Wines for the holidays

Mmm, Thanksgiving Day! I think I’m still full. I hope all of you in the U.S. were able to enjoy a fine holiday dinner yesterday, in spite of the lingering impact of the pandemic and the rising costs of fuel and food.

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Greetings to our international readers, too! Even on a routine weekday, I’m grateful for your attention and hope you had an enjoyable day and a good dinner as well.

In this country Thanksgiving Day remains a harvest festival, a day to reflect on and be grateful for the bounty that we enjoy, and to celebrate it with a festive meal of food and drink even more bountiful than usual! And, for many of us, a day off on Friday to relax and recuperate.

It’s no secret that a huge roast turkey is the traditional centerpiece for this holiday feast. The National Turkey Federation reports that 88 percent of Americans ate turkey yesterday.

If you’re reading this e-letter, there’s a very good chance that you opened at least one bottle of wine to accompany that big golden-brown bird or its plant-based equivalent.

I’ve mused now and then on the everlasting question, “What wine goes with turkey?” That question is worth repeating as many of us look forward to a week of leftovers. What’s more, a month of winter holiday feasting lies ahead. Also, Hanukkah falls early this year. It begins Sunday evening, so let’s consider what wine goes with latkes, too.

Too beautiful to eat: Two adult male wild turkeys. <a href="" target="_new">Photo: John Lloyd/Audubon Photography Awards</a> at the Audubon Guide to North American Birds.

Too beautiful to eat: Two adult male wild turkeys. Photo: John Lloyd/Audubon Photography Awards at the Audubon Guide to North American Birds.

One important consideration with holiday feasts is that the central dish is usually surrounded by a vast array of appetizing side dishes: mashed potatoes, dressing, cranberry sauce, green-bean casserole and even candied sweet potatoes. Choosing a wine for turkey may be your primary concern, but ideally nothing else on the table will war with the wine.

Is it even possible to find one wine to rule them all? One easy option involves dropping the whole idea of a perfect food-wine match and simply enjoying a special wine from your wine rack, cellar, or wine shop in the spirit of the holiday. Sip it between courses and toss out the whole idea of a perfect match.

If you’re having a festive meal for a crowd, it’s also fun to open a red and a white wine, so you and your guests can choose one or the other or a little of both.

But what specific wines? I’ll refer you back to the “cranberry sauce rule” that I’ve been invoking since the turn of the millennium: Try to find wine with a flavor profile similar to cranberry sauce, the traditional condiment for turkey. Cranberry sauce is fruity, tart, with only a touch of sweetness at the most. There’s no scent of oak, no tannic astringency in cranberries, whether you buy them whole or jellied or make the dish at home.

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Wines for the holidays


Quite a few wines have this flavor profile, both red and white. Riesling, Gewurztraminer and Chenin Blanc make excellent white-wine choices. Beaujolais, a lower-alcohol Zinfandel, or a generic Chianti or Côtes du Rhône will do the job too, and so will a Pinot Noir. Or uncork a sparkling wine! A bubbly’s brisk, palate-cleansing flavor will go with just about any food on the table, and a popping cork and bubbly fizz elevates the sense of holiday fun. Sparkling wine is an ideal match with Hanukkah latkes, matzoh ball soup, and even the round fried jelly donuts known as sufganiyot.

This year we enjoyed a Thanksgiving spread with friends at their home, and I brought along a couple of delicious, affordable wines that followed these rules and did their duty well.

Scarpetta Timido Rosé Vino Spumante Brut is a crisp, dry, pale-pink sparkling wine from Friuli Venezia Giulia in northeastern Italy. Its dry, crisp flavor with subtle notes of berries made a great accompaniment to Thanksgiving dinner, and it would be a fine partner with latkes, too.

Vereinigte Hospitien 2015 “Schloss Saarfels,” a dry Riesling from Germany’s Mosel Valley, was also a delight. During four years under cool wine-rack storage, it had developed that odd but appealing “petrol” scent that evolves in cellared Riesling, in harmony with ripe apples and white fruit. Dry (“Trocken”) and tart, it also paired well with all the festive dishes, in a very different way than the Italian sparkler.

You’ll find my notes on both wines below.

What were your Thanksgiving wines? How did they go with the holiday feast? You’re welcome to drop by our WineLovers Discussion Group and tell us about it!


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Today’s Tasting Reports

Scarpetta Timido Rosé Vino Spumante Brut ($14.99)

Scarpetta TImido

Scarpetta Timido Rosé Vino Spumante Brut is a crisp, dry, pale-pink sparkling wine from Friuli-Venezia Giulia in northeastern Italy. Its dry, crisp flavor with subtle notes of berries made a great accompaniment to Thanksgiving dinner, and it would be a fine partner with latkes, too. It is pale pink in color, clear and light, a pretty hue. Foamy bubbles at first fall back quickly,leaving few bubbles behind. Prickly carbonation remains, though, with subtle but pleasant strawberry aromas. Juicy strawberry and herbal notes appear behind tart acidity in a dry flavor, and linger in a long, minerally finish. 12% alcohol. U.S. importer: USA Wine West LLC, Sausalito, Calif. (Nov. 25, 2021)

FOOD MATCH: The winery suggests sipping it before or after a meal or serving it with salads, salumi plates, or grilled salmon; Wine-Searcher suggest meaty or oily fish.

WHEN TO DRINK: There’s no point in cellaring simple but fresh bubbly like this. Drink up while it’s young and fresh.

It’s a fine value in the mid-teens; shows a $16 average U.S. retail.

Here’s an English-language fact sheet on the Scarpetta website.

Check prices and find vendors for Scarpetta Timido on

Follow this Wine-Searcher link to find dozens of other wines from Scarpetta.


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Vereinigte Hospitien 2015 “Schloss Saarfels” Mosel Riesling Trocken VCP Ortswein

Hospitien Riesling

Vereinigte Hospitien 2015 “Schloss Saarfels” Mosel Riesling shows a clear and very pale gold color. Its typical older Riesling aroma blends “petrol” and ripe apples. Dry and tart and medium-bodied on the palate, it wakes up the taste buds with bright acidity. White fruit, spice. and stony mineral notes last in a very long finish. Gains remarkable complexity as it warms in the glass. Don’t serve it too cold! 11.5% alcohol. U.S. importer: Beverage Solution & Logistics Inc., Cleveland, Ohio., for The California Wine Club. (Nov. 25, 2021)

FOOD MATCH: This nicely aged, acidic and minerally Riesling was a delightful match across the range of a traditional Thanksgiving dinner with plenty of plant-based sides.

WHEN TO DRINK: Good Riesling is an excellent choice for aging, and this one should last and perhaps improve for 10 years after the vintage; its sturdy modern screw cap sets aside any concern about cork taint.

The California Wine Club charged $26 to reorder this wine from its International Series when it was in stock.

Here’s a fact sheet from California Wine Club’s International Series.

Sadly, Vereinigte Hospitien 2015 “Schloss Saarfels” is no longer available in the U.S. It was a selection from The California Wine Club’s International Series in 2017. Check in with The International Series for other finds from small, artisanal wineries around the world.

For excellent alternatives, browse Wine-Searcher for scores of Mosel Rieslings with vendors and prices.


Good wines we’ve tried under $10.99!

Want tips to still more good, inexpensive wines? Here are Wine-Searcher links to vendors and prices for a bunch more wines for $10.99 or less that I’ve told you about in recent years. In some cases the prices may have risen over the $10.99 mark since I reviewed them, but they should still be excellent bargains. Please tell us about your favorites!

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