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Tips on the proper wine for your holiday dinners

By Staff
Nov. 29, 2000
Around 1,800 bottles came into vogue as the method of storing and dispersing wine. Men had discovered years before that wine, in general, made food taste better and certain wines had an affinity for certain foods. But it was cumbersome to keep the pleasure of the grape in barrels and disperse it in tankards rather than by the glass. In addition, prolonged storage in wood changed the flavor and failed to maintain product quality.
Bottles were clearly the answer and still are today. Nothing else has really changed. Wine still enhances the taste of food and good food is one of every cook's goals during the holiday season. Thus, wine sales (and consumption) go up at this time of the year and, as a result, holiday food is a highlight.
A few suggestions that will make your meals taste better. While there are many about to be made. Champagne is the drink of choice. It marries with so many different foods, turkey, for one, cheese, desserts and others.
But all champagne is not alike. A small amount of sugar and a little brandy is added to champagne as a flavor enhancer and the label on the bottle tells you how much. For example, brut is the most popular champagne and the truest to the flavor of the grapes from which it was made. Contrary to what many people believe, extra dry (in France it is labeled "extra-sec") is not dryer than brut but instead is one step sweeter. Sweeter yet is dry (sec) preceded by semi-dry (demi-sec) and sweet (doux). It is likely you will find only brut or extra dry in your favorite wine store.
Sparkling wines made in Italy or Spain are not champagnes and, as a general rule, are sweeter. For example the Italian word "spumante" means "fully sparkling," nothing more. It is not to be compared with champagne.
While it may be late in this day before Thanksgiving to head for your favorite wine store, here are suggestions both for tomorrow's dinner and through the holiday season.
Champagne, as we said, will go well with the bird you serve either on Thanksgiving or Christmas or both. But so will a rich chardonnay such as a Landmark Overlook, a Geyser Peak, even a low-priced wine such as Lindeman's Bin 65, Rosemount or Meridian. You might try the new Greg Norman Chardonnay with your turkey, They are made for each other.
But turkey is a versatile bird. There is nothing wrong with serving a light red wine with your main course. Any Loire Valley wine should do nicely as well as a nice Chianti, Monsanto comes to mind. Rhone wines, particularly Chateauneuf-du-Pape, are excellent as are the Spanish riojas and a solid beaujolais is recommended.
Just don't convince yourself that because turkey breast meat is white, white wine is your only choice. That is simply not true.
If you are inclined to serve a standing beef roast for Christmas, turn to the red wines. A cabernet sauvignon goes well as does an Australian shiraz. Best of all is a French burgundy but now you're getting into a price decision. The good ones are costly. A full-bodied merlot also complements the red meat taste of roast.
Many families serve a ham for Christmas dinner. Ham is one of the hardest to match up with food. Champagne will do the trick, particularly a Rose' champagne. I also like an Alsatian riesling with ham.
For dessert, there are a multitude of choices. German wines are excellent, particularly the auslese or spatlese wines. Those terms refer to the development of the grape when picked. A spatlese German wine is lightly less sweet than an auslese. A kabinet is less sweet than either one and cheaper while still wonderful. A nice golden colored sauterne is great with pie or with any other sweet dessert as well.
Basically, merely remember this. Lighter wines compliment lighter food. Bigger, heavier wines compliment bigger heavier food. Sweet wines have a definite place on your table as long as the food with which they are served is well chosen.
And it you're thoroughly and completely confused, you can serve champagne with almost everything. But don't think you can get away with under $10 sparkling wines because you can't. Start with Roederer Anderson Valley at about $20 and go up. After all, you do want this meal to be memorable, don't you? Whether it is or not is in your hands and your wallet.
Reservations are being received for the champagne tasting at Princeton's Restaurant scheduled for Thursday. Do not call the restaurant. Call 482-0930. Each seat for the tasting is $30. We will taste a minimum of six champagnes (or sparkling wines), three of them French, three others will be among California's best. Check with Edna's on Poplar Springs Drive about the wines if you wish.You must have a reservation and when all seats are sold that will be the end of it.
Stan Torgerson, a longtime Meridian resident, has written a wine column for several years.