Thanksgiving Wine Pairing: Main Meal (updated)
Thanksgiving is one of my favorite meals and most loved holiday. So here I am, sharing my favorite pairings with my favorite meal of the year. This is such a personal taste "thing" so I am curious if anyone else wants to share favorite Thanksgiving pairings in comments. Even sommeliers disagree on the best food and wine pairings - so there are NO wrong answers! My Memaw would serve sweet tea for the whole thing - which is the only drink I truly remember having alongside Thanksgiving as I grew up (and still do when at her home).
Our family's typical Thanksgiving meal consists of turkey, dressing, green bean casserole, macaroni and cheese, mashed potatoes, rolls, green pea salad, cranberry salad, butter beans. I am sure I'm leaving out something...we have a large family and there are an insane amount of dishes to choose from!
Since my husband and I live further away from my family we have been rotating holidays between our families - one year Thanksgiving/ one year Christmas with each. So, when we have Thanksgiving at our home, we have wine. These are my favorites for the main meal.
FIRST Thanksgiving meal at my own home
The typical Thanksgiving meal has a mix of foods that range from creamy to dry, savory to sweet. There is no huge fatty component (as with a ribeye) so we don't need big, bold tannins to balance out fat. What we do want is some acidity to pair well with the range of flavors and textures in the meal.
This is THE Thanksgiving grape - even though the French don't celebrate our Thanksgiving. Beaujolais Nouveau is released each year, the third Thursday of November and has quite the following. Wine shops, bars and restaurants take advantage of this annual release and plan events and specials around this date. For your meal, this wine will span all the foods. It is light and fruity (not sweet) with high acidity and low tannins. If you want a more complex Beaujolais, look for one of the Crus (Fleurie, Morgon, Brouilly).
Pinot Noir - from Europe (especially France) or Oregon
Soft tannins and light in body for a red, this wine also has a a good bit of acidity so it is very versatile when pairing with foods. Any earthy foods (think mushrooms) are only better with a sip of Pinot Noir following. Look for "Bourgogne" or "Burgundy" on labels from from France rather then the name "Pinot Noir" to find these.
Cabernet Franc - From France [Loire Valley] - other areas if you can find it
Another red wine with high acidity - are you following the trend yet? Cab Franc will offer more body and tannin than Pinot Noir without being overwhelming in either. This is one of my favorites!
You will see these also labeled Bourgueil, Chinon, Samur-Champigny
Grenache/Garnacha - From France/Spain
*Also, blends from France called Cotes du Rhone, Chateauneuf-du-Pape
This red is very drinkable in my opinion and sometimes more affordable than some of the other options. These wines will have medium to full body and medium to low tannin, but not so much as to overwhelm the meal.
Check for blends the incorporate some of the grapes listed above.
Chardonnay - Depends on what you like*
Apologies for the long story because this one is complex... I absolutely ADORE French Chardonnay from the Bourgogne/Burgundy region, particularly Chablis. They produce a more mineral, crisp, refreshing style of Chardonnay. Tons of people I completely respect love oaky, buttery chard from California. I have also had some wonderful California Chardonnay made in the French style. The idea is to try a few - oaked/unoaked - French oak/American Oak - somewhere completely different in the world, Australia, Italy. My thought is that you will like one of them if you try a handful - but please don't write off Chardonnay after a few tries. It is surprisingly versatile and comes in many flavors and textures.
I think of them this way:
Super Oaky - Most California / Look for American Oak
Subtle Oak - A lot of French / Look for French Oak
No Oak - Unoaked / Chablis from France
SO, try this with your Thanksgiving meal - as we expect to see butter make an appearance or 2 along with soft textures and some creamy dishes where it will pair beautifully.
Chenin Blanc - From South Africa, France
This wine can range from dry to sweet - so do a little homework if you are looking for one end of the spectrum versus the other. In France there are wonderful Chenin Blancs from the Loire Valley, many will be called Vouvray or Montlouis-sur-Loire.
This is a favorite with spicy foods as well, think Thai, chili, curry. Lots of food friendly options with this one!
Talk with your local wine shop and find out if they carry any white Chardonnay or Chenin Blanc blends.
Yes, there is such a thing! This would be an experiment because I have only tried orange wine twice. I feel like the presence of light tannin plus the acidity of a white wine might make one of these ideal for Thanksgiving.
These are made by with white grapes and the skin and seeds are left in contact after pressing to impart color, flavor and tannins. The thing is - I'm not sure of what I'm not sure of about this one. I buy it and I get what I get. I'm not "schooled" enough to know which area to choose for more/less acidity -oak - tannin. So - this is an experimental recommendation. Read more on Wine Folly if you are interested!
I hope this helps you choose - Enjoy!