Editor’s Note: In this article, you’ll learn from WSET wine professionals about the best wines to pair with turkey based on grape varieties and regions, in addition to some specific wine recommendations by producer that we have personally tested and found to be extremely reliable.

What Wine Goes With Turkey? | Thanksgiving Wine Pairings

While Thanksgiving is one of the most anticipated feasts for families across the United States every year, Turkey is also a popular dish that millions of consumers eat on a daily basis regardless of  holiday.

During this most recent Thanksgiving, I can’t even count how many times I was asked what wine goes with turkey. That being said, we wanted to cover some of our top picks when it comes to pairing wine with turkey, and why these grape varieties, regions and wines make for ideal choices.

  The Best Wine Grape Varieties to Pair with Turkey or Thanksgiving

We wanted to make our guide to wine pairings with turkey and/or Thanksgiving as simple as possible. There are thousands of grape varieties out there, but we’ve narrowed down our picks to 6 styles of wine that we feel best embody the perfect Thanksgiving pairing.

RELATED: How Salty, Acidic, Sweet & Savory Flavors Affect Wine & Food Pairings

Remember, most Thanksgiving meals typically involve a large assortment of foods outside of turkey. Some of these side dishes are vastly different in flavor than the main course. With this in mind, the wines below were chosen given their versatility in pairing with an assortment of foods, but the main focus here is pairing wine with turkey.

Find out why below:

Red Zinfandel (Primitivo)

Why It’s the Best:

Zinfandel is a wonderful grape variety to pair with turkey thanks in large part to its versatility in flavor. On first inspection, certain Zins can be confused visually with Pinot Noir given its red and relatively translucent hue in the glass. However, take a whiff and then a sip and you’ll quickly note that it packs a bigger flavor punch than you might have expected. The color and translucency of Zinfandel also has a lot to do with the climate it’s grown in… more on that later.

For the most part, the flavor kick in red Zinfandel comes from old vines, elevated acidity and more often than not, a high alcohol content (some Red Zinfandel can be as high as 17% ABV!). Thus, what you may have thought was a lighter-bodied red wine may be perceived as more medium bodied.

We love this grape variety paired with turkey because it’s most commonly packed with some of our favorite red fruit flavors. Jammy raspberry, cranberry, raisins and ripe red cherry are not uncommon flavor tones. But it’s not just the fruit that makes this an ideal pairing — it’s the other flavor nuances. These jammy-style fruit flavors are often backed by smoke, black pepper, tobacco and mushroom tones that really help to enhance any assortment of food on your dinner table.

Also note — the flavor of Red Zinfandel can have a lot to do with ripeness at the time of harvest. Industry professionals note that Zinfandel produced in cooler climates will typically have higher acidity and more red fruit flavors. Whereas warm-climate Zins may appear to have softer acidity and more plum and blackberry tones backed by cracked black pepper.

This is an important distinction to note for food pairing. If you’re eating fried turkey or foods that are excessively fatty during your meal, go for the cool-climate Zin as the acid will help cut through the fatty flavor. If your turkey is lean and on the dryer side, go for warmer climate. Either way, the alcohol present will also help to cut any excessive fatty flavors in any dish.

Recommended Producers to Try:

Red Fruit Forward:

Jeff Cohn Cellars Hayne Vineyard Zinfandel 2012

Tasting Notes from the Wine Maker: This wine is a perfect combination of vineyard, weather, and a winemaker who doesn’t want to get in the way. Made from 120 year old zinfandel vines grown in the heart of the Napa Valley. This wine explodes out of the glass like fireworks on the 4th of July with fennel sausage, cinnamon, mocha, and layers of dried fruits. A wine of deep textures and nuance that will lead to continued enjoyment for years to come.

Buy it online at Wine.com

Black Fruit Forward:

Ravenswood Napa Valley Old Vine Zinfandel 2014 – Napa Valley, California

Tasting Notes: Juicy with big-bodied black cherry, medium acid, velvety tannins, blackberry cobbler, clove and vanilla. It’s like drinking a blackberry pie with a vanilla crust — but this wine is dry. Perfection, especially for the price around $15.00 at most major retailers.

Buy it online at Wine.com

Regions to Explore:

  • Lodi, California
  • Alexander Valley, Sonoma, California
  • Puglia, Italy (Primitivo)

Wine With Turkey | Wines for Thanksgiving and Turkey Pairing

Pinot Noir

Why It’s the Best:

We also love Pinot Noir as an ideal grape variety to pair with turkey or classic Thanksgiving meals. Not unlike Zinfandel, it’s often loaded with refreshing red fruit flavor and elevated acidity. The primary difference is that these flavors are more subtle, and the palate is typically lesser in body and less intense on the alcohol front.

This is advantageous when pairing with dry and or lean turkey breast or leg cuts. More often than not, the cherry, raspberry, strawberry and cranberry elements in Pinot Noir will compliment and enhance not just the turkey, but also any stuffing or cranberry served along with it as Pinot Noir tannins are always light. It’s perfect for poultry.

Also note that some of the finer producers of Pinot Noir from Washington State and Oregon are able to achieve earthy flavors and tones, along the lines of damp forest floor, mushroom and sometimes subtle oak and smoke.

RELATED: Want to Learn More About Wine Grapes and Regions? Check out our Wine Resources Page

Regions to Explore:

  • Willamette Valley, Oregon
  • Columbia Valley, Washington State
  • Burgundy, France
  • Carneros, Napa Valley, California
  • Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California

Grenache & Grenache Dominant Blends

Why It’s the Best:

Grenache, which is also known as Garnacha in Spain, is another favorite Thanksgiving wine pairing given its both red and black fruit tones with no shortage of cracked spices. It’s a versatile, lighter-bodied red wine that is also more often than not — high in alcohol.

While some of the finest producers around the world will argue that aged varietal Grenache wines are the best, we tend to prefer younger red fruit-forward Grenache and Garnacha as a Turkey pairing because it won’t overpower the flavor of the meat.

Expect a low-viscosity wine, typically ruby red in color with a fair portion of translucency. These wines can be somewhat aromatic with strawberry and blue fruit tones on the nose, and medium in intensity due to alcohol content.

Grenache is also commonly used as a blending grape around the world. Most notably in Southern Rhone, France — where it’s blended with Syrah and Mourvedre to further enhance color, tannins and complexity. These blends are often referred to as GSM’s.

For dry and unsweetened styles of turkey, aim for Grenache single-varietal wines from France or Spain. If you have a complex dinner table with sweetened turkey, fried turkey or sweet side dishes, GSM’s may better compliment your meal. Some of the best GSM’s are from Rhone, as well as from a number of producers throughout Australia.

Recommended Producers to Try:

  • Yalumba
  • Evodia
  • Las Rocas
  • CVNE

Regions to Explore:

  • Southern Rhone, France
  • Barossa Valley, Australia
  • Central & Southern Spain
  • Rioja, Spain

Chenin Blanc

Believe it or not, you don’t have to pair turkey with red wine. The right styles of white wine can work equally as well to enhance the flavor of most turkey dishes.

Chenin Blanc is one of those white wine grape varieties. But it’s not just the flavor of this wine that makes it an ideal pairing. It also doesn’t cost much. Chenin Blanc’s origins can be traced back to the Loire Valley of France, however some of today’s best expressions of this grape variety come from South Africa. The climate in South Africa afforded this already easy to grow grape variety a lot of room to come into its own.

High in acid, dry and light-to-medium bodied with no shortage of crisp citrus and tree fruit flavors. This compliments poultry quite well. Even fried turkey can work, as the elevated acidic content helps to “cut the fat.”

Why It’s the Best:

Believe it or not, you don’t have to pair turkey with red wine. The right styles of white wine can work equally as well to enhance the flavor of most turkey dishes.

Chenin Blanc is one of those white wine grape varieties. But it’s not just the flavor of this wine that makes it an ideal pairing. It also doesn’t cost much. Chenin Blanc’s origins can be traced back to the Loire Valley of France, however some of today’s best expressions of this grape variety come from South Africa. The climate in South Africa afforded this already easy to grow grape variety a lot of room to come into its own, helping to keep costs down.

High in acid, dry and light-to-medium bodied with no shortage of crisp citrus and tree fruit flavors. These flavors compliment poultry quite well. Even fried turkey can work, as the elevated acidic content helps to “cut the fat.” Note that warmer-climate Chenins can also contain evidence of tropical fruit, along the lines of banana, pineapple and melon.

Regions to Explore:

  • Stellenbosch, South Africa
  • Swartland, South Africa
  • Loire Valley, France
  • Columbia Valley, Washington
  • Marlborough, New Zealand
  • Monterey, California
  • San Ynez Valley, Santa Barbara, California
Thanksging Rose Wine Pairing | Whispering Angel Rosé

The Whispering Angel Rosé blend makes for a perfect Thanksgiving wine pairing. Click to buy it online at Wine.com.

Dry Rosé Blends

Why It’s the Best:

Dry Rosé, made predominantly from Grenache grapes makes for an ideal pairing alongside turkey given its subtle red fruit flavor nuances and light-to-medium body. Because Rosé of Grenache has such minimal contact with the grape skins during production, it’s mildly tannic, yet still offers an abundance of floral and bright red fruit flavors that make it a perfect complement to turkey, stuffing and or cranberry sauce.

Sparkling Rosé is also an ideal style of wine to try if you’re eating fried turkey. The bubbles, in conjunction with the typically elevated acidic content help to balance the greasy nuances present in fried turkey and make it significantly more palatable and enjoyable.

Recommended Producers to Try:

Regions to Explore:

  • Languedoc-Roussilon, France
  • Umpqua Valley, Oregon
  • Mendocino, California
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