A Simple Emergency Guide to Thanksgiving Wines

What to look for when shopping for T-Day wine


Thanksgiving for all intents and purposes has arrived. Sure there's some last minute shopping you might have to do but the guests are invited, the menu is planned, the table setting prepared and the wine purchased. Right?

Well if not you have tons of suggestions ranging from the more traditional Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, which continue to be quite appropriate even when faced with the au courant notion that the wine you choose doesn't make a difference, just drink what you like. Which, as felicitous as that sounds, and as easy as that might make my job, is a silly stance for someone whose job it is to pair wines with food. Just tell us you don't want to write yet another Thanksgiving pairing article and be done with it. You might make people feel good about their choices but you're not really helping them make better choices when you adopt this stance.

That's what i want to do; help you make better choices. It's a little late in the game for specific wine recommendations but here's an easy guide to what works and why with your upcoming Thanksgiving feast! Now you can go to the store and buy what you like!

Let's start with the obvious choice. Chardonnay is incredibly popular for a reason. People love it and it can work with a wide variety of recipes. Often made in a rich style, today is not the day for so-called naked versions, buttery, toasty and often just perceptibly sweet Chardonnay is a fine match for the flavors of a traditional Thanksgiving meal. With no perceptible tannins it's also a fine solution for spicier versions. Your typical Chardonnay is a wonderful match for the roasted, buttery flavors of a well cooked turkey.

A Baker's Dozen: $30 Chardonnay

Pinot Gris

Pinot gris retains the richness of Chardonnay though without the oak influence. When produced in Alsace, and occasionally elsewhere, the grape imparts it's own spicy character to the finished wine which is rich with apple fruit. It work just as well with your Thanksgiving meal yet passes muster with your oak-o-phobe friends. Pinot Gris is also, for lack of a better word, autumnal. It's got a flavor profile filled with spice, orchard fruit, and dried herb elements that make it a natural fit this time of year.

Why Alsace Pinot Gris is it’s own thing


Riesling is a tricky beast, primarily because it is produced in versions that range from bone dry to syrupy sweet. If you find one that is just a touch sweet, Kabinett of Halb-trocken from Germany or under medium dry from the new world you will probably have a zesty, fruity wine. pretty much perfect for your upcoming meal. Riesling has higher acids than Chardonnay or Pinot Gris, which means it can cut through more richness and fat. Keep that in mind if you've just squished a pound of butter under the skin of your bird and are getting ready to pack it's bottom with fistfuls of sausage.


Pinot Noir

Recommending Pinot Noir is like recommending a car to someone, just a generic car. Pinot is such a broad category of wines that one really has to distinguish between the fruity , lean style of Central Otago, versus the fruity rich style of the Russian River valley, or the lean savory style coming from Oregon. As you might be able to tell from that simple statement not every wine is appropriate for Thanksgiving. What makes Pinot the easy recommendation though is that it is almost always relatively higher in acid and low in tannin when compared to other red wines, and it retains a certain sense of delicacy. All of that makes Pinot easy to drink and easy to pair with food, though it can be overwhelmed when hints get particularly rich or spicy.



As you might have noticed, recently I've been going on about Grenache. Now to be clear Grenache is not my favorite grape or wine but what leaves me wanting more is exactly what so many people seem to love about wines. Grenache is big yet not heavy, fruity to the core and packed with almost candied strawberry and raspberry fruit flavors. Like Pinot it's a lower tannin grape, though it can also be low in acidity at times. That makes it a bit tougher to pair with foods but when your hunk that Cotes du Rhone are Grenache based wines you'll realize it's not that difficult after all. The only knock on Grenache is that it can sometimes be high in alcohol, which makes pairing them with spicier foods an occasional challenge.  I think that when most people try Grenache they love it and it's sweet, fruity character is an excellent match for the sweet, fruity flavors of many Thanksgiving day tables.



Zinfandel, being our all American grape is a classic Turkey Day recommendation. I happen to like the pairing but suggest that you look for a lighter, simpler version since the extreme, potty and dried fruit stele will simple overwhelm your meal. Something middle of the rood tends to be as fruity as Grenache, but isn a darker vein with blackberry fruit. Acidity is usually higher than with Grenache, though not as high as Pinot Noir, and it's the most tannic of the three red varieties discussed here. It's a really good choice for rich, intense meals and loves things like bacon or ham accented stuffings and vegetables.



And finally there is Lambrusco, that sparkling red wine from Italy. If you are looking for the best food and wine pairing for Thanksgiving, this is probably it. Sometimes subtly sweet, even more if that's your thing, bright, earthy, and bubbly, Lambrusco can take on all meals perfectly. The only problem is that you'll be showing up with fizzy red wine for dinner and that freaks people out. But consider this. Lambrusco is low in tannins, can have that dash of sugar, has plenty of acid and bubbles. It's perfect for handling spicy, salty, greasy foods with aplomb

Ultimately Thanksgiving tends to be more about tradition than anything else and you buy what you've bought in the past. I'm all for tradition, but if you could find a better version of what you've bought in the past that would make an already great feast just that much better. Here's to incremental improvement.

Happy Thanksgiving folks!

Mentioned in this article


  • While all the suggestions above make sense, even Lambrusco (bubble reds are actually pretty darn fun), I love Gewurtztraminer with turkey. Its spicy, fruity notes and brisk acidity can be perfect for the fatty, savory elements in Thanksgiving dinner. It even complements the ubiquitous cranberry dishes. But we often serve several different wines to serve different palates. What's not to like?!!

    Nov 26, 2013 at 8:07 PM

  • Snooth User: marylew
    544793 110

    How do we teach Gregory the difference between the possessive pronoun its (requires no apostrophe) and the contraction it's (meaning it is and does require an apostrophe!) He is so learned about everything! Just an observation!
    mL finster AKA the apostrophe police!

    Nov 26, 2013 at 9:30 PM

  • Snooth User: AldenBHJr
    1299944 37

    I like the site and the column, but you need a superior editor like me. There are too many errors all over the site, for anyone that considers himself educated, to take it very seriously. Even extremely expert, particular wine journalism (e.g., the lesser chateaus of St. Julien) is made ineffectual when the sentences make no sense and simple words are misspelled.
    Nonetheless, I concur with most of the recommendations: carefully chosen pinot noirs, pinot gris, [dryish] reislings, gewurtztraminers, and, surprisingly, lambruscos will please almost any member of anyone's extended families and their friends.

    Nov 26, 2013 at 10:21 PM

  • Snooth User: gerrad
    79282 57

    you do realise "superior editor" Alden BH Jr. that this is pretty much a 'blog that has gotten out of hand' as opposed to an 'education based wine interactive platform' (can't it be both? i hear you say..its free, what you want for nothing?!..) so maybe the grammar police can give GDP a pass? i do agree that a little more diligence might be needed on typo errors- there are 5 or 10 in the article above alone. if this was 'jancis robinsons purple pages' that would be an issue, here, not so much. keep the good work and the thoughtful discussions coming.

    Nov 27, 2013 at 5:04 AM

  • Snooth User: DanH1
    Hand of Snooth
    1323919 2

    The problem with Gewurztraminer is no one can pronounce the word. Try Vouvray this year! Nice fruitiness with enough acid to stand up against the buttery fat bird. Try B&G Vouvray. I will.

    Nov 27, 2013 at 7:54 AM

  • I drink Gewurtztraminer because I can pronounce it. I'm not sure about Vouvray. But I do like Chenin Blanc and will look for your recommendation.

    Nov 27, 2013 at 10:22 AM

  • Just by chance I tried a Roederer Estate Brut Rose (NV) with a turkey dinner and it was excellent! I serve this in an ice bucket with a sparkling wine cap to keep the bubbles fresh during the dinner while we also enjoy other wines as well.

    Editing note: My sainted mother would be turning over in her grave about the editing issues, yet I've always favored meaning over manners in things written, and I get it, Gregory. Thanks for all the information you provide and thoughts you provoke! Happy Thanksgiving!

    Nov 27, 2013 at 2:37 PM

  • Snooth User: einos
    864632 1

    While these suggestions are generally good (although Zinfandel is likely to be too jammy and Lambrusco???), and the Alsatian pinot gris is an outstanding pairing, the one wine that is not mentioned and is a great alternative to pinot noir is beaujolais. Beaujolais is a great match w/turkey as well as ham and pork, and it just seems to shout "holiday!"

    Nov 27, 2013 at 10:01 PM

  • Snooth User: frenchie1
    393608 510

    I sure wish I could share your comments using email!! This frustrates me quite often! Any way you can make this possible?

    Nov 28, 2013 at 2:40 AM

  • I went with a nice Zinfandel; Rosenblum Paso Robles.

    Nov 29, 2013 at 6:19 PM

  • Snooth User: lynnjp
    Hand of Snooth
    1385547 470

    I am having 12+ for Thanksgiving dinner this Saturday..(we are a blended family, therefore we have our own day:), seriously, it is just easier this way, it un-complicates things so much ), I have chosen a Pinot, a Riesling, a Lambrusco, and of course a Beaujolais... I think that I should have something on my wine menu that will hit everyone's palate.

    Nov 29, 2013 at 7:21 PM

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    Dec 03, 2013 at 12:35 AM

  • I couldn't agree more with Gregory, Lambrusco has got to be one of the best wines for your traditional Thanksgiving feast. Also some of the less expensive sparkling wines can do the trick quite well. But... I prefer champagne, a nice Moet or Mumm's, brut or extra dry.

    Dec 03, 2013 at 1:00 AM

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