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Turkey Wine Pairing | Wines That Pair Well With Turkey

By
Brad Johnson
Table of Contents

Whether you're hosting friends and family for a meal or learning how to become a sommelier, there’s one thing you’re bound to come across: wine pairing. This is the practice of serving a meal and wine together that have complementary tastes. 

Though wine pairing with salmon and other kinds of food has been around for thousands of years, chances are you haven’t learned how to do it unless you work with a sommelier. While it does take time to master wine terms and flavors, you can arrange excellent meals with essential knowledge from some of the best wine books.

Learning turkey wine pairing is particularly easy because it’s a mild food that can be prepared in dozens of ways. Keep reading for insights on which wine flavors naturally suit specific turkey dishes. 

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What Wine Pairs With Turkey?

While you can select any wine that matches the flavor of your dish, the top three wine pairs with turkey are Pinot Noir, Champagne, and Chardonnay. Let’s break each of these flavors down and explain why they work well together. 

Pinot Noir is one of the adaptable red wine types that suits meals of varying kinds. Choosing a New World Pinot Noir will offer you fruity, bold, and oaky flavors, whereas an Old World Pinot Noir is earthier, acidic, and has lower wine alcohol content.

Old World wine comes from the traditional winegrowing areas of Italy, France, Portugal, and Spain, whereas New World wine comes from any other location. This includes Mexico, the United States, New Zealand, Argentina, and Canada. 

Both New and Old World wine work well because turkey can be prepared with a broad range of ingredients. Go with New World for turkey meals with stronger spices and Old World for milder turkey dishes.

Champagne is a great turkey wine pairing for its higher acid content, smooth mouthfeel, and low tannin levels. Depending on the Champagne you pick, you may enjoy a bready, almond flavor, or an orange zest, melon, and apple taste. The natural fruit aromas in champagne bring out the delicate savoriness of turkey, making each flavor noticeable without overpowering your main dish. 

Chardonnay is another classic wine choice for turkey pairing. Its natural bubbliness, high acidity, and abundant fruitiness accentuates the lesser-tasted aspects of turkey. Chardonnay is also a dry and low calorie wine. These characteristics allow its aromas and taste profile to round out the denseness of turkey while adding subtle flavors to your meal experience. 

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Wine Pairing With Smoked Turkey Breast

Smoked turkey breast is a dinner choice many turn to throughout the year. It’s a simple meal to make, yet it offers delicate and subtle flavors that can be paired with several beverages, including call drinks.

The best overall wine pairing with smoked turkey breast is Riesling, one of several types of white wine. This widely appreciated, dry German wine offers botanical and citrusy flavors. Rieslings are not a low acid wine, meaning their acid levels naturally work well with the spiciness of smoked meat. 

Two more great choices for smoked turkey are merlot and shiraz. Merlot is popular not only for its smooth tannins and relative sweetness, but its cherry and chocolate flavors. Shiraz offers strawberry, red plum, currant, and raspberry accents, creating a marvelous combination with rich, smoked dishes. 

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Best Wine To Pair With Turkey

Each turkey dish is different and calls for unique pairings, but a Burgundy Chardonnay, Rioja Bordeaux, or Spanish Garnacha are excellent options. A Burgundy offers yellow plum, lemon, and pear flavors with a denser mouthfeel and fresh aromas. You can get its full aromatic value by swirling wine before drinking it. 

The Rioja Bordeaux is a prime choice for richer meals. This is one of a few red wines that isn’t too strong for turkey, as it has plum and herb notes, a full mouthfeel, and stronger tannins. 

Spanish Garnacha is another versatile red wine that brings plenty to the table for a turkey pairing. This wine has deep red fruit flavors like pomegranate, cherry, and red apple, balanced by botanicals like violet and cinnamon. 

While each of these wines work great for any turkey meal, remember that the best wine pairing is your favorite one. Ultimately choosing a beverage to go with a meal is a matter of personal preference. By thinking unconventionally, you may come across an aged wine or meal pairing that blows your mind. 

Best Wine Pairing With Thanksgiving Turkey

Thanksgiving is a notable annual meal that millions of people look forward to. Finding new flavor combinations and wine varietals is part of what makes this time of year memorable, and you can do that with the right wine pairing. 

The flavors experienced during Thanksgiving are both savory and tangy, which means Champagnes make a great fit. Duval-Leroy’s Femme de Champagne Brut Grand Cru is an excellent choice for its high acidity and floral, apricot, and citrus tastes. This Champagne is 80% Chardonnay and 20% Pinot Noir, offering piquant flavor and a smooth body. 

Another great selection is Bernard Lonclas’ Blanc de Blancs Brut, another floral Champagne. This is similar to the Brut Grand Cru but with stronger lemon and citrus flavors. Savory turkey and gravy plus the tart sweetness of cranberry sauce make a great pairing with the zestiness of this Champagne. 

Frequently Asked Questions About Turkey Wine Pairing

If you haven’t done food and wine pairing before, it can feel like drinking water from a firehose. There’s a lot of information to digest (pun intended), and even if you have a wine aroma kit, pointers still help. 

To get on the fast track for turkey wine pairings, we researched the most commonly asked questions about it. Check out our answers below: 

What kind of wine goes well with turkey?

Turkey is a mild-flavored type of meat that takes on the herbs and spices it’s cooked with. To get the most out of your meal, you want to select drinks that match the food. 

Take a look below for recommendations on wine pairings to go with turkey:

  • Riesling (dry white wine with minerality and smooth mouthfeel)
  • Pinot Noir (dry red wine that is fruity or earthy, depending on selection)
  • Champagne (dry, acidic white wine; used as an example of the sugar in wine)
  • Zinfandel (dry red wine known for its black and blue fruit flavors)

What is a good wine for turkey dinner?

There are several good wines for turkey dinner pairing, depending on what you have a taste for. On the lighter side, you can go for a Sauvignon Blanc or Chenin Blanc for crisp, grassy, and slightly spicy flavors. These white wines go well with strongly spiced or herbed turkey recipes. 

On the darker side, you can’t beat a good Zinfandel. This red wine’s licorice, tobacco, and raspberry accents enrich the flavors in a dark meat or smoked turkey meal. 

What do you drink with turkey?

Knowing which wines go with turkey relies on understanding which flavors complement specific textures. Turkey is not a strongly flavored meat, so your drink selections should bring out the hints of flavor in a dish. To get you started, here’s a brief list of some of the best wines to pair with turkey: 

  • California Chardonnay
  • Barolo Bordeaux
  • Gamay Beaujolais
  • Australian Pinot Noir
  • Chianti

You can also make great use of whiskey, vodka, and beer for turkey dinners. Here are some suggestions along those lines: 

  • Old fashioned whiskey
  • Vodka Collins
  • Brandy pear cobbler
  • Brown ale
  • Saison
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Great Minds Drink Alike

Growing your experience with food and wine pairing is an ability that pays several dividends. It improves your bar management skills, makes you a better host, and levels up your cooking prowess. Pay attention to what your guests order most, so you can continue creating knockout meals. 

Some rules were made to be broken, though, so remember you have the freedom to experiment with new flavors. As long as you’re making food for yourself, you can get as creative with pairings as you want.