When it comes to picking the best wine to pair with Thanksgiving dinner, ignore the turkey.

By Markham Heid
October 08, 2019
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Pairing wine with food can be tricky even when a meal is simple. On a holiday like Thanksgiving—when plates are packed with a cornucopia of mains and sides—selecting an appropriate wine can feel downright befuddling.

Rather than trying to match wines to individual flavors or dishes, go for bottles that complement a wide variety of foods. “You need wines that can blanket the entire dinner,” says Andrew Milliorn, wine steward at Mattie’s in Austin, Texas.

Light-bodied red wines that avoid heavy use of oak are a great option, Milliorn says. These wines tend to pack enough fruit and acid to complement but not overshadow a range of dishes and flavors. “French Gamay, especially Cru Beaujolais, is considered a go-to wine when pairing with Thanksgiving dinner,” he says.

Pinot Noir—especially fine-boned and delicate Pinots like many of those made in Oregon’s Willamette Valley—is another great choice. “Pinot Noir is a food friendly wine that often shows classic fall flavors such as cranberry, red apple skin, dried leaves, and allspice,” says Leslie Hartman, sommelier at The French Room in Dallas.

Meanwhile, white wines with a little sparkle and sharpness are also able dance partners when served with a broad range of foods. “Try something young and fresh with ‘green’ notes,” advises Jill Weber, owner of Jet Wine Bar in Philadelphia. Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling are two excellent options.

While fuller-bodied wines like Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay are crowd-pleasers, their bold and typically oaky notes are better suited to the roasted red meats of December’s holidays. If you love them, by all means, serve them. But the assorted whites and reds on this list are can’t-miss options for your Thanksgiving table.

Con Poulos

The Four Graces Pinot Noir 2017 ($26)

Flavors of bright-red berries such as turkey-friendly cranberry are prominent in this balanced, subtly spicy Willamette Valley Pinot Noir. Priced under $30, it’s a killer value.
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Sidebar High Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2017 ($20)

This Sauvignon Blanc from famed California winemaker David Ramey is easy to sip on its own, but it really needs food to show off its best stuff. Bracing and refreshing, it’s a great wine to help clean and refresh your palate between bites (and helpings).
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JJ Vincent Cru du Beaujolais Juliénas 2015 ($28)

Fruit, funk, and a hint of smokiness come together beautifully in this smooth Beaujolais. Throw your turkey, ham, or spice-covered vegetable sides at this wine; it will keep on singing.
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Beaumont Hope Marguerite Chenin Blanc 2018 ($39)

Tropical but soft, stony and acidic, this South African Chenin Blanc is an absolute knockout. It has the heft to stand up to rich dishes, but it won’t overpower the flavors of milder meats and sides.
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Flâneur Wines Cuvée Constantin Pinot Noir 2016 ($40)

This Oregon-based producer uses sustainable, irrigation-free “dry farm” practices, and they also take a gentle approach to wine additives and manipulation. Their 2016 Cuvée Constantin features juicy red fruit and a nice mix of spice and earth. It’s a great mate for food, but it goes down just as well on its own.
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Frank Family Vineyards Zinfandel 2016 ($34)

Ripe berries, herbs, and the right ratio of acid-to-tannin make this Zin a perfect partner for the rich flavors and sauces of Thanksgiving. “If Thanksgiving is the most quintessential American holiday, Zinfandels are the most quintessentially American wines,” says Angela Gargano, wine director at Montana’s Triple Creek Ranch. The two are a great match.
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Humo Blanco Sauvignon Blanc 2018 $15

This Sauvignon Blanc from Chile’s Colchagua Valley has all the citrus and acid you’re used to from this grape, but there’s an underlying spine of minerals that give this depth and panache.
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Amity Vineyards White Pinot Noir 2018 ($19)

This “white” Pinot Noir, which is rosé-hued and made from skinned Pinot Noir grapes, is a juicy and absolutely delectable blend of fruit and minerals. It packs plenty of mouth-clearing acid, but it’s a balanced blockbuster with turkey and fixins.
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Beaux Frères Willamette Valley Pinot Noir 2017 ($70)

Beaux Frères is in the first rank of Oregon Pinot Noir producers, and this wine lives up to their reputation. A harmonious mélange of fruit and flavor, it’s the kind of wine that was meant to be shared with friends and family on a special occasion. If you really want to wow your guests, their iconic Beaux Frères Vineyard Pinot Noir is even more impressive.
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Cakebread Cellars Sauvignon Blanc 2017 ($29)

For less than $30, few Sauvignon Blancs can compete with this offering from Napa’s Cakebread. Tropical fruit and herbs mingle with white flowers in this excellent wine.
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Division Winemaking Company Gamay Noir “Lutte” 2017 ($28)

France’s Beaujolais region is ground-zero for great Gamay wines. But some U.S. producers are making exquisite takes on the traditional French grape, and this wine from Oregon’s Division is a stand-out. Peppy and fruit-forward, it’s a great match for Thanksgiving dinner.
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