Best Wine with Turkey

Holiday dinners are a high pressure occasion. Lots to do in so little time, with that magnificent turkey at the center of it all. Heavier flavored than chicken, but lighter than darker poultry, turkey is the perfect accompaniment to rich sides. But how does it stand up to wine?

There’s nothing like a good glass of wine to smooth over a fractious holiday dinner. As well as elevating the turkey, wine needs to balance the array of sides, and subtly warm even the pickiest of dinner guests.

What better way to impress the family than by showing how good your palate is?

There are more than a few wines that are up to the task, and with enough variety to keep large parties happy. Wine with turkey should be playful and fruity, with weight for those decadent side dishes. We’ll guide you to make the perfect choice, from the obvious crowd pleasers, to the unexpected delights.

Pairing Wine with Turkey

Pairing wine with turkey is a relatively simple task. Turkey is a subtly flavored meat, with a low fat content that can lead to it becoming dry.

However, you need to consider everything that comes with turkey – fat laden potatoes, sharp cranberries, aromatic stuffing. The wine has to be heavy enough to be up to the task, but light enough to balance the turkey.

The first consideration when choosing a wine with turkey is the tannin content.

Low tannin wines are definitely the best choice. Higher tannins suit meats with a high fat content. Next to drier turkey, the tannins will be too harsh.

A fruity wine is always a good choice, as it plays with the variety of dishes on the table. Turkey as a meat works well with fruit flavors (see the aforementioned cranberry sauce), so a fruity red brings out the best of it.

There’s nothing wrong with some acidity as well, which can cut through some heavier dishes on the table. The soft texture of turkey works wonderfully contrasted with a bite of acid.

If you’re pairing a wine with Thanksgiving dinner, one thing that isn’t necessary is breaking the bank. Obviously, you don’t want to skimp on quality, but now is not the best time to bring out the vintage you’ve been saving for an occasion.

Next to all the decadent sides and rich buttery flavorings, this wine just won’t have the opportunity to shine. Save it for that moment after dinner, when everyone’s food has settled, and they can really appreciate it.

What Color Wine Goes Best with Turkey?

Reds are the traditional choice for a Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner, but you may be surprised to hear that there are quite a few whites that work particularly well. Which means you can serve quite the spread, or tailor the pairings to your choice.

If you choose to go red, look for those with a light to medium body. Anything too full-bodied is heavier than the meat can handle. A good red for turkey has a decent acid crispness, and lush fruit flavoring. If you do like a full-bodied red, save it to eat with cold turkey the next day.

White choices are a bit more limited, but those with a medium body work best. A white with minerality is the perfect for the subtle turkey flavors, and look for citrus sweetness over too much sugar.

Best Wines with Turkey

Pinot Noir

Low tannins and good acidity makes Pinot Noir the classic red wine pairing for turkey. This versatile wine is a crowd pleaser, and can work with everything that ends up on your plate. Next to the turkey, the bright fruitiness is almost perfectly matched. 

There is some variety in Pinot Noir, so make a choice that fits what you intend to serve. The earthier Pinot Noirs are best for lush spreads, and tend to come from Old World vineyards. Or try a Pinot Noir from California, they’re packed full of fruit with a hint of spice. 

Some Pinot Noir can be too light, and only works if you’re having a limited dinner, or perhaps with cold turkey the next day. Otherwise, try and find something with a medium body.

Best with… Everything that’s on the plate, and also works for the next day. This choice of wine should please everyone you’ve invited.

Châteauneuf-du-Pape

Slightly more expensive (if you want any quality) but Châteauneuf-du-Pape is a weightier red that holds its own against the variety of a full turkey dinner.

What makes this wine so delectable is every bottle bursts with a concentrated fruit flavor. Mixing richer berry tastes with playful spicing and refreshing citrus, every layer of this complex wine brings something new to the palate.

It doesn’t overshadow the subtle flavorings of roasted turkey, but can also stand up to any heavier seasonings.

This is also the perfect choice for anyone who may be slightly less than talented in the kitchen.

Next to a dry turkey, the bold fruit of Châteauneuf-du-Pape is a smooth palate cleanser. Not to mention, when wine tastes this good, you can distract everyone from those sadly inevitable burnt bits.

Best with… Drier turkey, where the lush fruit flavorings add a moisture that may be missing. Also, a perfect accompaniment to stuffing. 

Gamay Beaujolais

Another wine where you want to be paying for quality, a few bottles of this on the table is sure to impress any guests.

If you’re a visitor tasked with bringing a bottle, a Beaujolais Gamay is the perfect choice. Consult with a wine merchant over which Gamay they like best, and pick a bottle full of fruit. 

Avoid the Beaujolais Nouveau, as these tend to be too lightweight for a rich dinner. A good Gamay has just enough weight to suit the table, with low tannins and a crisp acidity.

This is a wine that keeps you coming back for more, each mouthful with a gentle body that’s just perfect with slices of turkey. A tough wine to find on a budget, but worth it if you’re looking to impress.

Best with… A classic Christmas feast.

Chardonnay

When it comes to white wine, the range of Chardonnay is incredible. While the crisper, lightweight Chardonnays have their place, the best option for turkey is a wine with oak heft. Hold back on the gravy, and pair it with creamier accompaniments such as bread sauce.

Chardonnay from all over suits, as the minerality in the grape gives a depth few whites can match. If you can, look for a Burgundy Chardonnay. These have a citrus zest that adds a new dimension to turkey, and is incredibly refreshing.

Australia and California are other classic Chardonnay producers, although these wines have a softer fruit finish. Otherwise, try South Africa and New Zealand.

Each option will bring something different, while retaining that mineral undertone and fruit forward flavor that’s so classic of Chardonnay.

Even if you prefer the classic red pairings, it’s always good to have a white on hand. Another advantage of Chardonnay – it’s great for sipping. Have a glass ready while you prepare dinner to make a cheeky palate cleanser.

Best with… Bread sauce, and other buttery and creamy sides.

Dry Riesling

Not the overly sweet options that have dominated in the past, but the classic dry Riesling. Still sweet enough to please a variety of palates, but with a complexity that’s missing from the less-dry options.

With a sharp acidity, a touch of minerality, and a citrus sweetness, a dry Riesling really does go well with everything on the table.

Particularly nice with stuffings full of nuts and dried fruits. Riesling has a lovely light floral aroma, paired with a touch of peach, which makes it a wonderful crowd pleaser.

Turkey shouldn’t be overshadowed, but the trick is finding a wine that’s still heavy enough to hold up to a holiday spread. A dry Riesling will take you through the day, without weighing the palate down.

Best with… Nut-based stuffings, snacking on dried fruit. If you have vegetarian guests enjoying a nut roast, they’ll appreciate a glass (or two) of Riesling as well.

Sparkling

In those post-holiday days, where we start to feel the downsides of indulgence, there’s nothing quite as comforting as a cold turkey sandwich. Piled high with any leftovers still hanging around the fridge, this is not a sandwich for refinement.

So what better thing to pair it with than a sparkling white? The crisp finish cuts through the excess of a cold turkey sandwich, while the bubbles make it feel like a celebration. Not so heavy you’ll regret it in the morning, and fresh enough to feel revitalizing.

Best with… Cold turkey, leftover sandwiches, terrible television, and snacking straight from the fridge.

Final Thoughts

Perhaps the wine that goes best with turkey is ‘lots of it’. With enough variety to choose from, any holiday feast certainly shouldn’t be ruined by a lack of wine. Look for decently priced quality, rather than trying to impress with the best you can find.

Christina Day
Follow us
Latest posts by Christina Day (see all)