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Dave DeSimone

In The Wine Cellar: 5 top picks for Thanksgiving festivities

Dave DeSimone
| Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2018, 12:03 a.m.
Enjoy a full range of sparkling wines and fruity, refreshing white and red wines to complement Thanksgiving dinner side dishes.
Dave DeSimone
Enjoy a full range of sparkling wines and fruity, refreshing white and red wines to complement Thanksgiving dinner side dishes.
Cockburn’s 10-Year Tawny Port’s rich and sweet flavors pair well with pumpkin pie and mincemeat pie.
Dave DeSimone
Cockburn’s 10-Year Tawny Port’s rich and sweet flavors pair well with pumpkin pie and mincemeat pie.
Burgundy winegrower Romaric Petitjean makes a delicious Crémant de Bourgogne sparkling wine at a terrific price.
Dave DeSimone
Burgundy winegrower Romaric Petitjean makes a delicious Crémant de Bourgogne sparkling wine at a terrific price.

At Thanksgiving dinner, the roasted turkey or ham take center stage, but, truth be told, it’s those favorite side dishes that really add spice and interest to the meal. Enhance the fun by picking tasty, intriguing wines to match both the succulent, savory main course and the side dishes’ diverse flavors and textures.

We all love starting the festivities with pre-dinner nibbles of cheeses, sausages, pickles, nuts, dips and crackers. Pair these little delights with a fresh sparkling wine such as the N.V. Domaine Petitjean, Aloma, Crémant de Bourgogne, France (Luxury 74992; $19.99). This delicious, full-flavored sparkler comes from chardonnay and pinot noir grapes grown by Romaric and Mathias Petitjean, hardworking brothers toiling in northern Burgundy’s Bourgogne-Côtes d’Auxerre appellation.

The wine’s lovely golden color has gorgeous hints of pink blush laced with irresistible, frothy bubbles. The latter come from secondary fermentation in the bottle. Aging the wine for 24 months on the lees (i.e., spent yeast) gives delicious, subtle creamy notes. The wine finishes crisp and dry with delicious, fresh fruitiness. Highly Recommended.

During the meal, sides such as curried fruit and candied sweet potatoes with cashews pair well with attention–grabbing white wines with exotic aromas and flavors. The exhilarating 2017 Wiengut Borell-Diehl, Gewürztraminer Kabinett, Rheinpfalz, Germany (Luxury 74807; $15.99) fits the bill perfectly. The wine comes from grapes grown organically in limestone and loess soils in Germany’s warm and sunny Pfalz region.

The climate and soils render classic Gewürztraminer with a heady mix of rose petals, pineapple and grapefruit. Fermentation in stainless steel tanks captures fresh, fruity tropical fruit and citrus flavors, while zesty acidity balances the soft, off-dry finish. The wine’s modest 10.5% alcohol by volume makes for easy drinking. Highly Recommended.

Savory side dishes such as creamy coleslaw, green beans with almond slivers and sautéed Brussels sprouts pair well with the 2015 Famille Hugel, Gentil “Hugel,” Alsace, France (5259; On sale: $12.99), a perennial Thanksgiving favorite. The wine blends hand-harvested gewürztraminer and muscat grapes for spicy aromas and adds Pinot Gris for fruity depth. Dashes of riesling, sylvaner and pinot blanc add racy elegance and freshness. The wine starts fruity and ripe, yet finishes pleasingly crisp and dry with refreshing mineral notes. A perfect, harmonious blend to complement the entire meal. Highly Recommended.

As the main dish of roasted ham or turkey arrives with savory stuffing, mashed potatoes with gravy and, of course, cranberry relish, turn to a fruity, fresh red. Try the scrumptious 2017 Vignobles Bulliat, Beaujolais-Villages, France (Luxury 74690; Chairman’s Selection, on sale: $12.99), a bottle delivering tremendous fruity pleasure and quality for the price. The wine comes from gamay grapes grown primarily in granite soils which lend refreshing mineral notes.

In the glass, a gorgeous ruby color pleases the eye and unfolds fruity black cherry and light earthy notes. Delicious, lip-smacking red fruit flavors balance with zesty acidity and elegant tannins. The wine has only 12.5% alcohol by volume for easy drinking. Highly Recommended.

When finishing the meal with the slices of pumpkin pie and mincemeat pie, enjoy a glass of the delicious Cockburn’s 10-Year Tawny Porto, Portugal (Luxury 14609; $24.99 for 500 ml.). This fortified wine ages patiently in barrels for 10 years to develop its trademark “tawny” brown color that unfolds caramel and chocolate notes. Good freshness balances the wine’s sweet finish and 20% alcohol by volume. Highly Recommended.

Dave DeSimone is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.

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