Guidelines: Your holiday wine picks

Written by Howard Hewitt. Posted in Dining & Entertainment

Published on November 23, 2011 with No Comments

There are thousands of wine bloggers, many wine writers and still a handful of newspaper wine columnists. They’re all writing about Thanksgiving and wine pairing this time of year. I’ve done the same in recent years, and think it’s important to offer a little help when it’s most needed

Instead of a long list of wine selections, (I’ll offer a few recommendations throughout), how about some general guidelines to help you pick the right wines for your turkey dinner whether it’s Thanksgiving or Christmas.

Thanksgiving is about family, so make it a festive occasion. Try a light sparkling wine before the big meal. It’s sure to be a hit. Look for a Spanish Cava, Italian Prosecco, or Gloria Ferrer’s delightful Sonoma County sparklers. For something really festive and delicious, I love Banfi Rosa Regale. The Banfi wine sells for right at $20, has just seven percent alcohol and is delicious.

Wines with a higher acidity are going to pair better with fowl. There will be lots of different flavors on your holiday table and you want something that will hold up to everything served.

Consider buying several different wines if you have a large guest list. Most Thanksgiving family feasts feature a veritable cornucopia of dishes, so why serve just one wine?

First, there are no right picks. If you like it, drink it. With that out of the way, it’s a good idea to rule out big red wines. Cabernet, Petite Sirah, Merlot, and Malbec are going to overpower the bird and side dishes.

Speaking of side dishes, consider the flavors and spices used to make the sides when picking a wine – not just the bird.

Wines with a higher acidity are going to pair better with fowl. There will be lots of different flavors on your holiday table and you want something that will hold up to everything served.

Consider buying several different wines if you have a large guest list. Most Thanksgiving family feasts feature a veritable cornucopia of dishes, so why serve just one wine?

When it comes time for dinner there is such a wide variety of choices. Instead of a Chardonnay, which can be over-powering and boring, try a semi-dry to dry Riesling? Gewurztraminer has become a very popular Thanksgiving wine in recent years. The wonderful spicy and floral aromas and taste are perfect for light fall fare.

If you want to support local pour an Indiana-made Traminette, a close cousin to the Gewurzt grape. Most Hoosier winemakers produce a sweet to semi-sweet version of the state grape that will work well with dinner. Just go to the semi-sweet or dry side if possible. Turtle Run Winery makes a dynamite dry Traminette if you can find it available.

A dry rose’ would also be a bold and delicious pairing.

If you like red, there are more choices than Pinot Noir, a classic pick. While many might suggest the seasonal Beaujolais Nouveau, I always suggest a Beaujolais Grand Cru wine. Pick up a Beaujolais Morgon or Fleurie. A personal favorite is Georges Duboeuf’s Julienas which is widely available at $11-$15.

If you insist on Pinot you can’t go wrong on the pairing. I’d recommend staying on the lighter side and going up to the $15 price point. There are several drinkable Pinots around $10. New Zealand’s Dashwood, California’s Mark West, and the classic Burgundy of Domain Joseph Drouhin. Drouhin’s LaForet Pinot sells for just $10. Pick up Lange Vineyard’s Willamette Valley Pinot for around $20 for a real treat. The 2009 Lange Pinot is unbelievable wine for a 20-dollar bill.

Finally, don’t hesitate to do something a little crazy. I’m not a big fruit wine fan but that doesn’t mean that you can’t find some well-made fruit wines. Consider pouring a little dry cranberry wine with dinner. Cherry wine might have the same fun factor.

Happy Thanksgiving.

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About Howard Hewitt

All opinions, conclusions or recommendations expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Chronicle. Howard W. Hewitt of Crawfordsville writes every other week about value wine for 18 Midwestern Newspapers. Read his wine blog at www.redforme.blogspot.clom.

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