All holiday fowl are not created equal. They have a range of flavorsfrom the delicacy of Cornish game hen to the richness of pheasantthat permits a wide range of wine matches. Here are a few bird basics.
Light-Meat Birds With game hens, chicken and turkey, look for light to medium-rich wines with the fruitiness and verve to add a bit of juiciness to what can sometimes be rather dry meatand, in many cases, a wine with some color, which will enliven a plate that can tend toward beige. Good choices include New World Sauvignon Blancs and Chardonnays, dry rosés, European Rieslings and Pinot Blancs, dry Champagnes and sparkling wines, and light reds such as Pinot Noir and Beaujolais.
Dark-Meat Birds Birds such as duck, goose, quail and pheasant are meatier and fattier than their light-meat counterparts. Their earthy, gamy flavors call for more robust wines. Look for rich French or California Chardonnays, bigger Pinot Noirs, Rhône reds, juicy Zinfandels and Syrahs.
10 Top Bottles
For Light-Meat Birds
2000 Casa Lapostolle Chardonnay ($9) If you're feeding multitudes this Thanksgiving, you'll appreciate this wine. Made in Chile by famed French consultant Michel Rolland, it has a little sweetness and lots of lively fruit that make it perfect for chicken.
1999 Château D'Aqueria ($10) The vivid scarlet and salmon colors of this rosé will give any table a look of celebration, while its dry, full-bodied nature makes it a good match for just about any light-meat bird.
2001 Coldstream Hills Sauvignon Blanc ($14) Here's a robust Australian white with enough freshness, fruitiness and sheer concentration to match any light-meat bird.
2001 Pieropan Soave Classico ($10) Does the meal feature a lot of delicate flavors? This light, elegant Italian white with a lick of fruit is lovely with chicken or turkey and with leftovers the following day.
Nonvintage Roederer Estate Anderson Valley Brut ($22) This full-flavored, dry-style sparkler from California's Mendocino County has the zip and concentration to go with the whole meal. It's great with turkey as well as smaller light-meat birds.
For Dark-Meat Birds
2000 Pine Ridge Dijon Clones Chardonnay ($25) This full-bodied, fruity Napa Carneros Chardonnay is made for bigger-flavored birds, especially duck.
1999 Clos Du Bois Zinfandel ($14) Zin comes as close as any noble grape in its claim to be the most American wine for this most American feast. Its rich, spicy character makes it ideal with meaty birds.
1997 Château De La Grille Chinon ($24) This Loire Valley red is just rightmedium-rich, easy to drink, with enough acidity to match a fatty fowl. Lightly chilled, it's particularly refreshing.
2000 Meridian Pinot Noir ($10) Made in the cool Santa Barbara vineyards, this red is full of flavora mix of strawberries, cherries and cranberries that can even stand up to goose.
For All Birds
2001 Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais-Villages ($10) Looking for a wine that goes with everything? Medium-bodied, juicy Beaujolais comes pretty close. Its lively berry flavors will enhance and enliven the flavor of any bird.