Grateful for Grapes at Thanksgiving 1

Traditional and Alternative Wine Pairings


Thanksgiving is a time to give thanks, and what better way to thank your host or show gratitude for friends and family than finding the perfect wine to pair with a Thanksgiving feast?

Whether celebrating the holiday with a traditional family dinner or joining friends for an informal “Friendsgiving,” choosing the perfect wine makes any meal more memorable. These traditional and extraordinary wine-pairing suggestions promise to please the palate while keeping the good times flowing.

When pairing wine with appetizers, start with something light, like Sparkling Wine or Rosé. Serving both wines with hors d’oevres, such as sausage-stuffed mushrooms, avocado-bacon deviled eggs and savory pumpkin hummus allows guests to create their own perfect pairing.

Note to football fans: If enjoying a beer while watching the Cowboys-Panthers football game, avoid hoppy IPAs if you plan to drink wine with dinner. There’s nothing worse than the residual flavor of Cascade hops with a Pinot Noir.

For dinner, assuming a traditional menu of turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, sweet potatoes, dressing, cranberries, veggies, condiments and dinner rolls, wine pairings are simply a matter of taste.

Chardonnay, a rich white wine, and Pinot Noir, a light red wine, are traditional favorites. A balanced Pinot Noir that has a good amount of acid and low tannins pairs well with turkey and dressing. An oaked Chardonnay, while a very good complement to turkey, doesn’t always pair as well with the rich and savory flavors of side dishes.

For those preferring lighter white wines, try a turkey-friendly Sauvignon Blanc or a Grenache Blanc. The green and herbaceous flavors in Sauvignon Blanc go well with recipes featuring parsley, rosemary, basil, cilantro or mint. In addition to accompanying delicate fish, chicken or lamb dishes, Sauvignon Blanc makes a great match for turkey and mashed potatoes.

Straw-colored Grenache Blanc, with its relatively high alcohol content, crisp acids and fruit flavors of tangerine, Mandarin orange, green apple and peach, pairs well with roast turkey, gravy, sweet potato and cranberry sauce. It also tastes great with herb-rubbed roast chicken and pork chops.

Red wine alternatives include both light and bold red wines. The light red Grenache (or Grenache Noir), a cousin to the lighter Grenache Blanc varietal, is viewed as an outstanding match for roast turkey…but not everyone agrees. Sip some Grenache in advance to determine your preference.

Bolder red wines like GSM and Syrah pair nicely with big, full flavors and red meat. GSM—the blend of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre—is medium- to full-bodied and fruity.

If you’re heading outside to barbecue the Thanksgiving turkey, try a full-bodied Syrah. The dark fruit flavors—ranging from blackberry, blueberry and boysenberry—to savory black olive, and its spicy, peppery finish taste great with roasted, grilled or smoked dishes.

Friendsgiving meals filled with fun and often-eclectic menus blend well with versatile wines like dry white Gewürztraminer, light red Sangiovese or more fruit forward Zinfandel. These delicious wines are sure to delight guests and enhance any meal.

Gary Coon covers wine and food events on his Taste N Trip blog (