We've asked a reputable and distinguished group of wine authorities a simple, yet often frustrating question facing millions this time of year: Which wines would you bring to a holiday meal and why?
Click ahead and read which wines experts like Wine Spectator's Executive Editor Thomas Matthews and world renowned chefs Lidia and Joseph Bastianich chose to pair with the traditional American turkey feast with all the fixin's.
"Since Thanksgiving is an American holiday, I'm going with American wines for the most part. And even at Thanksgiving, there's no predicting exactly what will be on the table, so we need versatile, light- to medium-textured wines that will match with the 10,000 mains and sides they're likely to encounter.
First, a Pinot Gris from Washington State or California, like the Willamette Valley Vineyards 2007 Pinot Gris ($16). A bit tart, a bit spicy, very fruity and crisp. And then, shoot me for being predictable: Pinot Noir. Let's pull J Vineyards & Winery 2005 Nicole's Vineyard from Russian River Valley ($42). Again, a touch of spice - the Thanksgiving meal can be so "same-old, same-old" from year to year, you need to wake it up - but mostly great cherry fruit on the silkiest pillow imaginable."
"On special occasions, some people like to drink sparkling wine, before, during and after the meal. For that, I recommend we stray outside American shores, but first, you must ask yourself: just how special is Thanksgiving to you? If we're talking really, really special, you can spring for a Louis Roederer 2002 Cristal Champagne ($250). Biscuity, fruity, with all the depth, balance, intrigue and long finish you can ask for. Taittinger, Moet & Chandon, Bollinger and Krug are some other top producers, and recent quality vintages that are drinking well are 2000 and 2002.
At the other end of the scale, price wise, I recommend Prosecco, a sparkling wine from Italy. Refreshing, light, inexpensive bubbly -- you can even serve this to Aunt Hattie while you sip the Cristal in the kitchen. Mionetto is a dependable Prosecco producer; these are largely nonvintage wines."
"If you want to top the meal off with a dessert wine, I recommend you don't skimp. There is artful, delightful sweetness and then there are those that just make your teeth ache and your head throb. I recommend an ice wine. Just like it sounds: the grapes are allowed to freeze, concentrating the sugars, and in the right hands, the resulting wines are exquisite. Quite reasonable, and utterly dependable, are the ice wines from Inniskillin in Canada's Niagara Peninsula. Try the 2003 ($75)."
"Champagne is my first choice. I think a crisp, clean blanc de blancs champagne such as Dom Ruinart 1996 ($150) or Pierre Gimmonet's Cuvee Gastronome ($50) is very festive, pairs well with a number of foods, and has a light freshness that is a great counterpoint to rich holiday fare."
"Among still wines, I have to admit I'm torn. One would want a red, certainly, and here red Burgundy would be my pick. A wine with a rich, developed fruit aroma and an undercurrent of earthy complexity is also very versatile, and stands up well to the heartiest fare. Recent releases such as the 2006 Morey-St.-Denis from Domaine Dujac ($90) provide good value. One would find many of the same virtues in the 2005 Evenstad Reserve Pinot Noir ($55) from Domaine Serene in Oregon."
"It is difficult to rule out Riesling, however, since this is almost the best of both worlds: light, crisp, and fresh like champagne, but showing great depth of flavor and complexity like a red Burgundy. Here I would prefer a drier example, from Alsace or the Pfalz, or perhaps from Austria. The 2005 Riesling Smaragd "Terrassen" from F.X. Pichler ($44) would be stunning."
"A roasted turkey will accommodate a wide range of wines, so the first rule of pairing applies: drink what you like!
Wine lovers may look at holidays as an opportunity to share some of their better bottles with family and friends. In that case, we recommend keeping the side dishes simple, and not too sweet (no marshmallows on the sweet potatoes, for example).
I find the subtle flavors of simply roasted turkey complement the elegance and complexity of fine Burgundies, both red and white. The 2005 vintage is excellent for reds, while 2006 shines for whites."
(Click ahead for recommended red and white Burgundies in various price categories.)
Splurge: Grand Crus, the most exalted vineyards in Burgundy
G. ROUMIER Bonnes Mares 2005
Dense with ripe black fruit: plum, blackberry and black currant, along with mineral and spice, this starts out lush and silky. The tannins are there, but discreet and supportive, letting the fruit take center stage. It shows great freshness and length, as the complex fruit washes over the palate. Best from 2015 through 2040. 110 cases imported. –BS
Release Price: $220
BOUCHARD PÈRE & FILS Chevalier-Montrachet 2006
Entices with its floral and citronella aromas, then follows through with macaroon, lime and mineral flavors. These are set against a refined structure and a creamy texture that lends a lighter-than-air feel. The finish goes on and on. Best from 2010 through 2025. 70 cases imported. –BS
Release Price: $399
Moderate: Fine village wines with great pedigree
LOUIS LATOUR Beaune Vignes Franches 2005
Silky and complex, this red shows succulent cherry, red currant and bilberry flavors matched to a firm structure. Great character and depth, with an old-vine intensity. Long, sweet fruit finish. Best from 2013 through 2025. 1,200 cases made. –BS
Release Price: $50
LOUIS JADOT Meursault 2006
A focused style, with a creamy texture wrapped around hazelnut, butterscotch and spice notes. This is lush enough to approach now, yet firm enough to develop. Drink now through 2014. –BS
Release Price: $50
Value: Lesser-known appellations that deliver excellent quality
JOSEPH DROUHIN Chorey-lès-Beaune 2005
Very pretty cherry and spice aromas and flavors highlight this light-bodied, juicy red. It shows balance and a vibrant structure, with well-integrated tannins. Drink now through 2016. 500 cases imported. –BS
Release Price: $25
DOMAINE GILLES NOBLET St.-Véran 2006
Clean, round and succulent, this white evokes peach, apricot and vanilla cream flavors. Open and accessible, with a good underlying structure keeping it focused. Drink now through 2010. 500 cases made. –BS
Release Price: $24
"This holiday I'll be bringing some super-classic bottles. Thanksgiving, with its root vegetables and holiday spices, always leads me to wines that feel a bit older. For the red, traditional style Rioja is this year's approach. The 1989 vintage of La Rioja Alta's Gran Reserva 904 ($85) has the perfect flavor set for the meal. The pretty red fruit is starting to show some stewed qualities along with the classic spice and leather aromas that old-style Rioja is so well known for. You get the complexity and elegance of an old Burgundy for a fraction of the price."
Restauranteurs Lidia and Joe Bastianich recommended a menu paired with wines:
Monte Rosso Franciacorta Cabochon Brut 2001 ($45)
Passed hors d'oeuvres:
Black truffle butter bruschetta
Sliced speck and apple
Beet and goat cheese salad in a spoon
Crespelle al forno con funghi
Castello dei Rampolla 2000 Sammarco ($75)
Balsamic glazed roasted turkey
Cranberry and quince chutney
Braised brocoli di rape garlic and oil
Roasted winter squash
Skillet brussels sprouts
Caprai Sagrantino di Montefalco 2000 Riserva ($95)
Apple walnut strudel with vanilla cinnamon ice cream
Roberto Anselmi Recioto di Soave I Capitelli 1989 ($35)
Nonino Ue Decennale Grappa ($50)