A Beginner's Guide to Buying Wine for Thanksgiving

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Obviously Thanksgiving is our big food and wine holiday here in the U.S., but the traditional cuisine—namely roast Turkey—is one of the toughest things in the world to find a great wine pairing.  The white meat can be dry and bland while the thighs and legs can be full of lush, gamey flavor, so the key is finding wine(s) that pair well with that whole spectrum. With all these swirling factors in mind, we've put together a quick guide to buying the best wine for Thanksgiving, with help from Wine Library's Benjamin Williams.

Due to the dryness of a lot of the potential items on your Thanksgiving platter, finding a wine that is high in acidity is key. So our recommendations—from a broad perspective—are to identify a Dry Riesling, Gamay, a Champagne, or anything with bubbles.

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Dry Riesling

  • Light in body, heavy on flavor; these tend to be high in acidity and minerality which act as palate cleansers and really make them versatile
  • Sourced from places like Austria, Alsace, and certain German wines offer tons of complexity that pair perfectly with roast turkey
  • Chardonnay is the typical white that people go for with Thanksgiving, but Dry Riesling is both unique and a more suitable match for traditional dishes
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  • The classic red pairing for Thanksgiving is Pinot Noir - Gamay is its close cousin.  Similar in body and style, but for a fraction of the cost (usually)
  • Again, high acidity, lots of fruit and low tannins make these wines super fresh and great palate cleansers while not overpowering the white Turkey meat or other traditional side dishes
  • The 10 Crus of Beaujolais is where you would typically find Gamay, but more places in the world are producing nice versions (I'd stick with Beaujolais; Fleurie or Regnie are my faves for Thanksgiving) 
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Champagne / Bubbles

  • On top of having great acidity and minerality, Champagne (or other sparklers) also have the added bonus of bubbles - which actually do some "scrubbing" to clean the palate while eating - this is what makes it the ideal food wine
  • It's inherently celebratory, and what's better than that when we're all celebrating (or tolerating) as a family...
  • France's Champagne region offers the only source for "true" Champagne, but other regions offer great values in sparklers (i.e. Cremants from Burgundy, Prosecco, or Cava) 
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This should be a good starting place to begin identifying the right pairing of wine for Thanksgiving this year. The key is to find something acidic that will hopefully be versatile enough to pair with the myriad of flavors strewn about your Turkey Day platter. Enjoy.

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