The turkey is a tricky bird to prepare, much less cook and serve. Choosing wines that pair with turkey may seem like extra work on the pile, but it’s actually quite simple!
Whether you like dark meat or white meat, turkey is still beholden to the same wine pairing guidelines for poultry in general. Your wine needs to lean toward more fruit-forward or floral flavor notes to let your turkey’s natural salt and fat shine through. While oaked and robust reds are far from forbidden, these wines can be too overpowering.
You already have a lot of planning and cooking ahead of you, so let us take off some of the work. Below are our top wines that pair with turkey separated by recipe type to give you the most satisfying dinner yet!
Choosing Your Turkey Recipe
Your turkey’s preparation will greatly influence the wine pairing. From brining to slow cooking, each method brings out a new side that could be incompatible with certain wines.
Oven Roasted Turkey
The most popular method of cooking a turkey is easily oven-roasting, which means you’ll have a bounty of toasted, fatty flavors to enjoy.
This cooking method is a little broad thanks to the flexibility of brining: you can technically brine your turkey in any sort of liquid. Salt and water is the simplest base, but many people prefer to add an herb broth or citrus bath.
You can also brine your turkey in wine, which we’ll touch on below!
Slow Cooked Turkey
While the oven-roasted turkey is crispy perfection and the brined turkey loaded up with extra flavor, the slow-cooked turkey’s claim to fame is its texture. This bird gets incredibly tender after several hours of simmering in the crockpot.
Cured Turkey Sausage
If you don’t have the time or the kitchen space for an entire turkey, cured turkey sausage is a juicy alternative. The curing process not only preserves the meat, but it also makes your turkey much more flavorful.
Best Wines That Pair With Turkey
While there’s no hard and fast rule for wines with turkey, there are a few common guidelines that span different recipes. First and foremost: poultry is milder than red meat, so we recommend leaning away from robust or oaked red wines.
Highly tannic wines often have bitter, smoky, or spiced profiles that run the risk of muting your turkey’s soft flavor. That said, we’ll have an exception here and there!
Best Red Wines That Pair With Turkey
The red wines that pair with turkey in a balanced and complimentary way lean toward light mouthfeels, high acidity, and fruit-forward flavor notes.
This French red wine staple is actually of Spanish origin, hence the different names! With a lighter body and lusciously balanced flavors, this wine is quite popular across multiple food groups.
Expect a burst of red fruit along the lines of raspberries, cherries, and cranberries (the last of which is practically synonymous with turkey). This grape often has subtle hints of licorice and cinnamon, with oaked versions pushing these flavors into full-blown allspice territory.
We Recommend Carignan or Cariñena For Oven Roasted Turkey or Slow-Cooked Turkey (With Dark Meat)
Such a flexible wine is, unsurprisingly, well-suited to multiple cooking methods. An unoaked bottle will give you mouth-puckering red fruit to make any white meat taste extra salty.
If you really want an oaked version, we recommend sticking to dark meat: the wine’s spiced finish will be too strong for anything lighter!
This red wine grape is a touch underrated thanks to its uneven growth patterns and its arduous history throughout the Prohibition era. Nowadays it’s a staple red wine and even has a popular rosé: White Zinfandel.
Zinfandel refers to the original red wine, a bold and punchy grape that still isn’t too heavy for your turkey. You’ll enjoy ripe plums and cherries alongside darker blackberries and hints of pepper.
We Recommend Zinfandel For Brined Turkey (With Herbs) or Slow-Cooked Turkey
Zinfandel will give you a dusting of spice to round out the juicy and herbal flavors of your brined turkey. You can use the zinfandel for brining your bird or stick to a classic white wine for the broth: either way, your vintage fruit notes will pop.
Slow-cooked turkey will be a little more oily and savory, so zinfandel’s mix of dark fruit and pepper will taste especially bold.
Unoaked Pinot Noir
Who would turn down a glass of fresh, unoaked pinot noir with a plate of turkey and potatoes? This fruity and refreshing red wine is a crowd-pleaser thanks to its incredible balance.
Not too tart and not too bitter, pinot noir has a way of bringing out the best in any holiday dinner. Similar to the above red wines, you’ll enjoy red fruit flavor notes of strawberries and raspberries.
Pinot noir is also rather unique in having an earthy finish sometimes compared to a forest floor.
We Recommend Unoaked Pinot Noir For Oven Roasted Turkey or Cured Turkey Sausage
Your unoaked pinot noir will have the bright, brambly red fruit to balance out your oven-roasted turkey’s salt and charr.
If you can’t get your hands on an oven-roasted variety, cured turkey sausage is another strong choice. Lightly smoked or herb sausage will complement your pinot noir’s earthy aftertaste brilliantly.
This wine is not technically a grape, but a style made in the Beaujolais region of France. Winemakers create Beaujolais predominantly from gamay grapes which is a lively red wine with a light body and plenty of acidity.
If you’re a fan of similarly lighter-bodied and balanced reds like Bordeaux or Chianti, don’t skip Beaujolais. Its flavors range from boysenberry to raspberries and cherries, right alongside an impressively tea-like aroma.
We Recommend Beaujolais For Cured Turkey Sausage
A laid-back wine deserves a laid-back spread! Cured turkey sausage has a chewy texture and fatty tang to make your beaujolais taste exceptionally bright.
Another easy-drinking wine to add to the cozy atmosphere of a holiday dinner is merlot. Low on tannins and low on acidity, this grape is easy to sip while nursing your food baby.
Unlike the more zesty red fruit of the previous wine samples, merlot is all about dark fruit. The flavor notes here are dark plums, blackberries, and blueberries. You may even get hints of chocolate!
To top things off, this wine has a delectably plush mouthfeel that almost feels like velvet.
We Recommend Merlot For Oven Roasted Turkey
If you’re fond of adding gravy or cranberry sauce to your turkey meat, merlot is a prime contender for your next holiday wine bottle. The wine’s jammy flavors and velvety mouthfeel are a natural complement to turkey’s dry texture and salty flavor.
Best White Wines That Pair With Turkey
Choosing the most suitable white wines with turkey comes down to whether you prefer a savory approach or a pop of sweetness.
While merlot and pinot noir are crowd-pleasing red wines, oaked chardonnay is the reigning champion of go-to white wines.
Oaked chardonnay picks up a lot of character from the oak process, resulting in a signature creamy mouthfeel and buttery aftertaste. These flavor notes also mingle ripe yellow fruit with hints of wood and vanilla.
We Recommend Oaked Chardonnay For Oven Roasted Turkey or Brined Turkey
Classic oven-roasted turkey will bode well with oaked chardonnay’s thick, creamy texture, especially if you don’t want to waste drier white meat.
If you’re planning on brining your turkey, consider using some of your oaked chardonnay for the recipe. Save the rest for sipping with your turkey platter and side dishes.
While oaked chardonnay is savory and buttery, riesling is all about sugar. This wine functions well as both a relaxed table wine and a dessert wine, depending on when you drink it!
Expect flavor notes ranging from honeyed pear to tart green apple. If you want your wine a little on the drier side, look for a French origin. If you prefer sweeter wines, get a bottle from Germany.
We Recommend Riesling For Smoked Turkey Sausage
Whether you choose a dry, tart bottle or a sugary bottle, both riesling styles offer a great contrast to a smoked turkey sausage platter.
Sweet or tart wine with turkey isn’t the only route you can take. Viognier adds a delicate, floral profile to the mix, ideal for platters that lean away from smoked and brined recipes.
The dominant flavor notes of viognier are honeysuckle and apricot with a famously floral aroma.
We Recommend Viognier For Oven Roasted Turkey
A light and delicate wine are best suited for a straightforward platter. Slices of oven-roasted turkey – white or dark – will let your wine shine.
Best Blushing Wines That Pair With Turkey
Rosés are an underrated addition to turkey dinner and unfairly so. Blushing wine is lower on tannins and heavy on tart fruit, both details that balance out turkey easily.
A chilled, still rosé will be an invigorating touch on a platter of turkey, gravy, and stuffing. The flavor notes most associated with rosés are raspberries, melon, and peach.
We Recommend Still Rosés For Oven Roasted Turkey or Turkey Sausage
Recipes that have a little bit of smoking or crispier edges are best suited to the tart sweetness of still rosés.
Sparkling Brut Rosés
While sparkling brut rosés are similar to still rosés, the higher acidity and bubbles make all the difference.
We Recommend Sparkling Brut Rosés For Oven Roasted Turkey (Dark Meat)
Since white meat turkey is already rather dry, keep your sparkling brut rosé for a dark meat platter. The higher oil and fat content will make your wine taste extra crisp.