Thanksgiving Turkey Dinner and Wine Pairing

Turkey and wine pairing thanksgiving

For many of us, the best way to get through a big family gathering is a quality drink. If you want to pull this off while looking classy in your favourite itchy turkey sweater and sweatpants, you need the help of a good wine. Since Thanksgiving dinner is such a heavy meal with many different flavours, it can be hard to find a good wine to pair with the occasion. We’re here to help you find that perfect wine.

Acidity is Your Friend

Since Thanksgiving dinner is so heavy (thanks to potatoes, gravy, butter, stuffing, and more) you’ll want to stay away from wines that aren’t heavy enough in themselves to stand up against the buttery flavours. Wines such as Chardonnays will often fall flat alongside a Thanksgiving dinner, but something like an acidic Riesling will cut through the flavours and taste refreshing on the palate. If you’re insistent on Chardonnay though, make sure that it is acidic enough to stand with your dinner.

Pinot is Perfect

Our absolute favourite wine to pair with a turkey dinner is Pinot Noir. It isn’t always the cheapest, but in recent years we’ve found that there have been some great Pinot Noirs being produced that don’t break the bank. This is a varietal that will take you happily through each course of Turkey Day.

Pinot Noir works with Thanksgiving dinner because it is acidic enough to stand up against buttery mashed potatoes and bold enough to balance out both white and dark turkey meat. The tannins are light and fruity, which isn’t off-putting for novice wine drinkers. Pinot Noir is famous for being fruity without being overly sweet, and this allows for a nice compliment to Thanksgiving’s cranberry and fruity-pie flavours.

Zinfandel for Everyone

Red Zinfandel and turkey is a classic pairing, and I’m pretty sure that’s because it reminds me of visiting my aunt’s house for fancy dinners as a teenager. Zinfandel is very approachable for even non-wine-drinkers, and is very popular here in North America for festive occasions. Doesn’t it make you want to raise a glass, sparkling or not?

Because Zinfandel is often high in acidity, it can stand its ground against heavy Thanksgiving flavours. We find that Red Zinfandels tend to fit into two categories: aggressive, overly sweet, grocery-type wines, and clean, acidic, refreshing ones. The good news is that either of these can work for the fall holiday. Jammy wines will compliment your cranberry and fall dessert flavours well (though we can’t say that it’ll beat ice cream paired with pumpkin pie), while being robust enough to enhance savoury flavours. The more acidic Zinfandels will cut through the richness of the foods and refresh your palate, without being overwhelmingly alcoholic.

You can find some great overall Zinfandel and Thanksgiving recommendations here.

Something Sparkling or Smoky

We’re not going to get too deep into why sparkling wines pair well with Thanksgiving treats. Because of the bubbles, it’s easy to drink sparkling wines like Prosecco and Champagne, both before and after dinner. Fruit-forward sparkling Rosés match well with cranberry flavours, and Champagne bears a strong arm when served up alongside Thanksgiving staples (plus, everyone loves feeling fancy).

If you’re looking to focus on the most hearty flavours of the holiday, you can’t go wrong with a heavier red. While white wines are touted as the best way to go with poultry, strong reds such as Grenache also work. With medium to low tannins, a nice Grenache (or other similar red) will match well with hearty Thanksgiving dishes such as potatoes and gravy, turkey, stuffing, roasted vegetables, and more.

What will be on your plates and in your glasses this long weekend?

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