Which Wines Pair Best With My Holiday Dinner?

Monday, November 20th, 2017
what type of wine should I drink with my holiday dinner

Thanksgiving is right around the corner, which means Christmas isn’t far behind. Will it be ham or turkey or both? Or perhaps you will be having Prime Rib this year for Christmas? Deciding on the protein and sides is hard enough, let us take the mystery out of what wines to pair with your dinner.

Turkey & Ham

Fortunately, Turkey and Ham are both versatile meats and profile well with the same types of wine. The meat is light enough to handle white wines, yet flavorful enough to hold up to a red. So, you can easily pair with a white or a red. It’s recommended to supply a bit of both, unless you really know what your entire audience prefers.

White Wines

People usually think white wine first, when they think of poultry. Make sure to look for something with well-balanced acidity that isn’t too dry.

This is a traditional white favorite for Thanksgiving. The trick is to find one that is clean and crisp vs. oaky, as the oak will overpower the turkey.

Pinot Grigio:

Is capable of handling garlic and onions, herbs and rich, flavorful, high-fat dishes. This white wine is a natural for the demands of Thanksgiving Day.

Riesling’s flavor profile of apple, apricot and honey give it a pairing edge with sweet potatoes, turkey and spicy, herby stuffing.

It’s not every day that you hear about this German white wine, but with its aromatic nose and spicy palate appeal, it brings out the best in turkey and gravy.

Red Wines

Yes, you can serve red wine with turkey breast. You may not want to serve Cabernet because it is generally too tart and high in tannins to match well with turkey, but you can certainly serve a lighter red.

Pinot Noir:

This red wine is a traditional favorite for Thanksgiving. Pinot Noir's subtle earthy undertones surround the fruit features of the wine and tend to show well with the traditional flavors of turkey and stuffing.


A fuller bodied red wine that ups the intensity from a pinot noir but still maintains a balancing effect on many traditional Thanksgiving side dishes. This would be an excellent wine pick for those looking for a heartier red wine with the capacity to accommodate spice, bitter and sweet flavor profiles.

Yes, they are the same thing with different names, depending on where the grapes are grown. The Syrah grape can bring a spicy edge or a meaty character to the table, often increasing the complexity while handling the combination of flavors in a traditional Thanksgiving meal. The prevalent peppery notes of Syrah partner well with the herb-infused stuffing and both the white and dark turkey meat.

With Dessert:

What Pie is on your table? Pumpkin? Pecan? Rhubarb? Apple? Something else? If you chose Riesling or Gewurztraminer as your white wine to serve, they will also go well with your dessert. You may also consider a Moscato, Port or Sherry if you are serving in courses.

Prime Rib or other Beef

We didn’t forget the red meat! It stands on its own and needs a bold well-balanced red wine, with strong, smooth tannins to enrich the flavor.


When it comes to beef roast, a full-bodied, dry, Bordeaux with liberal amounts of tannin often works best. Many Bordeaux wines have a sharp, mineral flavor to them that just seems to enhance the flavor and texture of the beef.

It’s often the top choice for a good piece of mid-rare Prime Rib. It cuts the richness of the Prime Rib while adding a nice herby, earthy element to it.

Merlot pairs well with roast beef, too. It is a full-bodied, aromatic, red wine. It often contains a hint of currants, vanilla, cloves and black cherries. It is an excellent choice for those wine drinkers that are not accustomed to the strong tannins found in other red wines.

These wines pair well with a succulent roast beef. It is a full-bodied, dry, red wine with smooth, firm tannins. Oftentimes, it carries a hint of black pepper, smoke and cloves. Its high acidity and balance of tannins tend to pair well with fatty cuts of meat.

No matter your protein, there is wine to pair with it. Turkey and Ham pairs well with softer reds and mildly sweet whites. Roasted beef requires a much heartier red wine, with stronger tannins to cut through the richness of the meat. Now that you know what wine to pair with your holiday dinner, you’ll be able to relax and enjoy the day with your friends and family. If things get too stressful, just have another glass of wine.

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