and will elevate the main course,” he tells The Spruce Eats. “The bright nose with raspberry becomes steadily more expressive in the glass, revealing brambly fruit and pomegranate aromas; fruit is balanced by flinty minerality and Mount Veeder's signature freshness and fine, earthy tannins bring depth and focus to the wine before melting into a long, mouthwatering finish.”
This vintage can be a tough one to track down, but you definitely won’t be disappointed by any of this wine’s older or younger counterparts.
Pinot noir is such a fun varietal to pair with food—it’s light-bodied, earthy, and rife with red fruits and baking spice. This is a particularly fun one from André Hueston Mack of Maison Noir Wines (and not only for its playful name). P-Oui is a joy to drink thanks to its complexity and funky berry notes, the product of grape sourcing from various vineyards within Oregon’s Willamette Valley.
We asked bartender and beverage expert Erik Delanoy to elaborate on this grape’s pairing capabilities: “In the grand scheme of red wines, pinot noir is on the lighter side, so it’s seldom going to overpower a main dish. Turkey is, of course, typically the primary protein in a Thanksgiving meal, and the baking spice often found in pinot noir is bound to pair well with the fall flavors of this kind of feast without the super grippy tannins that can easily distract from the nuances of the main attraction... or Aunt Karen’s sweet potatoes.”
P-Oui is only available in half-bottles, making it the perfect dinner party favor to include in place settings or gift bags, in case you needed further convincing.
The first thing that you'll notice about this bottle of wine is the funky label. You may have tasted still wines from the country of Georgia, but this one is a sparkling Georgian wine—and it does not disappoint. It's a bone dry wine that is light, fresh, and absolutely exquisite, offering some of the liveliest bubbles you've probably ever found in a pét-nat. It’s made from the Chinuri grape, which is native to Georgia, and basically tastes like an orangery in a bottle.
"A lightly oaked chardonnay such as Fruit & Flower during fall is always a staple for me, especially around Thanksgiving,” says Capaldi. “This Washington State wine will not only complement the richer dishes on our table (such as roasted turkey) but will be crisp enough to match with appetizers like creamy brie on crostini!"
Still not convinced? "With its fresh flavors of apple and pear followed by the perfect amount of acidity, this is my personal go-to wine with glazed sweet potatoes," Capaldi explains. "Oh, and the best part––this chardonnay comes in a can so when you're ready to bring wine over to your Friendsgivings this will be the best option, especially at any outdoor or socially-distanced gatherings this year.”
Why Trust The Spruce Eats?
Longtime wine and spirits writer Céline Bossart tastes all of the wines all of the time (it’s her job). She has a knack for pairing, and with the help of our experts, this diverse list is one you can put your trust in for this Thanksgiving and beyond.