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How to Buy Wines for a Holiday Feast


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You can drink whatever wine you want to drink on Thanksgiving day, Brett Zimmerman admits, and the meal will likely turn out just fine. But Zimmerman, a wine guru, Master Sommelier and owner of Boulder Wine Merchant, says the holidays are a great opportunity to change things up. Rebel from your California Chardonnay!

“We like to inspire people to try something different,” he said. “If you drink Chardonnay, try something else. Find a bottle that intrigues you and bring it to share. If you don’t like it, well, there are probably plenty of other things to try.”

He suggests wines with texture, bright acidity and richness, which can stand up to holiday feasts, but that don’t have a ton of oakiness. While some drinkers tend to focus on picking between red or white, Zimmerman says that’s not the right way to look at it. It’s most important that you match the body of the wine with what you’re drinking.

“You get the ‘We need white or red’ thing a bit. But the lines are closer together than you’d think,” he said. “You need to consider that it’s not like most people are pairing wines with each dish or course. You need versatility. At my house, we open stuff up and we just pour and taste. Versatility is the most important thing.”

Starters: As an aperitif, Zimmerman suggests lillet with a slice of orange and a touch of soda water. “It’s refreshing, simple and savory,” he said. Or try cocchi Americano or vermouth such as a Cinzano Bianco.

Think Germanic: When it comes to pairing wines with a full-blown smorgasbord of holiday classics like turkey, stuffing, gravy, cranberries, buttery mashed potatoes and sweet potatoes, Zimmerman suggests drinkers explore Alsace, Germany and Austria/Northern Italy. “Alsace is a white wine-dominated area. We are looking at pinot gris, pinot blanc, riesling,” he said. “These wines have an oily richness with no new oak. You get spice and richness, and you get textures driven by the weight of the fruit. They are always delicious, and they have great value, topping out at $60. That’s pretty awesome.”

Sweet Treat: When you have sweet dishes on the table pick a wine with a little residual sugar. “Anytime you drink sweet wine, the wine has to be sweeter than the dessert or dish,” he said. “Otherwise, the wine seems dull.”

Go Rhone: Think about trying reds from southern and northern Rhone, whether it’s a $15 Cotes De Rhone or a $65 Châteauneuf-du-Pape. “They just work with this type of meal,” Zimmerman said. “Neither (southern or northern Rhones) will be over the top—trying to command all the attention.”

After thought: Wondering what to serve with grandma’s famous apple pie? Zimmerman suggests a sweet sherry, Moscato or a Sauterne. You just want something to help it all go down smoothly—the pros call it a digestif—pour yourself a little glass of Amaro, an Italian herbal liquor, such as Fernet Branca.

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