3 Rules for Wine Pairing with Turducken

Recently, I was contacted by Echelon Foods with a request to provide wine pairings for their Original Turducken. Never having prepared or eaten a Turducken before, I thought it sounded like fun!   Julie and I prepared an early mini-holiday Turducken dinner.  The question was: how does a Turducken differ from a traditional turkey dinner in terms of wine pairing?  After opening quite a few bottles, here are our 3 main pieces of advice and some specific recommendations you may find worthwhile.

#1: You Can Serve Wines You Love
If you have favorite wines, you can serve them without worry. There are so many flavors at a big holiday meal, no wine will be perfect and no wine will be 100% wrong. That being said, there are some wines that work better than others.  If you’re willing to be open, you can serve wines that really complement the rest of the meal.

We're doing all the hard work for you

We’re doing all the hard work for you!

#2 – Turkey Pairings Work with Turducken
Much of the Turducken is normal for a holiday dinner: turkey, chicken, stuffing.  Wines that shine with a traditional turkey dinner still work well. The following three wines are a great place to start, and are all you really need:

  • Sparkling wine – Welcome your guests with a glass of sparkling wine and you’ll immediately announce the party has started.  In addition, a nice sparkling wine is a great pairing for a wide variety of foods.  Use it to welcome guests and as the dinner wine if you like!
  • Full body white – our favorites include unoaked or lightly oaked Chardonnay, or you can try a Viognier if you are feeling adventurous.
  • Light body red – Pinot Noir goes particularly well with birds of any type.
An all around winner: sparkling, rich white, light red

All around winners: sparkling, rich white, light red

#3- Uniquely Turducken – Bigger Reds
The thing that makes a Turducken unique is the duck.  A full body red wine will pair with the dark, rich duck flavors and the gravy.  If you like Cabernet Sauvignon, you can serve it, where it might be a bit much with a traditional turkey.  If you’re willing to try something new, serve a Côtes du Rhône.

Turducken will even pair with a bigger red wine

Turducken will even pair with a bigger red wine

Sparkling Wines for Your Holiday Table

  • Gruet Brut – A very nice, dry sparkling wine from New Mexico of all places!  This wine is available for less than $20 and often can be found for $15 on sale.
  • Roederer Estate Brut – another dry sparkler, this one from California.  This is one of my favorite American sparkling wines.  Typically less than $25, you might find it on sale for under $20
  • Other good choices: wines from Schramsberg (CA) , Argyle (OR)
  • Bargains: Domaine Chandon, Domaine Ste. Michelle
A couple of sparkling wine choices

A couple of sparkling wine choices

Full Body White Wines
Chardonnay fits the bill here, but you do need to be careful. Look for Chardonnays with a more restrained approach, using less new oak.  Also, modest French Burgundies are usually more restrained and excellent at the dinner table.  For something new, consider Viognier.  Viognier typically presents a nice full body but not too much oakiness.  Perfect for your holiday meal.

  • Calera Central Coast Chardonnay (CA) – a very nice Chardonnay with a full body but very light oak treatment.  Typically less than $25, I found it on sale for $20.  Also look for Oregon Chardonnays, and California producers Lioco and Chamisal.
  • Macon-Villages or Bourgogne Blanc – Basic white burgundies are perfect here, and are often available for less than $20.
  • Viognier – We have enjoyed Triennes from France, Cline from California, several from Washington and Oregon, and Yalumba from Australia.  All would work well and would be a new wine choice for many people.
A selection of rich white wines

A selection of full body white wines

Light Body Red Wine
Pinot Noir pairs very nicely with fowl and has plenty of body to match the duck.    Oregon is our first choice for food friendly American Pinot Noir.  Some California producers make pretty, lighter Pinot Noirs as well.  From France, you can count on a basic red Burgundy, also made from the Pinot Noir grape.  In the $25 and under price range, look for a Bourgogne Rouge.

  • Oregon Pinot Noirs available for $25 or less – Montinore Estate, A to Z, Erath, Matello, Argyle
  • California Pinot Noirs we like for around $25 – Au Bon Climat, Lioco
  • France – Look for Bourgogne Rouge from Bouvier, Drouhin, Bouchard, Girardin
Pinot Noir in the New World, Bourgogne Rouge from France

Pinot Noir in the New World, Bourgogne Rouge from France

Full Body Red Wine
If you prefer a big red with your Turducken, go for it!  Be a bit careful to avoid Cabernet Sauvignons that are very rich and ripe and have lots “toasty oak” flavors.  For French wine, you might try a nice Côtes du Rhône.  Côtes du Rhône wines have big body and deep flavors, but don’t usually have a lot of the oaky flavors present in American wines.

  • Forefront Cabernet Sauvignon by Pine Ridge – usually less than $25
  • Côtes du Rhône – many good producers in the $10-25 range.  We like wines from Kermit Lynch, Perrin, Guigal, and JL Chave Selections
Unique for Turducken, Big Reds

Unique for Turducken, Big Reds

Sweet Wines
Riesling is one of the most food-friendly wines in the world; perfect for a holiday meal.  Some of your friends and family may secretly prefer sweet wines.  Here are a couple of Rieslings that have just a bit of sweetness but are also very lively and pair very well with a Turducken holiday meal

  • Kung Fu Girl Riesling from Washington State, less than $15
  • Kabinett Riesling from Germany – many producers in the $15-25 price range. The one shown below is from Weingut Allendorf, which we enjoy.
Something for the sweet wine drinkers

Something for the sweet wine drinkers

For Adventurous Types and Wine Geeks
Two wines that are often recommended for the holiday table are dry rosé and Beaujolais.  Both of these wines pair beautifully with Turkey (and Turducken) and all the fixings.  In our dinners with friends and family, however, we have found that they are unfamiliar and people are reluctant to try them.  If you have an adventurous group, or you have “wine geeks” among your friends, feel free to serve these wines at your holiday table.

Do you have a wine geek in your family?

Do you have a wine geek in your family?

A Few to Avoid
There are few wines that don’t pair as well as some of the wines we have recommended.  Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, and Pinot Gris all have a very light body and would be better suited with lighter fare. Big, oaky buttery Chardonnays just have too many vanilla components in their flavor profiles to go well with food.  If you choose a bigger body red wine, you may want to find one that isn’t super ripe and rich and oaky.  Just like the oaky Chardonnays, the flavors stand well alone, but not so much at the dinner table.

Have a wonderful holiday season full of friends, family, good food and wine!

Note: Our Turducken Roast was provided by Echelon Foods, makers of The Original Turducken.  Thanks!
Wine recommendations are my own, and the wines we opened were purchased at retail.  I have no financial interests in any of the wines pictured or recommended, they are simply wines we enjoy and recommend to friends.

More Turducken Fun!
In case you are looking for more Turducken fun, here’s a great article expanding the concept: Why Stop at Turducken?  The first time I read it, I had tears from laughing so hard.  Go ahead, I dare you to not click on that link!

6 Responses to “3 Rules for Wine Pairing with Turducken”
  1. Susan Sassi says:

    This is a great article! Thanks for the tip! Now I have the perfect wine to go with the Turducken I made, I think it came out well. What do you think? http://repocomedy.com/2013/11/25/a-new-thanksgiving-tradition/

  2. As a beer blogger, I have been invited to be a “VIP” guest at one of Echelon’s Turducken demonstrations for 2014 in Chicago, and to suggest wines and beers of my own. I like your suggestion of going off center with a Beaujolais choice among the lighter whites and reds, just because many of these will be served during Beaujolais season and I seem to have more love for this strong-tasting style than most. My beer recommendations were to be an Amber Ale or darker bock with malt sweetness in case the teaming of white meat is to dry, or a hoppy pale ale if fats are more in evidence. But if this is something your guests have not encountered before (I know I haven’t), let them have the beers they’re most comfortable with.

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