Making a Match: Wine-Pairing Tips for Thanksgiving

By  November 15, 2010

If you are worried about making the perfect match at your Thanksgiving dinner, don’t fret! Most of the guests at your table are probably not wine aficionados. Besides, the traditional Thanksgiving meal is so varied in flavors, a complex wine isn’t necessarily your best bet. This year, skip the stress, and keep your dinner drinks simple and understated. Here are a few Turkey Day wine-pairing tips and suggestions.

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Whites… White Rieslings from Germany are always crowd-pleasers as they appeal to less experienced wine drinkers because many are sweet; however, more experienced wine drinkers also enjoy them because they are nuanced.

Reds… Look to the Gamay grape from the Beaujolais region of France for a good red to pair with your Turkey Day feast. Just a bit pricier in the $13 realm, cru Beaujolais, like Morgon and Fleurie, are better than the ubiquitous Beaujolais Nouveau that one might typically find at a holiday meal – a great choice that your guests are sure to love!

Sparkling Sensation… A good bubbly is always a fun change of pace, and Champagne is always a good pick – festive, complex and hedonistic as well as decadent and classic – however, the least expensive Champagne is about $30. So for a more budget-friendly bubbly, the sparkling wine Prosecco from Northeast Italy is a great alternative. Less complex and more subtle than Champagne, Prosecco is fresh and fruity with peach and toasted hazelnut aromas and flavors, and at about $10 a bottle, you can drink this every day!


Bang for Your Buck... The best wine isn’t always the priciest! Look to some savory wine selections that will impress your guests without emptying your wallet.

  • White: As mentioned above, the Ponte Prosecco is a budget-friendly choice at only $9.99 a bottle.
  • Red: Check out Las Lenas Malbec from Argentina – a nice, simple, dry red for only $6.99. Doesn’t get much better than that!

Savory Splurge… When looking to splurge on some fabulous fruit of the vine, California Cabernet Sauvignons are always a great choice. The Opus One, for about $200, is always a popular preference for the holiday season. For a classic splurge item, invest in a Vintage Champagne like a Dom Perignon or Cristal – timeless taste to be thankful for.

And for Dessert… Choosing a dessert wine can be tricky, but Ports are the perfect winter wonder-treat – Fonseca and Dow’s are some choice picks. Non-vintage Ports run the price gamut, ranging from $15 to $50, and if you really want to try something special, check out a vintage Port, in which case, the bottle is aged. Get ready to pull out the wallet for a vintage Port though, as they are usually $100 and above.

A Gift for the Host… Whenever attending a dinner party, a small gift – a simple token of appreciation for handling all the duties of hosting – is a polite, and in many cases, welcomed gesture. For a dinner party, especially a holiday meal, with all the demands of cooking for a large audience, a bottle of wine is a perfect gift. An appropriate price range for a gift is about $15 to $25. While it always helps if you know your host’s palette, you may not, in which case, a sparkling wine is always nice and pairs with most foods. Besides, nothing screams celebration quite like Champagne!

*Tips Courtesy of Stew Leonard’s Exec Chef George Llorens

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