Written by: Tim Edison

Updated on: March 9, 2022

6 Best Wines With Turkey Dishes [Not to Miss Pairings!]

Take your Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners to the next level by choosing the perfect wine with turkey. We recommend six of our favorite pairings in our guide.

Wine and turkey

Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner are the two famous turkey meals but any special dinner requires a special wine.

But what's the best wine to pair with turkey?

Picking the right wine for your dinner can be hard so it helps to get some recommendations.

That's where we come in!

Thankfully, turkey meat's succulent profile pairs really well with a range of wines.

There are fruity reds and rich whites from all over the world that sing in harmony with the juicy turkey meat texture. There are even some excellent sparkling wines that aren't to be missed.

These are my favorite wines that were just made for turkey dishes!


Two Key Rules for Wine With Turkey

Before we reveal our favorite wines to serve with turkey, we thought it would be best to highlight the two most important points to consider.


1. Acidity is your friend

The first point worth considering when deciding wine pairings with turkey is the acidity of the wine.

The two most popular turkey dishes are Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner. They are loaded with flavorful sides and sauces to enhance the mild turkey meat. 

Parsnips, cranberries, various stuffings, gravy, and brussel sprouts are just some of the bold flavors found on the plate.

That means acidity is your friend! It helps to refresh the palete and cut through all those strong flavors that are competing for attention on the plate.

Wines with high and medium acidity levels are therefore well suited to coping with all of the competing flavors in a turkey dinner.

Wine glasses on barrels


2. Watch the tannins

Turkey is one of the leaner meats. The low fat content means the bitter flavor of tannins can easily be accentuated.

The mouth-coating tannin requires a fattier meat to soften the effect. The saltiness of turkey can also promote the bitterness in tannins.

However, wines that have relatively high tannin content can still pair really well with wine should they have enough bottle age. Tannins soften over time and this is where older wines really prove their worth.

For this reason, certain Merlot blends and Cabernet Sauvignon, which both contain pretty high tannin content, can pair really well with the lean, white turkey meat.

Therefore, the second key rule when choosing a red wine for turkey is to go with low tannins (or at the most medium) unless you're choosing an aged bottle of something like a Bordeaux Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon.


What Wine Goes With Turkey?

We've split our recommendations in to our favorite red, white, and sparkling wines for turkey. 


The Reds

As we mentioned previously, the secret in choosing the perfect red wine for turkey is to go with less tannins.

Turkey is a pretty lean meat and the lack of sufficient fat can easily accentuate the bitter flavor of the tannins. 

In our opinion, these are the best red wines with turkey.

Pinot Noir poured in glass

Pinot Noir

A robust, versatile Pinot Noir is a great wine to pair with roasted turkey accompanied by a rich sauce, perhaps with hints of cranberries.

The high levels of acidity in Pinot Noir fit really well with the variety of flavors on a turkey dinner plate.

Just be sure to stick to the bolder styles as the lighter profiles may get overwhelmed by all the different flavors.

The wine has a strong character but its lack of strong tannins blends really well with the lean turkey meat.

Old World regions are great for more earthy notes (Burgundy, in particular) and New World regions are perfect for fruitier expressions.

Less expensive options can be found in Santenay or Fixin.

red wine being poured into a glass


Rioja

Another great red wine that pairs well with turkey is Rioja.

This wine is richer in tannins but its vintage flair adds personality to your turkey dinner. 

The key here is age. Like we mentioned earlier, tannins are okay as long as the wine has age.

There are a few key terms to look out for on a bottle of Rioja when deciphering its age. They are Reserva, Crianza, and Gran Reserva.

Crianza - must be aged for 2 years (1 in oak)

Reservas - must be aged for 3 years (1 in oak)

Gran Reservas - must be aged for 5 years (2 in oak)

The older the Rioja is, the softer the tannins become and the better suited the wine is to turkey.


Related: Don't miss our unconventional guide to white wine and steak pairings next. You'll love it, we promise!


The Whites

Some white wines could be too light for turkey. If the secret to choosing reds is in limiting the amount of tannins, the secret to choosing a white is in pairing your dinner with a full-bodied white wine.

These are our favorite white wines for turkey:

wine glass and bottle


Chardonnay

Full bodied and rich, chardonnay is perfect for a meat that can sometimes be a little on the dry side. It's plenty acidic enough to deal with all the strong flavors that accompany the turkey and it has a minerality that helps cleanse the palate too.

This straw yellow wine comes in dry and sweeter variants, and both types make for a great accompanying wine for a turkey dinner.

The spicy notes of the wine, in fact, work well with the milky aftertaste of the meat; this wine even pairs wonderfully with the traditional sauces served with turkey, such as bread sauce.

Great Chardonnays can be found in Napa Valley (California) and Victoria (Australia), and in most of the Old World wine regions.


Related: Love chocolate? You'll love our guide to wine and chocolate pairings!


wine glasses for tasting


Dry Riesling

It might seem counterintuitive but turkey also pairs wonderfully with some sweeter wines.

Riesling in particular is a sweet white wine that amazes when accompanied by turkey dishes.

Season your turkey with Asian spices or smoke it for even more exciting flavor pairings. 

But it's dry Riesling in particular that we're talking about here. You can leave your sickly sweet stereotypical Riesling at the door!

With a level of minerality and acidity that is refreshing and soothing with what can be a muddled plate of flavors, dry Riesling is a wonderful wildcard wine for turkey dishes.

white wine in a glass with grapes


The Sparkling

As odd as it may seem, sparkling wine also pairs wonderfully with turkey. Depending on how the meat is cooked, you can choose from a variety of bubbly wines.


Brachetto d’Acqui

This fine semi-sparkling wine resembles an apple cider and has elegant hints of raspberry, candied citrus, and cherry blossoms.

It pairs wonderfully with an often dry turkey thanks to its fizzy texture that adds softness to each bite.

Champagne and a glass


Champagne

We are talking about a holiday season celebration after all! Champagne is the ultimate sparkling wine for food due to its high levels of acidity.

Wonderfully versatile, Champagne will pair well with the turkey main and the sweet desert too.

Alternatively, you can also opt for a Spanish Cava, a sparkling rosé from France or a strawberry-flavored sparkling rosé from America. Despite the rather unusual combination, this type of wine works wonders with almost all turkey dishes.

Sparkling Rosé Malbec from Argentina is another inspired choice for fried turkey. The texture of this wine cuts off the greasiness of deep fried turkey and on salt, giving the meat a unique tenderness.

Champagne being poured


Final Thoughts

Pairing the best wine with turkey is simpler than it would seem. This delicious meat is extremely versatile when it comers to wines and pairs well with a variety of reds, whites, rosés and even sparkling wines.

Finding the one that works best for you is obviously a matter of taste, but don’t forget to consider the type of dish you’re serving.

Some wines are better off with smoked turkey, others pair with roasts, while others still are ideal for fried turkey or sandwiches.

I hope the tips above can help you understand which wines go with turkey and that my suggestions inspired your choice.

Now, all you have to do is give it a try and see which wines go best with turkey for you.


We'd love to hear from you in the comments section. What's your "go to" wine for turkey dishes?

We'd love to hear what you think. Leave us a comment and we'll get back to you promptly!

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