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Let wine relieve the Thanksgiving stress, not create it 

As a kid, Thanksgiving was always -- and remains -- my favorite holiday. It's the pinnacle of gluttony, a gustatory bacchanal, an excuse to eat 20 pounds of poultry and not gain a perceived pound. And it's the perfect pretext for opening numerous bottles of wine without being labeled the family drunk.

Consider the "walking around wine" technique. Cooking duties can be tolerable if blended with a bottle of vino. The occasion calls for something light and lower in alcohol to maintain a semblance of sobriety, like a softly sweet German riesling, crisp Spanish albariño or fizzy Portuguese Vinho Verde. Or you can jumpstart the party with inexpensive bubbly. These social lubricants promote hunger before a massive noon meal and can spur creativity, emboldening your buzzed brother to sneak some fresh (legal) herbs into the gravy. This feel-good holiday allows 10 a.m. drinking. And, with a mix of people you may only see once a year, it's sometimes required.

But the wine served during dinner can be challenging. The variety of foods -- turkey versus ham or roast pork, sweet potatoes versus white, green beans versus squash -- also prevents neat little pairing packages. So don't stress about it. If you're hosting, throw a light red and a fruity white on the table, both wines that won't offend the food. Or combine the effort and serve rosé. But avoid over-thinking it, since the attention should be on the food and conversation. The wine is only the means to that end.

Recommended Wines:

Cadaretta 2007 SBS Columbia Valley (Washington) A blend of mostly sauvignon blanc. A tropical aroma spreads into green apple, pear and lime on the tongue. Lush, soft, fruity finish that lingers. SW, HS, S, T. $22. ****

Bodegas Ateca 2007 Garnacha del Fuego Catalayud (Spain) Simply fantastic for the price. Big fruit up front, launching into nice acidity, ripe, red cherry with an earthy follow up that makes it interesting. SW, HS, S. $9. **** 1/2

Previously reviewed wines ideal for Thanksgiving:

Stellina di Notte 2006 Pinot Grigio Venezia IGT Soft acidity yet fizzy on the tongue, this refreshing wine has bright green apple, honeydew melon and minerally lime. Great value. HS, S. $12. *** 1/2

S.A. Prum 2006 Essence Riesling Mosel Saar Ruwer (Germany) Amazing stuff, especially for the price. A fruit-forward, succulent peach, pear and honey extravaganza that finishes tart and clean. SW, HS, S. $12. **** 1/2

Turkey Flat 2007 Rosé Barossa Valley (Australia) Soft 'n' elegant, with cranberry, sweet cherry, ripe strawberries and fresh, lively acidity. Quite perfect, really. SW, HS, S, T. $17. *****

Paringa 2004 Sparkling Shiraz South Australia Fascinating, unique wine: a sparkling red. Blackberry, black currants washed down with a tannin structure worthy of a cabernet. Refreshing and even tasty warm. SW, HS, S. $14. 1/2

Hugh Hamilton 2006 Jim Jim Shiraz McLaren Vale Australia Light-bodied, fruity and raspberry jammy. Like an in-your-face fruit salad. Soft, elegant finish, with refreshing acidity. Excellent chardonnay, too. SW, HS, S. $12. ****

Cosentino 2006 "The Med" Red Wine Lodi (California) Mmm, mmm tasty. Let this blend of nine grapes lollygag in your glass, and smell it change. Dried cherries, black pepper and blackberry abound, with a tart, lingering finish. HS, S, T. $18. ****

Gascon Don Miguel 2006 Malbec (Argentina) Full-bodied and beefy yet achieves elegance. Loaded with complex layers of fruit like black cherry, blackberry, mocha and plum. Quite amazing for the price. S, T. $11.

Tir na N'Og 2005 Old Vines Grenache McLaren Vale (Australia) Soft textured and delicious, bursting with ripe raspberries, blueberry and red apple peelings. The finish is kissed with smoky cedar and richly concentrated black cherries. S, T. $25. **** 1/2

Sweet (SW), Hypersensitive (HS), Sensitive (S), and Tolerant (T). Find out your tasting profile at

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