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Wine for the Thanksgiving Dinner Table

A Wine Guide to Complement your Thanksgiving Entertaining


By Carol A. Wilcox

Need some suggestions for serving wine for Thanksgiving dinner? Confused about the which wines pair best with Thanksgiving foods? Are you overwhelmed when you stand in the wine aisle? Fear not! This Thanksgiving wine guide will make it easy for you to choose the best wines for your Thanksgiving dinner table.

The good news is there’s no rule as to what wine you should drink for Thanksgiving, but the common rule of thumb is to pair wines that will complement the food you’re serving. The key is to allow the wine to enhance your Thanksgiving feast and not overpower it.

Before you decide on wine for your Thanksgiving dinner table, there are two things to determine. First, plan your menu. What are you serving for Thanksgiving dinner? Will it be the traditional turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce and squash? Or will it be beef, fish or vegetarian? How about appetizers and dessert? Second, how many adults will be at your Thanksgiving dinner table? Are they wine, spirits or beer drinkers? Do they prefer white wines or red? Knowing how many of your guests will be consuming wine will help you to determine the number of bottles to purchase.

Once you have made a list of what’s on the menu and how many wine drinking guests will be in attendance, you can easily pair wines to match each course. Here are our top suggestions for wines to serve at the Thanksgiving dinner table:



Choose Champagne or Prosecco. Both are sparkling fizzy wines, are perfect for a celebration of any kind, and are excellent choices for appetizers. As your guests arrive, offer them a flute of bubbly and watch the conversations start to flow.

Champagne – only wine produced in the Champagne region of France can actually be labelled as Champagne. Champagne is available in both sweet and dry varieties with fine bubbles and a slight nutty taste. Champagne is widely available at all price ranges with a decent bottle of the bubbly running about $29.00-$34.00.

Some common labels to look for: Moet & Chandon Imperial Brut – Verve Clicquot Brut NV – Montaudon Extra Dry – Tattinger La Francaise Brut NV

Prosecco – only wine produced in the Veneto region of Italy can be labelled as Prosecco. Prosecco is an excellent alternative to Champagne and is generally less expensive. Prosecco is crisp with citrus fruit tastes and dry, with a good bottle costing about $10.00 - $15.00.

Choose a dry or brut sparkling wine for serving appetizers that are savory and salty (such as cured meats, chips, pungent cheeses, dips and salty nuts), creamy cheeses or oily olives. These sparklers also pair well with mini cocktail sandwiches, quiche, sushi and vegetables.

Some common labels to look for: Ruffino Prosecco – Cupcake Prosecco – Riondo Prosecco – Cavit Lunetta Prosecco

Need Champagne or Prosecco Flutes? Check out our recommendations here.

Main Course

It’s a common assumption that white wines pair best with Thanksgiving main courses of seafood, poultry and pork, while red wines pair best with red meats and pasta, but that’s not a steadfast rule. White wines for Thanksgiving should be light, fruity and refreshing while lighter red wines that have tastes of light berry fruit and spice will nicely complement nearly any Thanksgiving dinner. Here are Thanksgiving-worthy red and white wines for consideration:

White Wines

Sauvignon Blanc - this wine tends to be light, acidic and crisp with tastes of citrus, grass or herbs. California Sauvignon Blanc tends to be less acidic and citrusy while New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc tends to be highly acidic with tart, crisp citrus tastes. Sauvignon Blanc pairs well with any poultry, pork or seafood dishes.

Some common labels to look for: Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc (New Zealand) - Nobilo Sauvignon Blanc (New Zealand) - Woodbridge Mondavi Sauvignon Blanc (California) - Josh Cellars Sauvignon Blanc (California)

Viognier (vee-on-yay) - this wine is noted for its floral aromas such as honeysuckle or peach. It’s a lighter alternative to Chardonnay because it’s less acidic and lighter-bodied. Viognier can exhibit tastes of apricot, tangerine and pear, with notes of vanilla and clove. This wine pairs well with turkey, chicken, pork and fish.

Some common labels to look for: Cline Viognier – Opolo Viognier – Cline Viognier – Yalumba “Y” Viognier

Chenin Blanc - this is a versatile wine that is produced in many parts of the world but most notably in the French Loire Valley. Other regions that make this wine include South Africa, California and Oregon. The aromas and tastes of this wine can vary depending upon how and where it is produced, from sweet to very dry. Many of the Chenin Blancs produced in the Loire Valley and South Africa tend to be on the drier side. Look for a Chenin Blanc that has a slightly sweet taste with aromas of apple, pear or peach with an acidic, dry and slightly spicy finish. This wine pairs well with poultry, shellfish and green salads.

Some common labels to look for: Beringer Chenin Blanc – Bougrier Chenin Blanc – B & G Vouvray

Don’t have enough Wine Glasses for your Thanksgiving dinner? These are our recommendations.


Red Wines

Pinot Noir – is perhaps the most popular red wine to serve with turkey for Thanksgiving dinner. It is a light to medium-bodied wine that won’t overpower the taste of poultry. It also pairs well with stuffing and green vegetables. Pinot Noir has fruity aromas of plum and berries with tastes of black cherry and red berries. It’s a slightly acidic wine with a mildly dry finish and sometimes a little spice at the end.

Some common labels to look for: Meiomi Pinot Noir – Mark West Pinot Noir – La Crema Pinot Noir

Tempranillo – native to Spain, Tempranillo is now grown and produced in many parts of the world. Over the last few years, Tempranillo has become a popular alternative to Pinot Noir. This wine has aromas of earth, plum and herbs with flavors of cherry, tobacco, berries and spice. The finish is smooth and mildly dry. This wine pairs well with a variety of Thanksgiving foods including poultry, ham, red meat, roasted vegetables and pasta.

Some common labels to look for: El Prado Tempranillo – Finca del Castillo Tempranillo – T Toro Tempranillo

Zinfandel – lighter in color than a Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot, Zinfandel is a good choice for pairing with smoked turkey, lamb, ham and seasoned vegetables. Despite the lighter color, Zinfandel is a full-bodied, intense red wine that can exhibit aromas of red berries, jam, cranberry and plum, with flavors of red fruit, spice, tobacco and black pepper. It’s an acidic wine with well-structured tannins.

Some common labels to look for: Bogle Old Vine Zinfandel – 7 Deadly Zins – Gnarly Head Old Vine Zinfandel


Wine with dessert? Of course! Dessert wines tend to be sweeter than wines consumed with Thanksgiving dinner. The sweetness of the wine pairs well with a variety of desserts including pumpkin pie. Serve dessert wines in small dessert wine glasses, much like you would serve a cordial. Here are some dessert wines for consideration:

Riesling – this white wine can be either sweet or dry depending upon where it is produced. It has aromas of flowers with notes of spice, peaches and apricots with an acidic finish that complements the sweetness of desserts.

Some common labels to look for: Chateau Ste Michelle Riesling – Kung Fu Riesling – Pacific Rim Sweet Riesling

Port – this wine is produced in the Douro Valley river region of Portugal, while port-style wines are produced in other parts of the world including the United States. Port wines have a tawny brown color and are dry and sweet. Port wines are fortified (brand is added), so the alcohol content is considerably higher. These wines are meant to be sipped. Port wines range in prices from $5.00 to over $200.00.

Some common labels to look for: Porto Valdouro Ruby Port – Dow’s Fine Ruby Port – Christian Brothers Tawny Port

How Many Bottles to Buy


If you’re not a regular wine-drinker, you might be surprised to find that a bottle or two will not be sufficient for your Thanksgiving dinner.  Although it’s hard to predict exactly how much wine will be consumed, it’s always best to have more on hand than less.

There are numerous ways to calculate how much wine you’ll need, but here is a basic calculation to follow:

A standard size bottle of wine is 750ml or 25.36 ounces. Depending upon the size of the pour with 5 ounces being the smallest pour, you will yield about 5 glasses 5-ounce pours of wine from one bottle.

Estimate the number of hours you’ll be serving wine to your guests. Then, estimate the number of wine-drinking guests.

During the first hour, your guests will conservatively consume 2 glasses of wine. Each hour thereafter, your guests will consume about 1 glass of wine.

To calculate the approximate number of bottles of wine to purchase we’ll use the following example:

We’ll assume the number of guests who will drink wine is 12. The length of your Thanksgiving dinner from start to finish is 5 hours. Your 12 guests will drink about 24 glasses of wine within the first hour. For the remaining 4 hours, your 12 guests will drink another 48 glasses of wine for a grand total of 72 glasses of wine for the 5 total hours.

The average number of glasses per bottle contains 5 pours. Divide 72 glasses by 5. This equals 14.4 bottles of wine. Using this example, you could purchase 7-8 bottles of red wine and 7-8 bottles of white wine.

How to Serve Wine

Wine glasses should be filled no more than two thirds.

Red wines taste best at a chilled room temperature of 62 to 65 degrees. If chilled above that temperature range, the wine may become acidic and the taste will not be fully opened. An easy way to serve red wine at near-proper temperature is to place the bottles in your refrigerator about 35 minutes prior to serving.

Most white wines are at their best when served at a cooler temperature of 50 to 55 degrees.

Most Champagnes and Prosecco serve well at 52 to 55 degrees.

Open the bottles of wine as you need to. Refrain from opening all the bottles at once. If you don’t use as many bottles as you have purchased, you can save the unopened bottles for another occasion or to give as a gift. All open and partially full wines should be tightly recorked or capped and stored in the refrigerator for no more than 3-4 days.

Champagne and Prosecco should be opened just prior to serving. Any leftover wine in the bottle should be tightly recorked and stored in the refrigerator for no more than 3-4 days.

Tools of the Trade


Make sure that you have the proper tools for opening and serving wine for Thanksgiving:

Waiter’s friend – choose a sturdy corkscrew with a foil cutter.

Cork retriever – corks occasionally fall into a bottle while you’re trying to open it. A cork retriever will easily pull out the cork without breaking it into pieces.

Wine glasses – for informal holiday occasions, choose all-purpose wine glasses if you’re serving both red and whites. If you have the budget, it’s great to have both white wine glasses and red wine glasses on hand.

Champagne flutes – Champagne or Prosecco is best served in long narrow flute glasses or saucer shaped Champagne glasses.

Dessert wine – dessert wines should be served in small glasses such as a cordial glass or snifter.

Wine bottle chillers – to keep white wine cool at the Thanksgiving dinner table, place the bottle in a wine chiller.

Wine bottle coasters – place red wines and dessert wines in wine coasters on your Thanksgiving dinner table to avoid spillage and red wine stains on table linens.

Aerator – if you choose to aerate wine before serving, use either a glass aerator or bottle aerator.

Wine preserver vacuum pump – removing excess oxygen from unused open wine helps to keep it fresh in the refrigerator.

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