Cheers! It’s the perfect wine pairing.
You’ve roasted the turkey, mashed the potatoes, and baked the pies. Now let the drinking begin! Below, learn what wine goes best with turkey — we’ve got both red and white wine covered, with bonus options for beer and beyond — from top wine experts.
What Wine Goes With Turkey?
Pairing wine with turkey. Ah, the eternal question. (Well, maybe that and how to keep the turkey hot. Answer: Don’t worry about it as long as the gravy’s good and warm.)
Thanksgiving dinner is one of the most special meals of the year. As such, it deserves wine to fit the occasion. But which wine is best for turkey? Red or white? Which types? What about non-wine options?
The best wine for turkey, and the Thanksgiving meal generally, does not mean the most expensive wine. On the contrary, great wine can be found at all price points and from all around the world. And both red and white wines make great Thanksgiving turkey dinner pairings.
“I think the defining structural element you need in a wine for Thanksgiving is an elevated, refreshing acidity, which can be found in both red and white wines,” says Ms. Chamberlain. “I usually bring a combination of Champagne, Riesling, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Syrah and Cabernet.”
Unpeeled also asked master sommelier Laura DePasquale, a senior vice president at Southern Glazers Wine & Spirits, and whom Unpeeled profiled earlier this year, about her Thanksgiving wine picks as part of her profile interview.
The best Thanksgiving wine pairing recommendations should come from some of the best experts in the field. Below, here are the answers to what wine goes with turkey for Thanksgiving dinner, according to the experts.
The Best White Wine With Turkey
White wine and poultry has always been a popular combination. Thanksgiving turkey is no exception. Several white wines pair wonderfully with turkey. The idea is to choose something with a crisp minerality that’s slightly rounder in body, like a Chardonnay or a Burgundy.
“Champagne goes with everything, so that’s a possibility,” says master sommelier Laura DePasquale.
In addition to the classic “let’s celebrate!” associations of bubbly, Champagne and champagne-style sparkling wines cut through the richness of all those good side dishes (stuffing, buttery mashed potatoes, sweet cranberry sauce, and the like) thanks to the bubbles and high acidity.
Claudia Chamberlain also recommends champagne. “When in doubt, have some Champagne. The bubbles and the higher acidity are excellent pairing companions against fattier dishes.”
2. Pinot Gris From Alsace
Laura DePasquale also recommends “an Alsace pinot gris with a little age on it. It’s extraordinary with turkey, sweet potatoes, stuffing — especially if you put sausage in your stuffing.”
Pinot gris from the Alsace region of France has body and earthiness that holds its own as a complement to the slightly gamey flavor of turkey meat.
3. Chardonnay. But Make It From Oregon or Burgundy.
Another good white wine option is a Chardonnay from Oregon or Burgundy, which has a nice balance of minerality and fruit.
Chamberlain likes an Oregon Chardonnay’s balance of fruit and refreshing minerality that complements dishes with a little more fat to them.
For Burgundy, Chamberlain suggests “something on the richer side, like a Meursault.”
4. Bordeaux Blanc
A white Bordeaux, a Sauvignon Blanc-based blend, also makes a good white wine pairing for turkey and all the trimmings.
Says Claudia Chamberlain: “These tend to have some French oak on them and get this really nice savory effect as a result while still balancing a linear, crisp acidity that make them very food friendly and capable of standing up to heartier dishes.”
The Best Red Wine Pairings for Turkey and Thanksgiving
Turkey pairs well with high-acid, low-tannin, juicy reds with solid fruit-forward notes. Practically speaking, a several reds fall into the perfect turkey wine pairing category. Most common pairings are light-to medium-bodied red with berries and fruit, high acid, and low tannins, but even savory, fuller-bodied wines with medium tannins can work well, too.
1. Pinot Noir
Pinot noir gets an A+ for versatility and likability when it comes to red wine pairings for turkey.
Tasting notes can vary by region — a French pinot noir from Burgundy will taste different from an Oregon or Russian River Valley, CA version, for example — but in general, pinot noir checks a lot of boxes. Pinot noir has a light to medium body, and its acid cuts through the meal’s richness. In addition to lower tannins, pinot noir features flavors and aromas of berries, cherries, and just enough earth (think: mushrooms) to make things interesting.
2. Beaujolais. But Not Nouveau.
The Beaujolais region of France, located south of Burgundy, produces this light, Gamay-based wine that is well known for its ability to pair well with a whole range of spices and meats, including turkey.
Accessible and unpretentious, Beaujolais also checks the box of a low-tannin, high-acid, light- to medium-bodied wine with juicy, berry-forward characteristics, plus a little forest or mushroom, that pair great with poultry.
Beaujolais is a fairly large region of France, but you can seek out a Beaujolais with a cru designation for your red wine to serve with turkey. Beaujolais crus — there are 10 — are produced in the highest-quality growing villages.
Why not Beaujolais nouveau this Thanksgiving? Nouveau is very young (“nouveau” translates to “new”), and often from not-best-quality grapes. The website Vine Pair characterizes Beaujolais nouveau as “lackluster, just-fermented juice.”
Lackluster is not invited to Thanksgiving dinner.
3. A Great Grenache Blend
Master sommelier Laura DePasquale says that it’s not Thanksgiving without “a three-liter bottle of Châteauneuf-du-Pape.” Châteauneuf-du-Pape [CdP] is a French Southern Rhône red blend of mostly Grenache grapes.
[R]ich raspberry and plummy fruit flavors. As it evolves, you’ll taste notes of dusted leather, game, and herbs. The Francophiles – and the actual French – call this herbal play “garrigue,” after the region’s scrubland of sage, rosemary, and lavender.
As if that wasn’t enough, CdP Rouge often finishes on a sweet-strawberry tingle that glows in the back of your throat from elevated alcohol. The finish ranges from sweet to savory, depending on the vintage.
A nice juicy Merlot can taste smooth and velvety, but with acid and tannins that balance the turkey feast. Merlot shows tasting notes of cherry, plum, vanilla, and spice, with a touch of savory. (Older Merlot leans more chocolate and tobacco.)
Chamberlain recommends Merlots from Sonoma, Napa, and the Right Bank of Bordeaux (St. Emilion and Pomerol).
“One of my favorite red grapes, Syrah, will also always have a spot at my table,” Claudia Chamberlain says.
Rich, earthy, and full-bodied, Syrah pairs especially well with dark meat, which brings out the fruit notes in this dark, often savory red wine. Chamberlain recommends French Northern Rhône Syrahs as “super savory and fun to pair with the heavier, fattier, meat-driven dishes on the table.”
(Fun fact: Syrah from Australia is called Shiraz.)
What about non-wine alcohol options?
Wine isn’t the only drink that pairs with turkey and all those favorite side dishes. Claudia Chamberlain offers several ideas in the non-wine category:
Served neat or as a cocktail — especially an Old Fashioned — whether soft, wheat-based bourbon or sharper rye-based whiskey.
Fall is definitely cider season. Cider “offers a lot of great fall flavors all in one (apple, cloves, baking spices, etc.) that make them a very cozy and comforting pairing,” she says, and recommends seeking out something local.
For Thanksgiving beer pairings, options about. Lighter styles like a pilsner or Kölsch work, and Chamberlain suggests pairing a great stout with all those delicious dessert pies.
Talking Turkey: Wine Pairing Wrap Up
Many good options can be found when choosing the best Thanksgiving wine pairings for your turkey and Thanksgiving menu — white or red. Even some non-wine options work!
Remember, you don’t need to spend tons of money to get high-quality, perfectly paired wines. The Thanksgiving feast is all about comfort and making things happy and accessible for all. Luckily, these best Thanksgiving wine options do the same.