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What You Need to Know About Choosing Thanksgiving Wine

It's not hard, just keep these points in mind when you shop.

Photography by: Martyn Thompson

You've spent weeks planning your turkey day feast: carefully choosing your menu, table settings, and centerpiece. What about the wine? For most hosts, choosing the right wine for such a major occasion is either a stressful conundrum (how on earth to pair wine with the literal cornucopia of flavors on the table?) or a total afterthought. We're here to help you step up your wine game with basics on how to choose bottles to compliment Thanksgiving dinner.  And if you're not hosting this year, this info will help you bring the best bottles to the feast.

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On Turkey Day, let the food play the starring role... keep it simple with the wine!

1. On Thanksgiving, the Food is the Star of the Show

For home cooks and food lovers everywhere, Thanksgiving is like the Oscars and the Superbowl combined: it's the biggest food holiday of the year. The traditional spread includes turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, green beans ... and plenty of pie. Whether your specialty is preparing your family's favorite recipes every year, or innovating with new takes on the classics, there's always a wide array of flavors and textures on the table. Don't be afraid to let your cooking take center stage -- choose simple, easy-drinking wines that complement the food, rather than competing with it. This is not the time to bring out a robust, rich Bordeaux you picked up on your honeymoon, or the complex aged Barolo. Young, fresh wines will be the perfect accompaniment to balance out the rich dishes on your menu.

Another big question is red or white: I recommend having a selection of each on hand, open and ready to drink. Set them on the table and let the guests pour for themselves while you're carving the turkey or mastering the famous oven shuffle. This is definitely a day when your wine service should be simple!


Keep It Simple But Do it Right; Read Our Tips For Serving Wine

2. Keep it Light

For most of us, Thanksgiving is a very long day. We're up early getting the turkey in the oven and busy right up until the meal is served, and then some. We may treat ourselves to a splash of wine while we're putting some in the gravy, and of course we'll be sipping throughout the meal ... and many Thanksgiving festivities last throughout afternoon into the evening. It's truly a marathon, and you want to be energized throughout the whole day. So, for yourself and your guests, choose wines lower in alcohol. Every bottle of wine lists the ABV (Alcohol By Volume) on the label -- sometimes it's in very small print and you have to search for it, but seek out whites that are 12% or less, and reds under 14%. This will keep you from feeling sluggish. Other lighter options are sparkling wines, spritzers, and ciders. 


Learn More About Cider
Photography by: Raymond Hom

3. Consider Wine a Condiment

Wine can be an intimidating (varietals and appellations and terroir, oh my!), but my #1 tip for pairing with food is to think of wine as one more condiment on your table. Are you someone that always puts out a bowl of fresh greens with lemon vinaigrette as a bit of relief from all the buttery side dishes and rich gravy? Look for a zesty white wine with fresh herbal aromas and crisp citrus flavors. If you love the tangy zing of cranberry relish with your turkey and stuffing, there are wonderful red wines with lively tart red fruit character that will play the same role in your feast.


Read our all-American red, white, and sparkling wine picks for Thanksgiving