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The Turkey Wars 

What to drink with the bird

Juicy, tender, white meat turkey; tangy, acidic cranberry fruit explosion; warm, cornbread stuffing bathing in salty giblet gravy. Mmmm, all these flavors equal sheer, home-cooked Thanksgiving bliss, but the same comforting flavors wage war with wine. What to drink when so many flavors are mingling on your tongue? Well, anything you want if you plan it right.

During the holidays, we all seek respite from hectic business life, and part of relaxing should be drinking whatever you like. In my opinion, you can fit wine into pretty much any Thanksgiving dinner, whether it's full Southern fare with black-eyed peas and okra, or a Northern hubbard squash and bread stuffing feast. But there are subtle ways to maximize your wine enjoyment with any meal.

If you're a white wine drinker, stay away from drinking a sip after certain acidic dishes like cranberries since the two acid bases will cause major pucker action. Your best bet with white wines like Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio (Gris) is to savor them before dinner. Whites you might want to explore with your Thanksgiving menu are Viognier, Vouvray (Chenin Blanc) or a dry Riesling. These wines tend to be on the softer, fruitier side and will mesh better with the variety of holiday food. These wines will even do justice to a salty, smoky ham.

Reds create a motley crew mixed with the lighter, more delicate flavors of Thanksgiving. Often, reds like Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah or Zinfandel can be big, tannic and egotistically demand all the attention at the meal. But there are some nice, calm, fruit-driven reds that will dance the tango with your bird. Think of Beaujolais, Pinot Noir and Chianti (Sangiovese) as reds in touch with their "feminine" side, willing to share the plate with the food. These guys won't overwhelm the tastes of green bean casserole, mashed potatoes and yams.

One other wine you might want to consider is sparkling wine, the quintessential food-friendly wine. It also makes the meal more festive.

For those collectors out there, Thanksgiving is a fantastic opportunity to open up "the cellar," so to speak; those dust-collecting bottles you brought back from Napa or France are crying out to be consumed. Share them with friends and family -- that's what the holidays are for, right?

So pop a top, chill or air your favorite wine and enjoy the company of friends, family and the comfort foods we all love and crave this time of year. Your turkey awaits.

Recommended Wines

Prestige 2000 Moulin a Vent

A nice balanced "cru" Beaujolais, meaning it came from a particularly good area of Beaujolais called Moulin a Vent. This wine isn't wimpy or limp; it packs enough of a wallop to please the big, tannic red wine drinkers and also can satisfy the fruity, light-hearted wine lovers out there. $17 1/2

Napa Ridge Coastal Vines 2001 Pinot Noir A stupendous value in a grapey, intense fruity Pinot. Not for the Burgundy at heart, but a great intro to this type of wine. $9

Barton & Guestier 2000 Vouvray This slightly sweet wine soothes your tongue with honey and lemon, like a cup of chamomile tea. Nice, ripe flavors from this French wine made of Chenin Blanc grapes. $8

EXP 2001 Viognier Estate Bottled Dunnigan Hills Intense orange blossom aroma, with slight sweetness resembling a ripe Riesling, but it's not. Remarkably smooth and the aromatic, nutty flavors last forever on the tongue. $15 1/2

Trefethen 2001 Riesling A fun, very dry, crisp Riesling, true to its real form. This is what Riesling is supposed to taste like, and it holds nothing back with apples, pears and a slight hint of lemon on the tongue. $15

E-mail corkscrew@creativeloafing.com or snail mail to Corkscrew, 1310 E. Ninth Avenue, Tampa, FL 33605.

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