Holiday Spotlight - Thanksgiving Food & Wine

Turkey Day

As we approach turkey day a week from today, I am sharing my thoughts about wine and food for arguably the biggest feast of the year. Hopefully at this point you have a plan of what you’re doing and preparing, but have you thought about what wine you will be serving and with what foods. Most of us are headed to our family’s house with instructions on what to bring (or not) or hosting the festivities. Maybe you’re in charge of the wine allotment. I’m sure there are mixed emotions of excitement to gather, but also a sense of feeling overwhelmed.

Thanksgiving isn’t really about the food as much as we think it is, but rather, it’s really about people enjoying each other around the table-idiosyncrasies and all-and being thankful each other after a tumultuous couple of years apart. Did we even gather last year? It is a beautiful thing and it’s worth slowing down for and enjoying the moment. But it can be hard to swallow, which is why we have wine!

Unless you’re going to a restaurant, chances are there’s going to be some variability in the food at Thanksgiving. The turkey may get a little dry, the green beans may get mushy, and those brussel sprouts might not end up as caramelized as you would have liked. Not a problem since we have great wine. Pick one wine from each food category!


Let’s start with the hearty dishes – turkey and gravy, classic stuffing, potato filling, mashed potatoes, roasted cauliflower, and baked macaroni and cheese, etc…

Try these wines (not an exhaustive list) –


Light Reds –

Pinot Noir (preferably Burgundy-style or cool climate)

Gamay Noir/Beaujolais (slightly chilled)


Dry Rose –

Provence (French)

Pinot Noir Rose

Cabernet Franc Rose


Medium Reds –


Grenache/Garnacha and Rhone varieties (French)

Barbera (Italian)

Cabernet Franc (preferably unoaked if you can find it)


Carmenere (Chile)


The ‘greener’ side of things – green beans, green bean casserole, beets, creamed spinach, brussel sprouts, broccoli casserole, etc…


Try these ‘whites’ and ‘aromatic whites’ –

Albarino (aromatic and zesty)

Sauvignon Blanc (aromatic and herbaceous)

Chenin Blanc (South Africa & French)

Muscat Blanc/Muscat Ottonel (aromatic)

Gruner Veltliner (Austrian and herbaceous)

Vermentino (Italian and herbaceous)

Soave (Italian)

Pinot Gris (zesty)

Pinot Blanc (zesty)

Riesling (preferably cool-climate and dry)

Gewurztraminer (dry)


The ‘sweeter’ side – glazed carrots, sweet potato casserole, honey baked ham, cranberry sauce, squash (if prepared sweeter), etc…


Try these ‘whites’ –

Semi-Dry/Off-Dry/Medium-Dry Riesling

Semi-Dry Gewurztraminer

Torrontes (Argentina)

Lambrusco (Italian)


Dessert – apple pie, apple crisp, crème brulee, pecan pie, pumpkin pie, carrot cake, pumpkin roll, caramel apple cheesecake, pineapple upside down cake, etc…


Try these ‘sweets’ –

Ice Wine/Eiswein

Late Harvest Riesling

Vidal Blanc

Sauternes (French)

Tawny Port

Vin Santo (Italian)

Moscato d’Asti (Italian)

Tokaji (Hungarian)



Sparkling wine goes with everything so drink it with anything on this special day. I enjoy a fruity Prosecco or Sparkling Rose! Fill people’s glasses right when they walk in the door (even if you’re not the host). Also, you don’t have to bother with flutes, just use the same wine glasses you use with dinner.

On red wine - Because you’ll be having turkey and roasted vegetables, it’s great to pick wines with not too much tannin so they can help quench the dry, roasted flavors in the food. Light-bodied wines like Pinot Noir are an obvious winner, but there are several medium-bodied red wines that can do the trick as well, including Blaufrankisch, Grenache, Merlot and Cab Franc.

Dessert wines are Thanksgiving’s best friend. Lean towards the white and tawny-colored dessert wines such as Tawny Port, Madeira, Vidal (fruity-forward desserts), Late Harvest Riesling, French Sauternes, and Italian Vin Santo. These match wonderfully with cinnamon-spiced and caramel-driven desserts. Plus, you can always just drink your dessert.

Enjoy! Happy Thanksgiving!!!



Michael Nagy

Wine Educator/Wine Steward/Wine Blogger

WSET Level 3 Advanced Certification

Owner & Operator of Grape Expectations