What wines to pair with your Thanksgiving dinner

WASHINGTON — Sure, the turkey is the star of Thanksgiving dinner, but what’s
in your glass is just as important as what’s on your plate.

If you’re unsure what varieties go best with your spread, WTOP wine contributor Scott
Greenberg offers up his favorite pairings — from the appetizers to the pumpkin pie.

Hors d’oeuvres

Thanksgiving is a celebration, and when it comes to getting the party started, there’s
nothing better than a sparkling wine.

“I think the bubbles are not only festive, but they help cleanse the palate, and most
sparkling wines pair well with a variety of foods,” Greenberg says.

His best recommendation is a non-vintage Gran Gesta Cava from Spain. And at $15 a
bottle,
it’s a fantastic value.

“It has that candied fruit and creamy texture and a really lively structure — nice
balance, bright finish.”

Greenberg also recommends another sparkling wine: a non-vintage Gruet Brut from New
Mexico. He
describes it as full-bodied and flavorful, with layers of stone-fruit flavors, butter
vanilla and “vivid acidity.” It’s also a deal at $17 a bottle.

The Dinner

When it comes to pairing wines with your Thanksgiving dinner, Greenberg has one piece
of advice: Focus more on pairing the wines with your sides than the turkey.

“Especially since roasted turkey has a tendency to be somewhat neutral, I like to
concentrate my pairings more on the sides and the style of gravy when I think about the
wine pairings,” he says.

Greenberg likes to serve both a white wine and a red wine at dinner. For the white, he
tends to gravitate toward aromatic, lighter-bodied wines — “something that really
pronounces the fruit on the nose.”

A lighter wine will act as a great contrast to the heavier, more savory foods on the
Thanksgiving table. Greenberg recommends the 2013 La Sirena Moscato Azul from legendary
Napa Valley winemaker Heidi Barrett. This wine is a dry-style Muscat, and Greenberg
says it delivers aromas of tropical fruit, honeysuckle and peaches on the nose.

“What I really like is this ripe, round feel in the mouth, and it pairs so well with so
many different kinds of foods, and that crisp acidity just keeps me nice and refreshed
and ready for my next bite,” he says.

The $30 price tag doesn’t break the bank, either.

For red wines, Greenberg says, choose a wine that has tame tannins and lots of “young
fruit” to support the flavors of both the turkey and the sides. His pick is the 2014
vintage of Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais Nouveau from France. It comes out at midnight on
the third Thursday of every November — just in time for Thanksgiving.

“So it’s still bright and vibrant and low on alcohol and big on fruit. I love it and
it’s $15; it’s a really fun wine to drink,” Greenberg says.

A Vegetarian Thanksgiving

If your Thanksgiving is sans meat, Greenberg says, you should still consider the sides and
stick to the rules outlined above.

However, if you are going to have just one big red wine to pair with your meatless
spread, he says, go with a Pinot Noir — just to spice things up a bit.

Greenberg suggests the 2010 Penner-Ash Zena Crown Vineyard Pinot Noir ($60) from the
Willamette Valley of Oregon. He says that vineyard produces
wine with a distinctive nose of earthy cherry, rhubarb and candied ginger.

“And then you get these waves of flavor of dark cherry and ripe strawberry and a little
bit of black tea. It’s just really well integrated.”

Pumpkin Pie Time

According to Greenberg, Thanksgiving is the perfect time to pull out a special bottle
of dessert wine.

“Most dessert wines are a dream come true when it comes to pairing up with pumpkin pie,
pecan pie or apple pie, but they key is acidity. You need good acidity to keep that
sweetness in check,” he says.

Greenberg says to try the non-vintage Buller Fine Tokay from Australia. At $15 per half-bottle, the wine has aromas of raspberry, orange zest and toffee, and flavors of
sweet red fruit, coffee, toffee and caramel.

If you want to splurge on a dessert wine, go for a bottle of 2005 Rieussec from the
Sauternes region of France, which costs $55 for a full bottle. Greenberg says it has
flavors of toffee, dried apricot, honey and caramel. “The long and rich finish is
oozing with sweet, ripe fruit, and bright acidity,” he says.

If You Only Serve One

Don’t want to stock up on a few different wines to serve throughout the day? Greenberg
says you can serve just one — and if you do that, he recommends something slightly
off-dry to help balance the variety of food on the plate, such as the 2012 Seifried
Pinot Gris from the Marlborough region of New Zealand.

Greenberg calls this wine a “great all-around choice,” and says it it’s “medium body
has perfect acidity and a crisp, focused finish.”

Is a Full Bar Necessary?

If you’re wondering whether you need to stock the bar for your Thanksgiving guests,
Greenberg says for this holiday, serving liquor is not necessary.

“I think Thanksgiving is about the fellowship of family and friends, and too much
alcohol could spoil an otherwise festive evening,” he says. “And besides, many guests
still have to drive home at the end of the evening.”

WTOP’s Rachel Nania contributed to this report. Follow @WTOP and @WTOPliving on Twitter and on the WTOP Facebook page.

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