The Best Cheap Wine Pairings for Thanksgiving Leftovers

Bryce Gruber

Top wine experts weighed in with the best wine pairings for your Thanksgiving leftovers, and yes -- they're all affordable, realistic, and easy pours.

With fewer Americans hitting the roads and airports for far-flung Thanksgiving meals, more people are cooking versions of this gratitude-filled dinner at home for their immediate families only. With less people at the table, the likelihood of leftovers filling the fridge for days to come essentially skyrockets -- giving you near endless opportunities to thoughtfully pair your favorite wines with everything from leftover sides to a full plate.

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Top sommeliers, wine, and food experts weighed in with the proper pairings for each of the most popular Thanksgiving dishes -- because there's a good chance you'll be sitting down with a bowl of creamed spinach and a glass of wine by the weekend.

Leftover mashed potatoes

"As if Thanksgiving isn't decadent enough, the next day I add shredded Comté cheese to my left-over mashed potatoes as I warm them up which puts me in a food coma all over again," shares Laura Pauli, a classically trained chef from the French Culinary Institute and a certified sommelier from the Court of Masters Sommeliers. "A classic Chardonnay is a perfect pairing as the rich unctuous buttery richness melds with the butter and potato, but is dry and bright enough to keep it elevated and not weigh down the meal."

Leftover sweet potato pie or sweet potatoes with marshmallows

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"Sweet potatoes absolutely scream for a sweet Riesling wine," explains Pauli. "With aromas of apricot, honey, vanilla and a slight zippy citrus acidity to keep you from falling off your chair, this beautiful, late harvest wine will accentuate the earthy sweet potatoes and caramelized marshmallows for a pillowy-soft pairing."

Leftover cornbread stuffing

Get excited about this unexpected pairing, because Pauli says cornbread stuffing is an opportunity to expand your wine horizons. "Vouvray is a fancy name for a Chenin Blanc from the Loire Valley in France. Cornbread stuffing with hints of spice and herbs, pecans, cranberries, and other savory bites baked in marry well with a dry or off-dry Chenin Blanc. With moderately intense aromas of pear, apple, honeysuckle and persimmon with subtle, spicy notes of ginger, you can find delicious Chenin Blanc grown in many countries from South Africa to California."

Leftover turkey and cranberry sauce sandwiches

"I love Thanksgiving if for no other reason than the leftover turkey/cranberry sandwiches," she says of this perennial favorite leftovers combination.

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"A typical pairing is the prolific Pinot Noir but I’ve been enjoying Gamays the past few months. Made famous by Beaujolais Nouveau Day throughout France, quality Gamay wines are also made across the globe. It’s a light, bright red wine with notes of cherry, raspberry, black current, violet, a little earth and, wait for it… cranberry!"

Leftover pecan pie

"Opt for a sparkling, light wine if you're opting for a wine with your leftover pecan pie instead of bourbon," she says. "Go light, bubbly and beautifully aromatic. So much so that you will swear you’ve just magically transported to a field of every flower grown."

Leftover creamed spinach

Robert Daugherty, Winc winemaker and expert on all things vino suggests opting for an unoaked Chardonnay that stands up to the creaminess of this dish. "I’d recommend a bottle that will stand up to the creaminess without overwhelming it. I’d recommend a bottle of unoaked chardonnay from France. The wine’s tasting notes of lemon rind, stone and white peach are a perfect match for the course. A good example would be a 2019 L'Atelier du Sud Chardonnay."

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Leftover pumpkin pie

"A medium-bodied rosé makes a great dessert on its own but is also a perfect pairing for the traditional pumpkin pie," tells Daugherty of this perfect pairing for the sweet-toothed holiday fan. "The wine’s slight sweetness goes hand-in-hand with the sugary filling and whipped cream."

Leftover cheese balls

Are leftover cheddar cheeseballs even a thing? Probably not in past years, but with smaller gatherings and the same family recipes, 2020 is shaping up to be the first year in history where a little extra cheddar is left for the next day.

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Molly Browne, the education manager for Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin and a Certified Cheese Professional (yes kids, that's a real job you can aspire to), suggests going for a light-bodied red wine. "Cheddar has a high acidity profile, so it can stand up to acidic wines and savory qualities. A light bodied Sangiovese would be great here."

Leftover baked brie with cranberry sauce or chutney

Baked cheese just may be everyone's favorite reason to celebrate the holidays, and with Thanksgiving's cranberry-spiced chutneys, jams, and sauces often laid atop everyone's favorite hot Brie dish, the pairing should be light, sparkling, and joyful to balance the weighty cheese.

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"Soft-ripened, bloomy rind cheese like Brie are typically creamy butter bombs, which makes them a great pairing with sparkling wines. The effervescence of the wine will help keep your palate fresh and ready for the next bite. One of my absolute favorite Brie cheeses this time of year is Hoard’s Dairyman St. Savior. It has a rich, buttery flavor from a soft, creamy core inside a brilliant rind. Both cheese and rind are edible, making this easy to pop in the oven.

Leftover apple and goat cheese tart

Browne's work as an experienced cheese educator for Wisconsin Cheese has taught her that unexpected cheese combinations make for some really exciting wine pairings. "Cheddar cheese is one of my go to pairings with apples so I like reaching for LaClare Creamery’s Chandoka, a New Zealand style cheddar that is made with a combination of cow and goats milk.  This cheese will give you a buttery, sweet flavor that is a good match for mild-mannered white wines. The tartness of the apples here would be tempered by something just a bit sweet, so I think an off-dry Riesling would be ideal for this dish."

No matter which dishes you're left with come Friday, you'll have perfect pairing options that are likely on-hand in your home wine cellar or refrigerator already. If not, they're easy and affordable online finds you might not even need to leave home for.

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Bryce Gruber covers women's lifestyle content and news ranging from shopping to travel, beauty to parenting, wellness and delicious eating. Find her at @brycegruber on social media, and across a variety of women's lifestyle and parenting topics at TheLuxurySpot.com, Readers' Digest, Bravo, Parents.com, Martha Stewart, and on your TV screen through national talk shows including The Tamron Hall Show. She lives and works in New York's Hudson Valley with her five small children.

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