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The Holiday Feast
Copyright 2001 by Robin Garr. All rights reserved. Originally printed November 14, 2001. For more information go to

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 festive: 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:

Check out Dave McIntyre's philosophy for the feast.

"Celebrate the Great American Turkey with a Great Wine!" by Randy Caparoso, Click here for Randy's recommendation.

"Choosing the Best Holiday Wines," by Sheral Schowe, click here for Sheral's recommendation.


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