Don’t fret choosing wine for holiday meals |

Don’t fret choosing wine for holiday meals

For many of us, Thanksgiving dinner is the time when old friends and family gather together to share food and good times with one another. The traditional American meal involves roasting a whole turkey accompanied by cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes, gravy and mashed potatoes, stuffing and whatever family favorites that make the meal special. Wine has become a part of the Thanksgiving table in most homes. Which wine to choose for this meal of varied flavors and textures can trouble many a meal planner. The star of the meal, the turkey, should pair well with most wines, red or white. The side dishes with their varied flavors and textures make selecting the wine a bit more difficult.

Because of the varied flavors and textures in the meal, and the preferences of your guests, you may want to consider at least two types of wines, one red and one white. Remember, when selecting wines to be paired with your meal, there is no right or wrong decision. What flavors you enjoy in a wine, as long as it does not over-power the food, should determine the wines selected for the dinner. There arent really any correct or perfect food and wine pairings that will appeal to everyone at the table, so go with what you like and what you think will accompany your meal the best. For dinner, plan on one-quarter to one-half bottle per guest.Try to select well-rounded wines that are not too tannic, or too sweet, and are of medium body. Wines that would go well with fowl have a long lingering finish. Those that possess a fresh fruitiness would go well with the traditional Thanksgiving meal.

The texture or the feeling the wine produces in your mouth should be considered when selecting a wine. Un-oaked chardonnay or sauvignon blanc will feel refreshing and tart, with a short, clean taste on the tongue: these would be considered light-textured wines. An oak-aged chardonnay will coat the palate and create a creamy richness in the mouth: this type of wine would be considered a heavy-textured wine. For the traditional turkey dinner with all the trimmings, a lighter textured wine would make a good choice. There arent any wines that will enhance the flavors of cranberries or yams with marshmallows, so dont sip after a bite of either.

The wines you choose for Thanksgiving should not be too powerful in complex flavors that they will compete or over-power the flavors of the foods prepared. Consider the intensity of the wines you are choosing as well. Dry Rieslings, sauvignon or fume blancs, gewurztraminers, chardonnay and Viogniers are listed here in order of less-to-greater flavor intensity. Gamay, grenache, pinot noir, Sangiovese, merlot, zinfandel, cabernet sauvignon, Syrah, and Barolos are listed in the general order of intensity of flavors. This is a general guideline to go by: the producers wine-making style will ultimately indicate the intensity of flavor in any given varietal.

In selecting wines you may want to either select wines that compliment the flavors and textures of the foods you are serving, matching intensity, richness, and power. Or you may want to contrast with the flavors and textures, like tannins against the creaminess of mashed potatoes. I believe for most of us, the foods we select to serve on Thanksgiving are what we are showcasing, and the wines we choose should match the texture, body and flavor of those foods, all the while complimenting the meal while not completely starring in the meal.

For all American wines, you may want to select an un-oaked chardonnay, fume or sauvignon blanc, Pinot Gris, Roussanne, Viogneir or a dry Riesling. American red wines which you may enjoy with your meal are California grenaches, pinot noir, Sangiovese, Rhone blends of Syrah, grenache, Mourvedre and Cinsault, and lighter style cabernets. California also produces some exceptional sparkling wines that would be ideal to enjoy before, during, and after the traditional Thanksgiving meal. Gloria Ferrer and Schramsberg offer some delicious styles at reasonable prices.

For non- American wines, a Spanish Albarino, or a grand cru dry Riesling from France would match the textures and flavors of your meal nicely. The always reasonably priced, fresh and fruity Beaujolais Nouveau, or a grenache from Spain would also be good choices. For dessert, there are many wonderful domestic and imported ports to choose from, as well as some delicious late-harvest Rieslings and ice wines. When selecting a dessert wine, make sure that the wine you select is not sweeter than the desert you are serving.As a rule of thumb, vintage, and late-bottle vintage (LBV), will be more complex with deep, long-lasting flavors. Tawny have a nutty sweetness; late-harvest Rieslings are intensely sweet, but with a clean refreshing finish; as are ice wines. A rare treat if you can find them are white ports made from chardonnay grapes and exhibiting a vanilla and hazelnut flavor. Whatever foods or wines you serve, may you and your loved ones have a great holiday. Janice Jones is a Truckee resident and wine consultant. Reach her at

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