The traditional turkey dinner has a ton going on. There's the bird itself, of course, but the turkey actually has the easy job; it acts almost like a blank canvas, allowing other more assertive flavors to express themselves. Meanwhile, the sweet and tart cranberry sauce, roasted herbed vegetables, savory stuffing, vinegary green beans, and creamy gravy -- these competing (often conflicting) flavors are making the match interesting.
Lighter reds with a bit of acid and some fruitiness are good choices, like a fruity Zinfandel, an earthy Pinot Noir or a food-friendly Chianti Classico.
If you lean more toward white wine, the lively acidity and herbal characteristics of Sauvignon Blanc make it a great choice. Dry Riesling's acidity and slight touch of sweetness complement many of the competing flavors. Other favorites are Chardonnay and Gewurtztraminer.
Of course, sometimes the best choice is to offer both!--and let the guests choose for themselves. Provide a couple glasses at each guest's table setting and let her try a splash of white here, a sip of red there, before settling on a favorite. Offering a few choices can also make for fun dinner conversation. You can also split the difference and go with a sparkling rosé.
For Roast Beef, Lamb and Venison
This is where you break out the big fellas. Cabernet Sauvignon is an ideal choice here. Merlot and meaty Syrahs are also great matches. The proteins in the meat will help smooth out the tannins in these big, bold wines.
Baked Ham, Roasted Pork Tenderloin and Crown Roast
Try a dry Riesling (it's a classic with many pork-based dishes) or a rosé (sparkling is a good choice). If you prefer red, try a lighter red like Pinot Noir or beaujolais.
Pork tenderloin can be quite the chameleon: it might want a dry Riesling or Gewurtztraminer if it's prepared with a spicy crust; or a fruity red wine, like Zinfandel, if it's roasted with dried fruit or braised in a wine sauce.
New Year's Eve
Bubbles make the bash! Nothing compares with champagne on New Year's Eve. For a less expensive burst of bubbles, try Italian prosecco. It's festive and flavorful. Prosecco also makes great champagne cocktails.
How Much is Enough?
For dinner, one bottle per couple can be a safe bet. Mindful guests will likely bring a bottle or two with them. But around the holidays, when dinners (and diners) can linger, it pays to be prepared for a thirsty group.
A good range to shoot for is between about 58 and 68 degrees. (Serve lighter reds a bit cooler than bigger reds like Cabernet Sauvignon.)
During the cooler holiday season, red wines should be fine served at room temperature. However, if you keep your reds in the kitchen, and your kitchen is a kiln after many hours of dinner preparation, move them to a slightly cooler room, like the basement or an unheated utility room near the garage--or stick them in the fridge for 15 minutes before dinner. As for your whites, try taking them out of the refrigerator about 15 minutes before serving.
Saving Your Wine
If you end up with several opened but unfinished bottles of wine, there are ways to preserve them. One way is to refrigerate them. The cold climate will slow the chemical changes that are conspiring to turn your wine to vinegar.
Another method is to transfer the leftover wine into a smaller bottle. This helps because a smaller bottle will have less wine-trashing air in it. You can also buy fancy vacuum contraptions that suck the air out of the bottle. Or, perhaps best of all, you can gather the crowd around the table the next evening for a feast of leftovers and finish what you started.