Once autumn comes we start to think of cooking food with spices like cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg. Perhaps we’ll add these spices to a glass of mulled wine. However, what food do we most associate with autumn and winter? The answer is simple, turkey. In the US it is the centrepiece of Thanksgiving dinner and in the UK, it is enjoyed on Christmas Day. Traditionally, you may also have a lot of exciting side dishes which have an assortment of flavours. Sometimes the turkey melts into the background. It can be a bit bland and if not cooked properly, it can be dry. However, it is the main part of the meal so you need it to stand out. Of course, you can do this with herbs and spices, but wine can also bring out the flavour of the meat. You need a wine that is zesty and exciting and in this article, we are going to take a look at the best wines to pair with turkey.
A Word About Thanksgiving and Christmas Turkeys
You can cook your turkey in different ways and as a result, you will have to choose different wines to go with the dish. The most popular way to cook a turkey is to roast it in the oven, but you can fry it, grill it, or smoke it. You can add different spices to the bird. Perhaps you want to spice it up so that you get a kick or maybe you just want to add herbs for a traditional meal.
A Word About Matching Wines to Turkey
If you are having turkey for Thanksgiving or Christmas, you will no doubt have lots of sides. Think roast potatoes with garlic and rosemary, butter-infused mashed potato, green beans, brussel sprouts, creamed corn, roast parsnips. You will want to find a wine that blends in with all the different flavours. It is a good idea to choose a wine that is not too overpowering as you will want to enjoy every bite of the food.
What Wines are the Best Pairings with Turkey?
Turkey is a low-fat white meat that doesn’t have a great deal of flavour. It is enhanced by herbs and spices and this can completely alter the flavour of the bird. You need to keep this in mind when choosing the wine. You also have to consider the way the bird was cooked as this can have a big influence on the wine choice.
Wine Pairings with Oven Roasted Turkey
Oven roast turkey is the traditional way of cooking turkey and is probably what you would do at Thanksgiving or Christmas. You will probably stuff it which will give the turkey a whole new flavour. Sage and onion is a very popular stuffing as is sausagemeat. You may rub lashings of butter and herbs such as thyme and rosemary over the turkey. Perhaps you’ll sprinkle pepper over it and rub in some lemon.
The great thing is that you can pair the turkey with red, white or sparkling wine.
Red: Pinot Noir 2017 Bold Pinot Noir (California)
This wine is both fruity and earthy. You will taste blackberries, raspberries, and cherries, as well as savoury notes such as juniper berries, bay leaves, and sage. The herb flavours will complement the herbs that you have rubbed into the turkey. If you wrap your turkey in bacon, you will be delighted to hear that there is a faint taste of bacon and smoke in the wine. The fruity flavours will stop the earthy tones from taking over and will give you a delightfully light wine.
More About Pinot Noir
Pinot Noir is a light wine so goes well with white meat. It is acidic and is low on tannins so doesn’t leave an aftertaste in your mouth. A lot of Pinot Noirs also have that slight hint of spice that is perfect for autumn and winter. You can often taste cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves.
- Why is Pinot Noir a Good Pairing for Oven Roasted Turkey?
Pinot Noir doesn’t overwhelm turkey because it is acidic and light-bodied. It will refresh you rather than overwhelm your palate.
Another Red Option: Beaujolais Nouveau
Beaujolais Nouveau is a French wine that is released on the third Thursday of November so it is just in time for Thanksgiving and Christmas. It has limited production and isn’t available all year round. It is highly acidic so pairs well with turkey as it isn’t overpowering. It has mild flavours of sweet berries that will delight your palate. There are other versions of Beaujolais that you can buy all the time and these too are light
White: Chardonnay: Chenin 2017 Bien Nacido Vineyard Chardonnay
It is always better to pay just that little more for a Chardonnay. If you buy a cheap bottle, it will probably taste heavily of vanilla and butter. This will totally overpower the delicate taste of turkey and not in a good way.
A good Chardonnay will have an aroma of nectarines, lemons, and lilies, while it will taste of jasmine and gardenia. It should also be a little minerally. There will be a buttery taste, but this won’t be overpowering. It will complement the butter you have rubbed over your turkey.
More About Chardonnay
Unoaked Chardonnays from Chablis pair better with turkey than oaked Chardonnays. They are lighter and more acidic. They are aged in stainless steel barrels and have a taste of lemon and green apple. They resemble Chenin Blanc which is also a good choice for oven roast turkey..
Oaked Chardonnay is aged in oak barrels and is too overpowering for turkey. This is not to say that it isn’t a good wine, but it is too rich. It has a creamy and buttery taste with full flavours of vanilla and pineapple. It is a better match for pork or rich creamy pasta dishes.
- Why is Chardonnay a Good Pairing for Oven Roast Turkey?
Chardonnay adds flavour to the turkey with its buttery taste, but be sure to choose one that isn’t too buttery. However, if you enjoy the dark meat of a turkey, an oaked Chardonnay can go well as it complements the fattier meat.
Because Chardonnay has a strong and bright flavour, it dresses up the meal. After all, turkey can be bland if it isn’t covered in herbs and spices and of course, you don’t want to overdo this. You could, however, melt some butter over the cooked turkey for a richer flavour.
Another White Option: Sauvignon Blanc
Sauvignon Blanc is acidic, crisp, and light, making it ideal with light and delicate food such as turkey. It is refreshing to sip in between bites. Perhaps you are thinking that it is too light, but you have to take into consideration what else you are having with the meal. The wine will perfectly match buttery mashed sweet potatoes and garlic roasted potatoes and parsnips.
Sparkling: Champagne Charles Heidsieck NV Brut Reserve Champagne
Champagne, as you no doubt know, only comes from the Champagne area of France. Champagnes tend to be consistent so the chances are high that you are going to get a bottle that is well worth the price.
This Champagne is lush and tropical with the tastes of mangoes and coconut. You will also taste apricots, cherries, and plums. It has a toasty flavour of brioche and this buttery taste complements the buttery notes of the turkey. You might even get a hint of marzipan which is a very Christmassy flavour.
More About Champagne
It is interesting to note that Champagne is made from both Chardonnay and Pinot Noir and, as we have mentioned, both of these wines pair well with turkey. Champagne is acidic, bright, and refreshing and it doesn’t overwhelm the flavours of the turkey if the bird is spiced. The toasted notes go well with a roast as do the creamy hints. If you are making a dry brined turkey, champagne will pair perfectly as it goes well with salty foods.
Grilled or Smoked Turkey
If you decide to grill or smoke your turkey, you will be looking at a whole different list of wines to pair it with. The turkey will end up having a richer flavour and it will have a hint of smoke and charcoal. You will want to choose a stronger, more full-bodied wine so that the wine isn’t overpowered by the taste of the meat.
Red: Syrah: 2016 Cedanville Estate Bottled Syrah
This wine is spicy with notes of black peppercorns and herbs like rosemary and bay leaves. There is also an aroma of dark fruits such as red cherries, plums, and blackberries which give it a full body. It has been aged in oak so there is a smoky flavour, a complement to the smoky meat. You also get a taste of espresso beans, a luxurious touch.
More About Syrah
Syrah is a smoky, peppery, and spicy red wine that pairs well with smoked meats. You will smell and taste black pepper, liquorice, mint, cloves, and chocolate. There is even a meaty flavour of bacon. What is better than bacon-wrapped turkey and to have this reflected in your wine. The wine is almost black in colour which indicates the taste of blackcurrants and blackberries.
- Why is Syrah a Good Pairing For Smoked or Grilled Turkey?
Syrah is, in our opinion, one of the best pairings for smoked or grilled turkey. This is because it is smoky, spicy, rich, and deep coloured. It is a great wine to have when it’s cold out there and you want to tuck into a hot meal of smoked turkey and all the trimmings.
Another Red Option: Cotes du Rhones
You can get a great variety of Cotes du Rhones wines, but most are full of sweet berries and red fruits. There is also a hint of spice that goes well with smoky meat. It is interesting to note that many Syrahs come from the Rhone Valley so it isn’t surprising that both these wines pair well with smoked turkey.
White: Viognier 2014 Penner-Ash Viognier
This white wine is bright and slips down easily. It won’t overpower your smoked turkey but will give it balance. You will smell gardenias and taste papaya, cantaloupe, and peach together with grapefruit and orange peel. There is a slight savoury note that pairs well with the smoky flavour. It is sharp and highly acidic which delightfully bursts into your mouth.
More About Viognier
Viognier is full-bodied for a white wine. In some ways, it is similar to Chardonnay as it has vanilla notes. However, it does have floral notes and is fruity with a taste of oranges, peaches, nectarines, and honey. Most Viogniers are dry, but some are buttery like Chardonnay. In the same way as Chardonnay, some Viogniers are oaked and some aren’t. The unoaked varieties are lighter than the oaked ones. Oaked Viogniers have tropical tastes of mango and peach as well as honey. Unoaked Viogniers taste of jasmine, rose, and tangerine. Late harvest Viogniers are sweeter and are better paired with a dessert rather than smoked turkey.
- Why is Viognier a Good Pairing With Grilled or Smoked Turkey?
Viognier is a rich wine in the same way Chardonnay is. If it has been aged in oak barrels, it is buttery and creamy which enhances the flavour of the turkey. It is the perfect pairing for a strong smoked or grilled turkey.
Another White Option: Chenin Blanc
As with Chardonnay and Viognier, you can buy both oaked and unoaked Chenin Blanc. The oaked varietal is the best match for grilled or smoked turkey as it has that buttery, rich flavour. With these, you can also often taste vanilla, butterscotch or lemon curd, all compliments to the smokiness of a turkey. The lighter varieties may not have the buttery taste, but they have the taste of autumn fruits like apples and pears. They too are a good complement to an autumn or winter meal.
Sparkling: Cava 2012 Alta Alella Privat Loueta Gran Reserve Brut Nature Sparkling Cava
This sparkling wine is crisp and acidic, with a touch of saltiness. This marries well with the smokiness of grilled or smoked turkey. The aroma is of ripe pears and yellow apples, while the flavour hints at sour apples, peach, and nectarine.
More About Cava
Cava is less expensive than Champagne, but this doesn’t make it any less tasty. Unlike Champagne, which is made in the Champagne region of France, Cava is made in Spain. Different grapes are used to make Cava and they produce a more yellow colour than Champagne. You may notice a yellow flavour of fruits and even tea. Cava is also a little heavier than Champagne, but this doesn’t stop it from fizzing nicely.
- Why is Cava a Good Pairing for Grilled or Smoked Turkey?
The reason is that it is heavier than most other sparkling wines. This makes it a good accompaniment to foods with a lot of flavours like grilled or smoked turkey. It also is a little tart so refreshes the palate.
Deep-fried turkey is an acquired taste. It is very rich, can’t be stuffed, and is, not surprisingly, high in calories. Of course, you have to have the right equipment to deep-fry a turkey, but if you are into deep-fried foods, the chances are that you will have the right equipment. The advantages of this method of cooking is that the meat will end up tender and moist and it will have a crispy skin. A crispy skin is often what makes people love fried food.
Red: Chilled Zinfandel 2015 Three Evangelio Zinfandel
This wine has tannins but is light-bodied with a strong taste of spices such as nutmeg. You will also taste vanilla and maple syrup, as well as tobacco and cocoa. Your nose will detect bold fruits such as raspberries, blueberries, and blackberries. It is a wine that is easy to drink and will complement fried turkey perfectly.
More About Zinfandel
Zinfandel doesn’t have as high an alcoholic content as many red wines and can be chilled so it makes a great accompaniment to a hot slice of fried turkey. It is a fruity wine. You will taste peach, raspberry, and strawberry and in addition, there is a spicy flavour of cinnamon as well as a hint of tobacco.
- Why is Zinfandel a Good Pairing for Fried Turkey?
Fried turkey has a strong flavour and is naturally quite fatty, so you need a wine that is slightly sweet and chilled to balance the flavours. Zinfandel ticks all these boxes.
White: Dry Riesling 2016 Julien Schaal Kastelberg Grand Cru Schuste Riesling
This is an excellent wine to pair with fried turkey as it easily cuts through the fried fat. It is crisp and light with a lemon acidity. It is a fruity wine with tastes of melon, apples, and guava. In the background, you may taste and smell jasmine and cinnamon. You might even think you are biting into a slice of apple pie.
More About Dry Riesling
Sometimes, Dry Riesling is confused for the sweeter version, but it is completely different. It can have tastes of honey, apricot and lime. It has a sharp acidity and you can taste the dryness, something that goes well with fried meats. If you are going to serve it with fried turkey, pick one with a high alcohol by volume content as most of the sweetness will be gone. Dry Riesling comes from Alsace in France, Austria, and Germany, and is easily available in most supermarkets and off-licences.
- Why is Dry Riesling a Good Pairing With Fried Turkey?
Dry Riesling in general pairs well with food. It is acidic and has a high fruit flavour. This means that it can cut through fatty food like fried turkey.
Another White Option: Vouvray
Vouvray has strong citrus flavours and floral notes. It is a variety of Chenin Blanc. It can cut through fat and juices easily so it’s a perfect accompaniment to fried turkey. It has the ability to not overwhelm the turkey and in the same way, the turkey doesn’t overwhelm the wine.
Sparkling: Rose Mumm Napa NV Brut Rose Sparkling
Mumm Rose is made with Pinot Noir grapes and a little Chardonnay. It is a fruity wine with tastes of peach, raspberry, plum, and strawberry. It’s a little bit spicy with a touch of ginger. It cuts through the fatty and strong flavours of fried turkey. The finish is crisp.
More About Sparkling Rose
Sparkling Roses can be found in supermarkets and off-licences. In fact, you will probably be spoiled for choice. They usually have a taste of light red fruits like cherries and strawberries. There is often a finish of candied fruits. Some have other flavours such as rhubarb, raspberries, plums, or honeydew melon. They can also have a tart acidity that balances fatty foods.
Different grapes will be used for different Roses. For example, Tempranillo could be used, Syrah, Sweet Grenache, or Zinfandel.
- Why is A Sparkling Rose a Good Pairing With Fried Turkey?
Fried turkey is traditionally a dish from the southern states of the US, but that doesn’t stop you from having it in the UK or indeed, any other parts of the world. It is both crisp and sweet and this has the ability to cut through the fat in your fried turkey. The sweeter flavours are a complement to the meat and are a refreshing touch.
Southern, Mexican, or Asian Spiced Turkey
Perhaps you want to make your turkey a little different. Maybe you enjoy a bit of hot spice or a barbecue flavour. If so, go for it. Make your turkey new and different. Paprika, chilli, and cayenne pepper are good choices for a rub. Perhaps you might like to make a marinade with spices and herbs and allow your turkey to soak in the juices for a few hours in the fridge. So if you do this, what wine do you choose? It has to be something with a bit of a punch otherwise it will be insipid in comparison to the turkey.
Red: Gamay 2018 Joyce Gamay Noir
This wine has earthy flavours that complement the spicy turkey. The fruity flavours of cranberries, raspberries, and rose petals give a light sweet note. What is intriguing is that there is a touch of an aroma of grass and wet soil which blends nicely with aromatic spices.
More About Gamay
Gamay is an earthy wine and goes well with food. Not only do you get strong earthy flavours, but you may even get some tropical flavours, like bananas. There are strong aromas of raspberries, currants, and cherries, but you don’t usually taste these. It is acidic so that means that it pairs well with food. You can even chill it a little.
- Why is Gamay a Perfect Pairing For Spiced Turkey?
The savoury notes of the wine stop the meat from being too spicy. Your palate will be refreshed by the tart and bitter flavours so you don’t have to worry that you are going to have a burning sensation in your mouth.
Another Red Option: Sangiovese
This is a savoury wine that complements the spiciness of the turkey. You will taste salt, tomatoes, thyme, and red peppers. However, you will also smell dried flowers and dark fruits such as blackberries, figs, and plums. It is high in tannins, but it also has some acidity which stops it from overwhelming the spices in your turkey.
White: Gewurztraminer 2014 Domaine Bott-Gayl Les Elements Gewurztraminer
This wine has hints of cinnamon and nutmeg so goes well with a spicy dish. After all, you add spices to food. It is slightly sweet with a taste of peach, dried apricots, and toasted walnuts. It brings a crisp flavour to cut across the spiciness.
More About Gewurztraminer
This wine is often called a spiced wine and it is very aromatic which makes it the perfect accompaniment to spiced turkey. However, it is not too heavy. This would make you feel stuffed if you drink it with a spicy dish. The elements of ginger, nutmeg, cloves, and cinnamon warm you up and makes the dish ideal for a cold winter’s night. It is best to choose the sweet versions labelled ‘late harvest’ as this pairs better with spicy turkey.
- Why is Gewurztraminer Good Pairing With Spiced Turkey?
It’s the spices in the wine that are the key. They pair so well with spiced turkey. However, the sweeter side of the wine complements Asian food and barbecued dishes.
Sparkling: Crémant de Bourgogne Brut Blanc de Blanc N. V.
When you first drink this wine, you get a hit of bubbles and an acidic hit, but this gently fades to a creamy fizz. You may smell mushrooms and wet earth, but you will taste lemon and apple. There might even be a hint of cream and toasted almonds. It refreshes your palate and will stop your spicy turkey from burning your mouth.
More About Cremant
Cremant is as good as Champagne, or so we think. Cremant is made with the same grapes as Champagne and is made in the same way. The only difference is that it isn’t aged for as long so it isn’t quite as complex in flavour. It’s also not quite as acidic nor does it have such a taste of citrus.
- Why is Cremant a Good Pairing With Spiced Turkey?
The bubbles are so smooth that it refreshes your palate between each bite. Other wines might be too heavy and give you a kick which you don’t need if you are having a spicy meal. Cremant gives you that soft edge to balance the strong flavours of the turkey.
Frequently Asked Questions
What can you stuff a turkey with?
If you are cooking an oven-roasted turkey, it is always a good idea to stuff the bird. The meat will absorb the flavours so choose your favourites. Sage and onion stuffing is very popular in the UK, but you could also stuff the turkey with thyme and rosemary. Remember to blend the herbs with lots of butter for a moister bird. You can also add half a lemon for a citrusy hit or perhaps garlic.
Is it Better to Eat Turkey Than Chicken?
Both meats are good for your health as they are low in fat, but turkey has fewer calories. This, however, doesn’t take away the fact that turkey contains all the same vitamins and minerals as chicken has.
Is it Possible to Marinate Turkey with Wine?
The simple answer is yes, but the best wine to use is white. Wine makes the turkey juicier and very moist. You can leave the turkey marinating in the fridge for up to two days.
Deli Meat Turkey Slices
Let’s take a final look at deli meat turkey slices. They can be enjoyed in sandwiches or as part of a salad. If you choose to eat them, don’t drink red wine as it will overpower your turkey. The turkey will be quite bland so you need to add pickles and then enjoy a glass of white wine. A Sauvignon Blanc will go well.
Enjoy Your Turkey
We think that you will agree that there are plenty of excellent wine matches for turkey cooked in all sorts of different ways. You can choose between white, red, and sparkling, but remember to keep in mind the herbs and spices you have added.