How to Pair Wine with Turkey

I saw this article in a post from Wine Cooler Direct and decided it was worth reposting on my own site. The original author was Wine Savvy.  Thanks for the detailed information!! I take no credit, other than being wise enough to share! Please enjoy your Thanksgiving dinner!!

Wine & Turkey

With fall finally here, Thanksgiving is just around the corner, meaning you should probably start thinking about what your menu is going to entail. While turkey, stuffing, and mashed potatoes will grace just about everyone’s plate, let’s not forget about how important those wine glasses are too. In order to fill them with the best possible wine, start planning now by considering the following options that go especially well with turkey and traditional Thanksgiving side dishes.

Pinot Noir

Pinot Noir is always a good choice for those wine drinkers who love a solid red. This medium-bodied wine has gained fandom by being full of fruity flavors and for its legacy as a particularly tough grape to grow.

Pairing Turkey & Wine

On Thanksgiving, though, Pinot Noir is a great choice because its fruity, earthy taste cuts right through the rich, fatty flavors of your turkey. For this reason, it’s also a good option for any succulent side dishes you might be serving as well. Due to its low tannin volume, you don’t have to worry about Pinot Noir stealing the show.

Champagne and Sparkling Wine

No celebration is complete without champagne being served, but many families don’t pour any out on Thanksgiving for some reason. That’s too bad because sparkling wine, also derived from the Pinot Noir grape, is incredibly versatile. On the one hand, it can easily hold its own around the rich flavors of turkey, gravy and other popular dishes. But it’s also light enough that it works well with cranberries, corn and other lighter entrees too.


Although they’ve been popular in France for centuries, Rosés are finally starting to make their presence felt stateside too. They should be an especially welcomed spirit during Thanksgiving because, for one thing, they’re very light. Better still, they’re very low in alcohol. This is beneficial for those of us who worry about getting the whole family together or simply don’t want to suffer from the traditional drowsiness that comes from stuffing oneself to the brim.


Another light wine that goes well with Thanksgiving dinner is Riesling. Although this is traditionally a German wine, you can also find a number of versions from here in the U.S. these days too. Riesling is well known for its delicate, fruity flavor, which can be the perfect choice for washing down turkey or side dishes like crescent roles and mashed potatoes. It also makes a great dessert wine.


Any meaty dish—turkey or otherwise—will be nicely complemented by a Syrah. The grape at the heart of this wine will coat your mouth with a spicy tint that will balance out all kinds of traditional Thanksgiving side dishes. If you think your meals will demand a red wine that’s a bit heartier than others, you can’t go wrong with a Syrah.

Beaujolais Nouveau

Like others on this list, Beaujolais Nouveau is known for its full, fruity flavor. The Gamay grape certainly does not lack for taste. But the really cool thing about this wine is that France releases it on the third Thursday of November, meaning it’s practically made to grace your table on Thanksgiving.


Thanksgiving Wine

If you or one of your guests prefers white wines, Albarino is a great choice. They taste much like Chardonnay, though some would argue with richer flavors. In any case, it’s a fun way to mix up your pairings a bit and offer those at your table a bit of variety.


Another white wine to consider is Gewürztraminer. It’s perfect for Thanksgiving because of its aromatic body and spicy palate. This latter feature makes Gewürztraminer a great glass of wine to have with your turkey and gravy as it’s only going to bring out the best in both.

Wines That Don’t Pair Well With Turkey

The great thing about Thanksgiving dinner is that just about any wine goes well with turkey and most other entrees served during the meal. So although the above options work best, just about any will do.

That being said, there are a few choices you should probably avoid. A Cabernet Sauvignon often makes appearances at celebratory meals, but it’s a mistake to think that any time people are in high spirits, this one should join them. Most find that this particular wine actually ends up overpowering their Thanksgiving meal in an unpleasant way.

Zinfandels are another option that may seem to make a lot of sense on its face. After all, it’s a lighter wine that packs a rich, fruity flavor. However, unlike a Pinot Noir or other types of wine that can say the same, Zinfandels also tend to come packed with alcohol. When you combine all the food people will be eating during Thanksgiving, high alcohol content may not be the best idea.

Dessert Wines

However, you could use a classic Zinfandel as a dessert wine. Once the feasting is over, some added alcohol can be quite enjoyable, so long as you don’t mind taking a nap shortly thereafter. Which, of course, typically happens after a big turkey feast on Thanksgiving Day.

Just about any fruity wine mentioned above or that you can think of elsewhere makes for a fine dessert wine.

Presumably, you’ll also have an edible dessert on hand as well. If you serve pecan and/or pumpkin pie, any fortified wine should fit the bill. They provide viscosity and sweetness on a level perfect for the robust and spicy taste of pumpkin pie as well as the caramelized features of pecan pie. Port is probably the most obvious choice though.

Another fun option, either with pie or by itself, is sherry. Pick a bottle that gives you sweet, spicy notes and a nutty flavor. There are countless sherry options that will provide this combination.

If you can locate a late harvest Riesling, it will go perfectly with a wide range of dessert choices. Its honey tones will be perfect for the pie, cookies, ice cream, and more.

Keep in mind that no two families serve the exact same thing on Thanksgiving, so the wines you end up choosing will have to be specific to your menu. That being said, the above options should give you plenty to work with no matter what you decide to serve.

How to Pair Wine with Turkey

About sommeliersusie

Owner of Tasteful Adventures- private in-home wines tastings Boisset Wine Living Ambassador- private and corporate wine tastings and direct to consumer sales, corporate gifting, Wine Educator, Sommelier- Level 1 Court of Master Sommelier, BASSETT Certification, French Wine Scholar, Member Guild of Sommeliers
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