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Picking a wine for Thanksgiving

2010 Alfredo Roca Pinot Noir

Buying wine for Thanksgiving is a challenge because the feast includes so many flavors and textures: turkey, gravy, stuffing, cranberries, sweet potatoes, pie.

No single wine is a perfect match with all those foods. Because of that and the fact that people have different preferences, it's best to offer a choice of red and white wines.

For the red wines, experts suggest light- to medium-bodied fruity reds that are not too tannic. That means cabernet sauvignon is not a good match for the Thanksgiving meal. A better choice would be wines made from pinot noir grapes or reds from the French appellations of Côtes du Rhône and Beaujolais. Some people like to include a California zinfandel, which can be rich, spicy and mouthfilling. Be aware, though, that some zins have an alcohol level that's over 15 percent, which can be troublesome the next morning if you overindulge.

I asked Paul Hayden, wine manager of the Wine and Cheese Place chain, to suggest a budget red for Thanksgiving. He recommended the 2010 Alfredo Roca Pinot Noir ($12.99), which is from Argentina's Mendoza wine region.

"It's drinking beautifully now," Hayden said. "The new vintage shows much riper and richer fruit, and it has the depth to go with the earthier aspects of the meal."

The Alfredo Roca, which received 86 points from Wine Advocate, is one of respected importer Dan Kravitz's Hand Picked Selections. Inexpensive pinot noirs can be thin, watery and bland, but this is a fragrant red with an inviting black cherry aroma that contains a hint of rose. This light- to medium-bodied red has gentle earthy undertones and subtle mushroom flavors that would complement turkey and stuffing. It's a well-balanced wine with a silky mouthfeel, good acidity and a 13.2 percent alcohol level. Refrigerate it for about half an hour before serving.

Hayden advised avoiding whites that had been aged in oak when buying for Thanksgiving. He suggested a wine that's new to the store, the 2010 Le Cirque Grenache Gris ($14.99), which is a Vin de Pays from Côtes Catalanes in the Languedoc Roussillon region of France. The Le Cirque Grenache Gris also was imported by Dan Kravitz, and it received 90 points from the Wine Advocate.

This medium- to full-bodied white has an aromatic spicy and floral nose and 13 percent alcohol. It is a juicy wine with melon and pineapple flavors along some earthiness and herbs that would stand up to the richness of a Thanksgiving meal.