Mead On Wine

© 1996 JDM Enterprises
All Rights Reserved
Vol. H No. 47


by Jerry D. Mead

Most people drink white wine with turkey. I personally drink mostly red, but also some white and sometimes even a little pink.

I've told you before that my family is not made up entirely of wine connoisseurs, so our tradition is that I set out anywhere from 6 to 12 bottles of different wines, of several types, make sure everyone has at least two wine glasses and turn them loose to try what they like.

While I personally prefer sizable reds like Cabernet, Zinfandel and Merlot with my dark meat turkey and savory dressing, admittedly a rich white wine like Chardonnay or a wood-aged Sauvignon (Fume) Blanc can go very nicely with the white meat.

Be warned that Grandma's cranberry relish with fresh citrus rind will destroy any wine you put on the table, so save it until the end.

Other traditional holiday dinner items can be tough wine matches, candied sweet potatoes loaded with brown sugar and maple sugar, for example. And some of those gelatin salads are tough, too.

Here's where some slightly sweet, leaning toward very fruity flavors, style wines can come in handy...and they're the wines most likely to please the novice wine drinkers. I'm talking about Rieslings (especially German ones, with their appley, tart-sweet fruit), Gewurztraminer, Chenin Blanc and even some of the drier White Zinfandels.

It is really fun to have two or three glasses in front of you, containing an equal number of different wines, and to try each one with each food item. Some of the combinations will work the way you expect, some will really surprise you.

It's a slightly different thing, but when I helped stage a multi-coursed Chinese dinner with eight different wines ranging from Champagne through, pink, white and full bodied reds...the wine that worked better with more flavors from seafood, to duck, to beef and including savory, spicy and even sweet-sour flavors, was a modestly priced Napa Ridge Pinot Noir.

The holiday feast is really very similar in that you have everything from fowl, to sweet (yams, various fruit salads and more), to bitter (cranberries, green olives, etc), to perhaps fishy (oyster dressings, smoked salmon), maybe candied if your family does ham, and every kind of vegetable flavor. Pinot Noir may be a very good solution if you're serving only one or two wines.

I was going to recommend several German Rieslings I tasted recently, but they deserve more description than I have space for today. In general, the tart-sweet flavors of modestly priced wines from either the Rhine or Mosel regions will make good all purpose wines if you're serving a large group, many of whom aren't regular wine drinkers. Look for wines labeled "Kabinett" or "Spatlese" for wines that are generally neither too dry nor too sweet.


And if you have lots of people to serve, here are two wines that could solve your holiday dinner needs just fine. The white will please almost everyone, and the red is intended for youthful drinking so there are no harsh tannins to offend the beginners.

But before I get to those two wines, I've got a bit of a scoop. Forest Glen is just releasing a first vintage, from its first crop, of the very fashionable Rhone variety known as Syrah. It also makes wonderful wines in Australia where it is known as Shiraz. Since the vines were imported from Australia, the Shiraz name is being used.

Forest Glen 1995 "California" Shiraz ($10) This first vintage is rather limited in production, but larger quantities will be available with each successive vintage. While the wine is being released far too young, it does show considerable promise. Big, ripe plum flavors, a peppery-spice background, and pleasant wood notes. Lay this one down and give it a few years. And watch for future releases. Forest Glen has made a serious commitment to growing this variety and intends to be "the" value producer in the future. Rating: 86/88


Forest Glen 1995 "California" Merlot ($10) Bright, youthful, cherry flavors. Medium bodied and meant for youthful drinking, the wine will still improve with one to three years in the bottle. There's a hint of pleasant cherry-stone bitterness as a note of complexity in the aftertaste. Lovely with that dark meat turkey. Good with ham, too, if the crust is savory or at least not too sweet. Rating: 85/90


Forest Glen 1995 "Barrel Fermented" Chardonnay ($10) Winemaker Ed Moody thinks it's his best ever. I think it's second or third best. He thinks my palate is jaded by how consistently good his Chardonnays have been and that I have heightened expectations. He may be right. This one is 100 percent barrel fermented in 100 percent brand new oak barrels. Loads of tropical fruit (a lot of candied pineapple) plus vanilla and spice in spades. It really is one heck of a good Chardonnay for $10, and you may find it on sale for a lot less. It has a nearly dry perception and should be dandy with that white meat. Rating: 89/94

If you're looking to round out the picture, the Rutherford Estate 1994 White Zinfandel (about $5) was just named "Best Pink Wine in America" by the Atlanta Wine Summit International Wine Competition.

For help tracking down hard-to-find wines call my office at (800) 845-9463 and we'll put you in touch with the producer or importer.

Wines are scored using a unique 100 point system. First number rates quality; second number rates value. For a reprint explaining the scoring system in depth and a pocket scoring guide, send $1 to: Mead's 100 Points, P.O. Box 1598, Carson City, NV 89702-1598.


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Latest Update: December 2, 1996