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How To Pair Wine With Thanksgiving (And Friendsgiving)

We partnered with Regina von Gootkin, author of Wine Esquire, one of our favorite wine blogs, to get her take on the best Thanksgiving wine pairings. Check it out!

WHAT ARE SOME CLASSIC TURKEY PAIRINGS?

The classic Thanksgiving wine pairing has to be Zinfandel. It’s traditionally got a spicy zest which will perfectly complement that hunk of turkey meat on your plate, whether you prefer white or dark meat (or both). Often jammy and full of berries, the Zinfandel’s succulent mouthfeel is just what the doctor ordered to wash down Grandma’s sage stuffing and Aunt Mary’s sweet potato casserole.  I’ve not had many bad Zin’s, and the great thing about it is that there is SO MUCH good Zinfandel being made right now, especially in Lodi, California, and it’s outrageously reasonably priced. Hobo Wine Co.’s Zinfandel is a great option!

Friendsgiving potluck dish and wine pairings

WHAT ABOUT WINES THAT PAIR WELL WITH ALL THE HEAVY POTATO AND CASSEROLE DISHES THAT SHOW UP?

Zinfandel can keep up with you as you move around from turkey to potatoes, from green beans to creamed corn.

A light, crisp Chardonnay can also work, but stay away from oaky and buttery blends. The oaky texture can overpower what’s on your plate, but if it’s light, crisp and clean, aged perhaps in stainless steel or a concrete egg, then it will cleanse your palate after each overwhelmingly caloric bite. Definitely something along the lines of the Domaine Jean-Marc Brocard Chablis Domaine St. Claire 2014.

Thanksgiving desserts and wines to pair with them

ANY ADVICE FOR PAIRING WINE WITH SWEETER THANKSGIVING FARE?

Come dessert time you may want to think about having a selection of wines to try. I like to keep my dessert wine pours on the smaller side, and having a buffet of choices is great fun. I’d definitely go with a sweeter Riesling or Gewürztraminer, a Port and a Sauternes or Loupiac. Go the extra mile and offer your guests some tasting notes on the wines you choose. See if they get the same tastes or if their palate comes up with something different. That being said, a good cup of coffee with a huge slice of pumpkin pie and fresh whipped cream is a staple I wouldn’t try to mess with. Try the Donnhoff Estate Riesling 2015.

Friendsgiving table setting

ARE THERE WINES THAT CAN HANDLE YOUR WHOLE PLATE?

Zinfandel can certainly take on the turkey and all the fixins’ but I’d also be happy with a subtle Cabernet (to be fair, I’m always happy with Cabernet). You don’t want anything that’s too big and bold since the flavors on your plate are so magical already.  

Bottle of brut rose and thanksgiving

ANY PAIRINGS THAT SHOULDN'T WORK BUT DO?

Rosé. There are some that argue that Rosé has a season and it’s from May to August, maybe September. Others believe in Rosé all year. Now I don’t know if I’m going for a glass of Rosé in the middle of a snow storm, but when it comes to Thanksgiving, it’s definitely going to be part of the offering. We all know that by the end of the meal we’re going to be in a food coma, so you don’t want your wine to weigh you down too. A fun, dry Rosé can be the perfect thing to refresh your palate, before, during or after the meal.

Friendsgiving scene

FOR FUN, WHAT DO YOU THINK IS THE WORST THANKSGIVING PAIRING?

Oaky Chardonnay is not a welcome dinner guest, at least for this meal. With all the flavors going on already, bringing in a huge mouthful of oak just doesn’t work.  

IF YOU COULD BRING ANY WINE TO A FRIENDSGIVING, WHAT WOULD IT BE AND WHY?

Starting or ending with bubbles is always a good idea (regardless of the time of day or day of the year!) Bringing a bottle of bubbly is always a welcome addition and your host would probably love for you to do the honors of popping the cork (they are, after all, busy slaving away in the kitchen, and could certainly use a glass)! If you’re feeling really fancy, you can bring a saber and do some Sabrage. (Best to do this outside though. After you’ve practiced at home. At least a few times. YouTube tutorials are a good idea. I take no responsibility for lost eyes, severed fingers or broken glass!) American made Gruet Blanc de Noirs is always a lovely crowd pleaser! Want more wine and food pairing advice? Check out our wine pairing guide.

Images by Brittany Gidley Photography
Party styling by One Stylish Party 

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