How To Pick the Best Wine for Thanksgiving

How To Pick the Best Wine for Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is the beginning of the holiday season — a time to gather with your loved ones and give thanks for all of life's blessings. It's also the moment you get to indulge in some of the most delectable foods you've been thinking about all year long. 

You know what we're talking about: Turkey with stuffing. Mashed potatoes and gravy. Green bean casserole. Sweet potatoes with marshmallows. Cranberry sauce. Pumpkin pie.

But now that you're no longer relegated to the kids' table, you're ready to enjoy a decidedly grown-up feast. To that end, we've compiled this list to help you select the best wine for Thanksgiving. 

Whether you're a fan of white, rosé, red, or a combination of all types of wines, you'll find the perfect wine pairings for your Thanksgiving table, including appetizers, main course, side dishes, and desserts. Plus, you'll get some top tips on selecting the ideal temperature and glassware for the most memorable meal ever.

White Wine

Be it still or sparkling, white wine is a classic choice for Thanksgiving dinner. To kick off the festivities, it's always fun to start with something fizzy like Prosecco, Champagne, or Brut. Here are some other fabulous Thanksgiving wine selections. 

Chardonnay

Although Chardonnay has a reputation for being oaky, buttery, and heavy, there are plenty of unoaked Chardonnays that are crisp and fruity with a more pronounced minerality. The crisp acidity of unoaked Chardonnay works just as well with seafood appetizers and creamy cheeses as it does with turkey and trimmings. (Psst ... Chardonnay also works like a dream for basting turkey.)

Sauvignon Blanc

With its pronounced acidity and lingering herbaceous flavor, Sauvignon Blanc is a white wine that can balance the heavier dishes of your Thanksgiving meal. It complements any white meat you might be serving, including turkey, Cornish game hens, roast chicken, or even plant-based Thanksgiving proteins. Sauvignon Blanc is also an excellent partner for side dishes like an arugula salad with prosciutto or veggies with fresh herbs (think homemade artichoke dip with dill).

Riesling

It goes without saying you don't want a dry bird for your Turkey Day feasting. But when it comes to Riesling, dry is the goal. Unlike late-harvest Rieslings that can be far too cloying for your Thanksgiving meal, dry Riesling is fruit-forward and acidic, making it a fantastically versatile vino to serve with turkey, sweet potatoes, and all the other fixings. For something similar, you could also go for a delightfully aromatic Gewurztraminer.

Rosé Wine

Much like the white wines on our list, light- to medium-bodied dry rosés are great for a variety of dishes on your Thanksgiving table. Pair this blush crowd pleaser with starters like soft cheeses and charcuterie, salads, and side dishes like rice pilaf or roasted veggies. You could also sip on it while digging into turkey or chicken, or fruity desserts like apple pie or apricot tarts.

Sparkling rosé is the ultimate party drink, so consider it for your Thanksgiving toast. One to try: Usual Wines Brut Rosé, a deliciously crisp, easy-drinking wine with notes of strawberry, rose petal, and rhubarb.

Red Wine

For Thanksgiving dinner, you can't go wrong with a glass of red wine. Light- or medium-bodied reds with lower tannins like Pinot Noir and Tempranillo won't overpower or compete with your meal. But that doesn't mean you can't enjoy some bolder, more full-bodied reds like Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, or Syrah. The key is knowing how to pair them properly. Below are some options we suggest. 

Beaujolais Nouveau

This popular red from the Beaujolais region of France is a holiday favorite. And why wouldn't it be? This affordable, fast-fermented vino goes on sale the third Thursday of every November (perfect timing for Thanksgiving) to mark the first harvest of the year. You can get it at a variety of stores online or in person. It tends to have bright, juicy, fruit flavors that fare well with a variety of dishes, including turkey and smoked ham.

Pinot Noir

Another dry red that doesn't disappoint, Pinot Noir is a crowd pleaser with light to medium body, bright acidity, red fruit flavors, delightful aromas, and a long, smooth finish. Serve it with lighter cuts of meat like turkey breast rather than dark meat such as turkey legs. It also goes great with any red berry pies for dessert. 

Montepulciano

This food-friendly, dry red wine from Italy might not be the first red that comes to mind for your T-Day feasting, but it's a solid option. The higher tannins and acidity of Montepulciano wine cut through fats, which means it's perfect for any beef dishes (or cheesy casseroles) you might have on the Thanksgiving table.

Cabernet Sauvignon

With its robust flavor profile and abundant tannins, Cab is a great wine for dishes with rich flavors — think roast beef or Brussels sprouts with bacon. It's also perfect for hearty, grilled veggies like portobello mushrooms and peppers. For a gift-worthy bottle, you can't miss with Usual Reserve. This exquisite bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa, California is sure to make the holidays all the more memorable.

Merlot

A wonderfully easy-drinking wine, Merlot is a tasty partner for some of the richer, heartier dishes on your Thanksgiving table. Its velvety finish and deep fruity notes complement roasted meats, including beef, pork, or lamb. It also tastes great with roasted side dishes, such as mushrooms, roasted squash, and bell peppers.

How To Serve the Best Wine for Thanksgiving

Best wine for Thanksgiving: Table of food with Usual Wines

Now that you have some solid ideas on the best wine for Thanksgiving (or should we say, the best wines since you'll want to serve more than one), it's time to make sure you do your bottles justice. Use these handy tips to serve wine like an expert, and everyone at the Thanksgiving table will have yet another reason to be thankful. Bonus: These tips will also come in handy for a wine-tasting party any time of year.

Pick the Right Temperature

Even when you select the best wine for Thanksgiving, it won't taste good if you serve it at the wrong temperature. But don't worry — we won't let that happen. 

Let's start with red wine. Contrary to what you might have read or heard, serving red wine at room temperature is not the way to go. Room temp can be too warm, creating a bitter, unbalanced, and overly alcoholic taste. 

Instead, the best wine temperature for reds is around 60-65 degrees Fahrenheit. For lighter reds like Pinot Noir, Beaujolais Nouveau, or Montepulciano, go for the cooler side of this range. For bolder, full-bodied reds like Cab or Zinfandel, opt for the warmer end of the spectrum.

For white wines, sparkling wines, and rosés, you want to serve them nicely chilled to bring out their bright flavors, crisp acidity, and refreshing bouquet. That said, you should avoid serving it too cold, which could dull its flavors. 

For best results, chill these wines in the fridge for a couple of hours and serve between 45-50 degrees. If you don't have enough time or space, there are some helpful hacks to quickly chill wine.

Also, consider decanting your wine — specifically your reds — before serving. You don't need to be a sommelier to pull it off (seriously, it's so easy), and a decanter will look oh-so-pretty on your serving table. Check out our guide to decanting wine for more details.

Select Appropriate Stemware

Along with serving your wine at the right temperature, using the right glassware will bring out the best features of every pour. For instance, it's best to serve bubbly in a narrow, long-stem Champagne flute to keep the carbonation intact and your warm hands away from the chilled wine. 

On the other hand, serving red wines in a glass with a wider bowl offers more breathing room, releasing the wine's aromas and enhancing its overall flavor. A standard red wine glass is perfect, although there are more options for specific types of reds, like Bordeaux

For a complete checklist of stemware options, be sure to check out our guide to the different types of wine glasses.

It's Time To Toast the Holidays

Waiter pouring the Usual Wines bottle on wine glasses

Thanksgiving is a chance to express gratitude, spend time with those who matter most to you, and enjoy the most decadent meal of the year. It's also your chance to make Thanksgiving dinner even more exciting with great wine

Whether you choose red, white, rosé, or a mix of them all, ultimately, the best wine for Thanksgiving is a matter of personal taste. You get to decide. As long as you (and your guests) enjoy it, then that's the right choice. For more ideas for your Thanksgiving meal, be sure to peruse these bottles of Usual Wines that will please every palate.