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Wine Advisor Express:
The holiday feast

As Thanksgiving Day approaches, I'm starting to get the annual flurry of E-mail questions: "What wine should we serve with turkey and all the trimmings?"

Many a wine-loving household in the U.S. will uncork something special next Thursday; and this isn't a bad topic for the rest of the world, either, where the coming holiday season will surely involve a lavish family dinner or two, whether the viand of the day is turkey, roast beef, leg of lamb or just about any special dish with lavish accompaniments.

From a food-and-wine-matching standpoint, festive meals are challenging because so many different flavors compete for attention. The traditional American turkey makes things even more complicated because it comes with both light and dark meat; white breast meat and the dark thigh and leg work with wine in markedly different ways.

Frankly, faced with this question, the holiday meal may be a good time to throw up your hands, forget about seeking the perfect food-and-wine match, and simply choose a special wine for a special occasion, without worrying too much about the details. If you have a fine Bordeaux, Burgundy or Champagne or other special treasure that you've been saving for just the right time, this may be that time. Enjoy the meal. Enjoy the wine. Enjoy your family. There is no test, and scores will not be taken.

If you really want to play the wine-matching game with turkey, though, here are a few of my annual tips:

  • Think cranberry sauce: This traditional condiment with turkey is fruity and tart, and those qualities go well with the bird. Fruit flavors tame the slight gamey quality of turkey, especially the dark meat, while crisp tart flavors are cleansing with oily meat. Select a wine with a similar fruit-acid flavor profile, such as Chianti or Zinfandel or Beaujolais (even the soon-to-arrive Beaujolais Nouveau) if you want a red; or light, fruity and slightly sweet items like Riesling, Gewurztraminer or Chenin Blanc if you prefer a white.
  • Think festivity: Pop the cork on a sparkling wine and you've added a festive note to any occasion; and a crisp, rich and preferably not brutally dry sparkling wine will make a refreshing accompaniment to the turkey and its trimmings.

For more suggestions about wine with festive holiday meals, here are some good reports from contributors:

"Celebrate the Great American Turkey with a Great Wine!" by Randy Caparoso,

"Choosing the Best Holiday Wines," by Sheral Schowe,

What's YOUR favorite festive wine? If you've got a good story about a holiday match that worked - or one that didn't - please drop me a note at, and I'll pass along some of your suggestions in a later edition.

Join me on a trip to
the Rhone and Provence

I invite you to join me next June in a seven-day journey through the southern Rhone Valley and Provence, sponsored by French Wine Explorers, a high-quality American tour company that specializes in wine tours of France.

Lauriann Greene and Jean-Pierre Sollin, sommeliers-conseil who live in France, will join me to present this tour, which will feature a week of in-depth exploration of the wines of these two beautiful regions.

The tour is limited to 16 participants, so reservations will remain open only until these places are filled. For more information, click to the details at

This is Wine Advisor Express, daily edition of The 30 Second Wine Advisor, distributed Tuesdays through Fridays. For archives of previous articles, and to read more about wine, visit Wine Lovers' Page,

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Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2001
Copyright 2001 by Robin Garr. All rights reserved.

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