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Thanksgiving: Giving Thanks for the Wine

When families gather, some will need wine and others will reach for the iced tea

If you live in the South and are somewhat repressed, you'll probably just be serving coffee and iced tea. With and without sugar. On the other hand, many Thanksgiving gatherings also include the great libations that loosen a few tongues along the way. They also invite a wonderful conviviality at the table as well as before, during, and after the televised games.

At our house, we begin early. Perhaps a mimosa upon waking for that first sugar rush. Nothing too strong. While preparing brunch, it could well be that a Bloody Mary is in order. Following that, the entire day remains for any number of choices.

If it's a formal affair, then you should plan accordingly. However, Thanksgiving generally is more of a casual homecoming and should be enjoyed for the companionship and the great food rather than whose manners can be minded.

Choosing a great wine for this important day can be tough, unless you've had a few years to experiment with all the dishes and all the reds and white and sparklings that are on offer. Always choose something with which you're familiar - if it's terrible, too late when you're springing it on your guests. Plus, you want to have plenty on hand - and if you know it's good ahead of time, no worries there.

This is one item you can purchase well in advance. In fact, if you are willing to try new adventures, start early and test several. Buy one bottle at a time. If it's good, then pick up a case and store it properly. It goes well beyond just finding a great wine that you like personally. Will it go with the cranberries? And, at the same time, will it not clash with the sweet potatoes? That's where wine selection becomes interesting. There is, as you know, no one-size-fits-all when it comes to wine.

In spite of what you might think is proper - and what your wine snob friends might enforce - some folks will simply always prefer one over another: reds instead of whites and vice versa. Today, there are no wrong pairings.

Thanksgiving dinners are the ultimate challenge because there are so many flavors coming together on one table. Every sense is present: acid, sweet, salty, and spicy. Some will be more dominant than others: cranberries and sweet potatoes are generally the delicious culprits in that department.

Experts state that any heavy acid foods paired with acidic wines will bring the taste buds to life. So, there's a start. On the other hand, sweeter wines may well pair with the sweeter dishes. More confusion.

There are two main rules that could make your Thanksgiving dinner more pleasant. Stay away from heavy reds as they'll put some of your guests right to sleep with a full tummy. Make choices that generally feature lower alcohol content, such as a moderately priced riesling.

In fact, there are a few safe bets for the entire meal. Those include sparkling wines, which will see you through any occasion, of course. Just choose those that are labeled "extra dry." In addition, a pinot noir or Beaujolais is nice for sipping while preparing the meal. Another great red is a Shiraz and, while Zinfandels are readily recommended, they do remain generally higher in alcohol content. Among the whites, you'll find that in addition to Rieslings, it's hard to go wrong with dry chardonnays or Sauvignon Blancs.

Thanksgiving is not the time to break out that collector wine you've hoarded for a special occasion. It's always recommended to go with new vintages as the taste will be lighter - and that's what you're after. Plus, if a bottle has by chance gone bad, that, indeed, will leave a terrible taste on the memory taste buds.

Two last pointers. When you're entertaining a crowd, look for modest pricing. You'll come across some fine wines without blowing your budget and most of your guests will be just as pleased. Second, do not run out. That might become cardinal sin number one. After all, it won't go to waste like some of the leftovers.



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