What Wine to Serve with Turkey
By Laura Fagan Published November 2021
Thanksgiving offers so many opportunities for wine pairing and celebration. The table is full of sides, flavors of the season and, of course, the turkey. Unlike everyday meals, Thanksgiving brings together tradition, passed-down recipes and, most importantly, family and friends. With so many dishes, options and tastes – selecting the right wine to complement the cornucopia can feel daunting. Should you pair to the protein? Pair with the sauce or sides or pair with the dominate flavors? These questions are common when pairing wine with the most anticipated meal of the year but selecting the right wine doesn’t need to be stressful or stuffy. To help you finalize your feast selections – two of our ABC wine experts, Nathan Dale and Paul Quaglini share their turkey pairing tips to help you select the right wine to serve alongside your Thanksgiving dinner.
The good news is – turkey is tolerant! Both Nathan and Paul agree that turkey is a canvas protein with mild flavors, which makes for easy pairing. Think of turkey as a vessel that delivers the flavors that the chef imparts with rubs, seasonings, or preparation styles. Therefore, many different varietals can be both table and turkey friendly. A sparkling wine or a light-bodied gamay, for example, are go-to bottles to grab for your harvest meal. At the end of the day - if your friends and family surround your table, the food is delicious and the wine has alcohol, you’ve picked and paired well. In fact, there is no right or wrong varietal or style to pair with turkey. Instead, Paul and Nathan share some suggestions that can help guide your selection.
You should consider the method of preparation when making your wine choice. Turkey can be prepared in a variety of methods including roasting, deep frying or smoking. Each method produces different textures and tastes and has its own best pair. Roasting is the traditional Thanksgiving cooking method where a turkey is cooked in the oven to deliver juicy meat and mild flavors. Some chefs brine while others season and stuff – either way, try pairing a roasted turkey with a chardonnay, or a white Burgundy. The wine’s crisp acidity, minerality and fruit-forward flavors will bring out the best of a roasted bird while not overpowering the delicate preparation.
Deep frying is a more recent method for turkey preparation that has gained popularity thanks to the reliable tenderness and taste. A savory, fried turkey will be best complemented by a wine that also leads with flavor. If propane and a big pot are part of your Thanksgiving plans – make sure you have a few bottles of an off-dry riesling to serve with your turkey. The wine’s vivacity, striking aromatics and light body will drink perfectly alongside fried poultry. If you are choosing to smoke your turkey – pick a cabernet franc to create an unforgettable and enjoyable pairing. These wines generally feature dark, ripe fruit flavors along with earthy or spice notes that will sing when served with smoked turkey.
In addition to pairing towards the preparation, you will also want to stay light in your selections. Thanksgiving is a delicious, but dense meal. Generally, you will want to lean into lighter wines in both body and alcohol to balance the weight of the food. And finally – don’t forget about the leftovers. Isn’t that the reward for all the cooking and cleaning? We think so! We encourage you to not overthink the selection. Anything you have left in the fridge will work. But if you really want to elevate your after-holiday experience - an Oregon pinot noir, a pair of sweatpants and a plate of leftovers will make a worthy post-Thanksgiving treat.
Go Traditional with a Beaujolais – French Beaujolais are traditionally enjoyed during the fall harvest season and are a classic turkey-day wine to add to your table.
Open Several Wines – With the variety of flavors featured on a Thanksgiving table along with the diverse drinking preferences of your guests, having multiple options allows for choice and voice in pairing.
Pick Light – Select light-bodied wines to help balance the weight of the meal.
Chat with Our In-Store Wine Consultants - Unlike grocery chains, ABC stores have knowledgeable and friendly consultants that can assist you in selecting the perfect wine for your Thanksgiving meal.
Top Pairing Picks from Nathan and Paul
Ready to grab the perfect bottle for your holiday bird? Shop our selection here or peek at a handful of top pairing picks above!