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Dave DeSimone

Christmas dinner and wine go hand in hand

| Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016, 9:00 p.m.
Dave DeSimone | for the Tribune-Review

Every family fortunate to share Christmas dinner together typically savors a favorite centerpiece dish. Enjoying a well-chosen wine enhances the pleasure.

Some families double down from Thanksgiving by serving roasted turkey for Christmas. Properly cooked, the bird provides succulent white and dark meat typically accompanied by stuffing and gravy.

Pair it with the 2013 Domaines Schlumberger, Gewurztraminer “Les Princes Abbés,” Alsace, France (Luxury 99220; $25.99). The grapes come from vines in Bollenberg, a nature preserve with ideal dry growing conditions, as well as from young vines in famed Grand Cru vineyards. Fermentation in temperature-controlled vats captures freshness, while aging on the lees, i.e., spent yeast cells, adds body.

The golden color unfolds classic pineapple, grapefruit and brown spice aromas. Ripe pineapple and crisp citrus flavors carry through the soft, off-dry, yet well-balanced fresh finish. Highly recommended.

In Charles Dickens' venerable tale, “A Christmas Carol,” the Cratchit family enjoys the prize roasted goose with gravy, mashed potatoes and apple sauce. A fattened goose properly roasted and stuffed with sage and onions renders tender dark meat and delightful savory flavors. Roasted duck breast served rare also provides delicious succulent dark meat.

Pair goose and duck with the lovely 2014 Eric Texier, Brézème, Côtes du Rhône, France (Luxury 99192; $29.99). This Syrah-based wine comes from steep, terraced slopes in Brézème, a northern Rhône terroir virtually abandoned until Eric Texier's reclamation work. Texier's organic and biodynamic farming takes full advantage of limestone-rich soils. He also favors whole grape bunch fermentation with natural yeasts to capture natural fruitiness. Bottling occurs with limited sulfites.

The wine's deep purple color has smoky dark fruit aromas. Fresh black and red fruit flavors layer with uplifting, fresh mineral flavors and elegant, precise tannins. Highly recommended.

Spiral cut ham roasted with a brown sugar and clove glaze offers another Christmas dinner favorite. Traditional recipes enhance the glaze with a little mustard and cider vinegar to balance the sweetness, spice and fatty flavors.

Pinot Noir-based reds with pleasant earthy aromas and plenty of fresh, red fruit go well with the ham. The 2012 Joseph Drouhin, “Laforêt” Bourgogne Pinot Noir, France (4546; $18.99) uses grapes grown in classic cool climate and limestone-dominant soils for delicate, perfumed personality.

Black cherry and spicy, earthy aromas unfold to fresh raspberry and black fruit flavors with light, earthy notes. A portion of the wine aged in previously used French barrels helps to create subtle oak traits. Fresh acidity and smooth tannins frame the fruity, elegant finish. Highly recommended.

For an intriguing alternative with ham, try a wine from northern Italy's Piedmont region, the delicious 2012 Produttori del Barbaresco, Barbaresco, Italy (Specialty 44444; $29.99). The wine uses Nebbiolo grapes grown on steep slopes in the heart throbbing natural beauty surrounding the medieval hill town of Barbaresco.

The Produttori cooperative's 56 winegrowers tend vines naturally in sandy, well-drained, living soils over limestone substrates. The latter impart refreshing mineral traits to the fruit. Consistent sunshine and a classic cycle of warm days and cool nights complete a terroir perfectly suited for growing noble Nebbiolo grapes.

To highlight the terroir, fermentation unfolds in traditional, neutral concrete vats. Aging follows in large, neutral Slovenian oak casks.

The wine's light ruby color offers aromas of ripe black cherries with sweet brown spice and pleasant earthy notes. Fresh cherry and raspberry flavors meld with mouthwatering acidity and firm, elegant tannins carrying through the dry finish. Highly recommended.

Classic Christmas roast beef with potatoes, onions and carrots calls for a flavorful, refreshing and easy drinking red. Try the 2014 Château La Croix des Pins, Les Trois Villages, Ventoux, France (Luxury 78449; Chairman's Selection On Sale: $13.99).

The wine comes from Grenache and Syrah grapes grown between Mont Ventoux and the Dentelles de Montmiral in a gorgeous UNESCO natural biosphere zone. The vineyards are farmed biodynamically to enable the clay and limestone soils to convey terrific freshness.

After manual harvesting, the juice ferments slowly in neutral vats. A small portion of the wine ages in barrels prior to bottling.

The wine's light purple color offers fresh raspberry and plum aromas with spicy hints. Fresh red and black fruit flavors layer with herbal touches, fresh acidity and elegant tannins. Highly recommended

Dave DeSimone is the Tribune-Review wine columnist.

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