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Thanksgiving Day Wines Simplified

Thanksgiving table with dishes of food

Thanksgiving Day Wines

There’s a classic rule of thumb to wine and food pairing; pair region with region. For instance, a juicy steak sourced from the U.S. goes well with a California Cabernet, while a dish of spaghetti bolognese couldn’t be better with an Italian Chianti-style wine. While Thanksgiving is the quintessential American holiday, a traditional Thanksgiving meal covers quite the range of flavors—there’s sweet, savory, creamy, tart, and everything in between, making it not so easy to select a wine varietal to compliment an array of aromas and tastes. So, let’s take a look at what will pair best for your holiday feast.

wine bottles on a brick ledge


Back to the classic rule of thumb, a solid pairing to try is Zinfandel, an American classic, and we are not talking the pink stuff. The best expressions of red Zinfandel happen to come from the northern California region. This is a full-bodied wine which carries a rich bold fruit-forward flavor with enough substance to hold up to any turkey day plate. It’s spicy, yet fruity and American oak aging adds a vanilla hint that compliments both sweet and savory flavors. Thanksgiving red wine

Beaujolais Nouveau

If you’d like to expand your options, look to Beaujolais Nouveau, not traditional Beaujolais mentioned in July’s article on unexpected summer reds, but rather new Beaujolais, meaning there is no aging process, it’s bottled immediately after harvesting and is best to be drunk young and chilled.

If you’re not familiar with this varietal of French wine, here’s a little background. Each year, on the third Thursday in November, just prior to the Thanksgiving holiday, the new release of the current year’s Beaujolais Nouveau becomes available. It’s an annual celebratory occasion in its native country of France and said to be the only time when the French actually get drunk. Remember, this is a culture who includes wine as a food group and enjoys a small pour during meals, oftentimes even during lunch. So they literally have it in their blood and are acclimated to the alcohol content. Because it is also accompanied with food the effects are much different than when drinking wine alone and in large amounts.

You may notice a stacked display of this type of wine in the upcoming weeks. But be weary of previous years’ vintages. When you see it on sale during the summer months and beyond, there’s reason. It will have been past it’s prime because it is low in tannins and light-bodied, two characteristics that do not compliment a bottle-aging process. 


Another fantastic French, and possibly a personal favorite, is Syrah (Shiraz in Australia) from the Northern Rhone region in France. Deep in color and full-bodied, you’ll taste fruit, but it will be dark fruit like blackberry combined with some spice and herbaceous notes like black pepper, anise, and fresh mint—a pleasant mix with a nice nose.

I did a test run and tried it with a baked sweet potato seasoned with cinnamon and an Indian curry spice blend to see how Syrah would hold up to sweet and bold flavors. It was a perfect pairing. The combination of sweet potato with added seasoning smoothed out the tannins and the wine had enough body to stand up well showcasing its spice and the dark fruit flavors leant a balance.

champagne and red wine toasting

At the end of the day, or beginning of the meal, it all comes down to a matter of personal choice. So whether your Zinfandel is red or white (pink), you choose the aged Beaujolais or Beaujolais Nouveau, or Syrah or Shiraz, the only thing that matters is what tastes best to you.  Cheers and a toast to a Happy Thanksgiving.

Nicole Carbon

Nicole Carbon

Nicole Carbon is the Editor-In-Chief of VODA Magazine. She is based in beautiful Sarasota, FL. For over a decade, she has been writing for both print and online media outlets about food, wine, travel, and other lifestyle-related finds. She received her Level 2 Award in Wines certification from the Wine and Spirits Education Trust (WSET) and writes a monthly wine column in the Venice Gondolier Sun. She contributes to Edible Sarasota, writes a health and wellness blog, and various feature articles and content for other media outlets. Previously, she wrote two magazine columns titled “A Girl Walks Into a Bar,” and “Inside the Kitchen.” Her work has appeared in the Austin American Statesman, Austin MD, Austin Monthly, Austin Woman, Austin Man, Citysearch Austin and Los Angeles, CultureMap.com, JetBlue’s blog, SRQ Magazine, and the list goes on. She has also made TV appearances on local NBC and Fox news affiliates as well as Cooking Channel’s Eat Street.

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