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November 25, 2012

GRAPE SENSE: It’s time to pick wine(s) for your holiday meal

The Golden Rule of wine and food pairing is a simple one — if you like it, drink it!

But when the family gathers for the turkey feast or at Christmas time, something more is often expected. How about something different? Or maybe it’s time to serve up something a bit more extravagant!

An occupational hazard for wine writers is the expected column of wine recommendations for the holidays, so who am I to disappoint?

The first rule of picking wines for a big meal is do not overly focus not the main protein. Think about all of those side dishes and the different flavors. That makes almost any wine a good pick. But with the turkey and main course there are some certain winners and perhaps a few you’ve never tried worth picking up.

A good domestic Chardonnay will work every time. You can buy palatable bottles at the grocery or most liquor stores. I recommend value labels Robert Mondavi, Mirrasou, and flip flop as very palatable wines if you want to keep you’re price point under $10 a bottle.

Dry Riesling is another outstanding choice. Frankly, there is so much good Riesling made in the U.S., you don’t need to think foreign to find a great bottle. New York and Michigan are areas really emerging with their Riesling wines. Washington state winemakers are producing great Riesling. Several Midwestern wineries are doing Riesling as well.

If there is a decent wine shop nearby there are several other great choices.

If you like drier wines but want a big nose of autumn in your glass try a Gewurztraminer or Viognier. Gewurzt is one of the most aromatic wines in the world. It can be fairly sweet to off-dry. Viognier, my choice of the two, is a drier white wine with hints of apple, pear, and spice. For an even better pairing go drier with a Pinot Gris or Chenin Blanc.

For the extravagant dinner gathering, splurge for the world’s best white wine — Chablis. Better wine shops will have a few labels to choose from. Chablis is Chardonnay made in a dry, crisp style with tremendous minerality and acidity. Real Chablis comes from Chablis, France and nowhere else. Frankly, don’t buy the other stuff. Chablis would be awesome with any poultry. You can find great bottles starting in the $20 price range and up. Domaine William Fevre, Billaud-Simon, and Drouhin are just three labels which consistently make outstanding French white wine.

Here is an option many people just won’t think about or consider, but Rose’ wines make a great pairing with poultry. Rose is that nice middle point between white and red wines and the quality continues to skyrocket vintage to vintage. Find a French Provence Rose or an Oregon Pinot Noir Rose for your Turkey.  Midwestern wineries make pretty good to outstanding Rose’ wines. Just go for the dry Rose wines regardless of region to match well with your dinner.

The red of choice has long been Pinot Noir for Thanksgiving. And again, if you are sticking with value look for the labels mentioned above.  But if it’s off to the wine shop, consider a French Beaujolais — and not that Nouveau stuff. Find a Beaujolais Cru wine from Julienas, Morgon, or Fleurie. The Gamay-based wines are very affordable at $12-$18 and great with food.

If you want to impress pick up any bottle of Oregon Pinot Noir above the $30 price point. It is sure to be a huge hit with your guests.

Coming up: Gadgets for the wine lover on your Christmas list.

Howard W. Hewitt, Crawfordsville, writes about wine for 21 Midwestern newspapers. Reach him at: hewitthoward@gmail.com. Read his blog at: www.redforme.

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