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Thanksgiving Wines

November 22, 1998|S. IRENE VIRBILA

Deciding on just what wine to serve with the Thanksgiving feast can seem like a daunting prospect. It doesn't have to be.

The truth of the matter is that there is no perfect match for this elaborate holiday meal, with all its competing elements and flavors. Ideally, you want a medium-bodied red wine with lots of bright attractive fruit, one that's supple and easy to drink but that also has enough complexity to hold interest throughout the meal.

A Thanksgiving wine should please and intrigue everyone at the table, not just those who share your level of interest in wine. That means no rare old vintages (the subtleties will just get lost in all the festivities), no young Bordeaux with excessively furry tannins, no exotically gamy wines (the kind of wine writers given to purple prose like to describe as tasting or smelling of "fresh blood, animal fur or rust"; save those for your equally wine-obsessed friends.) You want something that everyone at the table will agree is, well, delicious. Here are some suggestions (with approximate prices):

* A cru Beaujolais from the 1997 vintage, from a producer like Trenel Fils, Georges Duboeuf or Domaine du Vissoux ($12 to $15).

* A 1996 California Pinot Noir, particularly one from Carneros, such as Truchard ($23) or one from the terrific small producer Ecklund ($18). From Sonoma, Marimar Torres Estate Pinot Noir "Don Miguel Vineyard" ($24).

* A 1996 Ribera del Duero from Spain, such as Bodegas Ismael Arroyo "Val Soltilla" ($22) or Alejandro Fernandez' "Condado de Haza" ($16).

* A Chianti Classico from the gorgeous 1995 vintage, such as Antinori's "Peppoli" ($17) or the 1996 Felsina Chianti Classico ($18).

* A well-made 1995 or 1996 Zinfandel, such as Gallo "Frei Ranch Vineyard" ($14), D-Cubed ($18) or Seghesio Vineyard "Old Vines" ($18).

* Also, a 1996 Bandol from the south of France. Two of the best producers are "La Bastide Blanche" ($16) and Domaine Tempier ($18). Both also produce single vineyard Bandols for a bit more.

* And, yes, an excellent Merlot would be a good thing, too. For price-quality, it's hard to beat the 1996 Casa Lapostelle "Cuvee Alexandre" ($13) from Chile.

* A fine rose Champagne would be a beautiful match, too. Billecart-Salmon's graceful nonvintage brut rose is a bargain at about $34.

What am I serving with my Thanksgiving turkey? My cellar is so crowded with any number of wines that might suit turkey with all the trimmings, it's hard to decide. Right now I'm going back and forth between a silky 1996 Joguet Chinon "Clos de la Dioterie" and Ambra's 1995 Carmignano from northeast of Florence. But then there's that 1996 Domaine Pavelot Savigny-Les-Beaune "Les Dominodes."

I'll probably end up just putting them all out on the table. I do know, though, that we will finish with a small glass of luscious Trockenbeerenauslese from the great Austrian sweet winemaker Aloise Kracher.

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