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Thanksgiving Wine Survival Guide

Written by Madeline Puckette

Thanksgiving is nigh!

Hopefully at this point you have some sort of vague plan of what you’re doing. By the numbers, most of us are headed to family or a friend’s house with instructions with what to bring (or not). At this stage, no doubt you are experiencing one of two feelings:

  1. Excitement
  2. Dread

Thanksgiving really isn’t about the food (as much as we think it is), it’s really about people gathering together to enjoy each other around the table–idiosyncrasies and all–and be thankful. This is a beautiful thing and it’s worth slowing down for and enjoying. But it can be hard to swallow and this, my friends, is why we have wine!

Let’s pick the best wines to match with Thanksgiving. I’ll be your guide, my name is Madeline.

Thanksgiving Wine Survival Guide

Unless you’re going to a restaurant, chances are there’s going to be some variability in the food at Thanksgiving. I’m not saying anyone’s a bad cook, this is just the voice of reality. 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 wished. None of this is a problem as long as you have great wine.


Five wines are better than one: Pick a wine from each of the 4 categories listed above, then add some sparkling wine to start the night off right. With 5 wines floating around, you’ve suddenly just upgraded your Thanksgiving into a 5-course wine dinner. You are awesome.

Here are some quick links to the main styles that match well with Thanksgiving, so you can get more information:

NOTE: You’ll notice 2 styles of wine are missing: full-bodied red wines and full-bodied white wines. This would include Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Malbec, Viognier and Chardonnay. It’s not that these wines won’t match, they just don’t go as well. For example, a grassy Sauvignon Blanc will make that mushy side plate of green bean casserole actually taste better. And believe me, that’s saying a lot.


Tips for Wines + Thanksgiving

wine swirl comic syndrome
Sparkling wine is the ultimate ice-breaker. Fill people’s glasses right when they walk in the door (even if you’re not the host). You’ll notice people will stand more upright, act proper, and smile more while holding a glass of sparkling wine. It’s awesome to observe. 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, roasty 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 Zinfandel, Grenache, Merlot and Carignan.

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


Thanksgiving is a time to appreciate that we’re alive. And what better way to take it all in than with a glass of wine.


advanced food and wine pairing square

Pairing food and wine

Hiya. We made an infographic print that will help pair wine and food everyday. Post it in your kitchen and confidently match wines. If you love wine and want to learn more about it, take a peak at our premium prints!

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Written byMadeline Puckette

James Beard Award-winning author and Wine Communicator of the Year. I co-founded Wine Folly to help people learn about wine. @WineFolly

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