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Add Italian Flavor to Your Holiday Turkey Dinner
Wine traditions add zest to a holiday feast

Lebanon wine tastings
Italian wines complement any dish,
whether its poultry, seafood or pasta.


You may think there are few things more American than a holiday dinner with close friends and family. However, fall harvest feasts and festivals have been celebrated worldwide for thousands of years, even as far back as ancient Greece, Egypt and Rome.

So, this year why not put a twist on your holiday meal with sumptuous regional Italian delicacies and wines for a new family tradition or an exciting alternative to the ordinary.

Wine with Christmas Eve Fish Dishes

In Italy, early holiday dinners were based on seafood such as perch, salmon, cod, clams, oysters, crab and lobster that were found in abundance on the dinner tables of the first settlers. Similarly, on the island of Sicily, the majority of the diet comes from the sea, with a Christmas tradition that survives today in the feast of the seven fishes.

Tuna, swordfish, squid, shrimp, mussels and sardines are Sicilian staples and are often served with light, vibrant white wines to accentuate their natural flavors. To give your feast a Sicilian accent, try serving grilled swordfish steaks or mussels and pasta in marinara sauce as a main dish, and golden-brown calamari as an appetizer. Also, a large broiled salmon or tuna fillet with a medley of roast Italian vegetables makes for a gorgeous display on the dinner table.

For a perfect complement to any seafood that should make your menu, try a Sicilian wine such as Corvo Bianco ($10). Blended from a combination of indigenous grapes, including Insolia and Grecanico, Corvo Bianco is a classic example of the quality of the island's wines. With its fresh fruit taste, herbaceous character and light mineral aftertones, this white wine brings out the subtle complexities of oils and seasonings and is ideal for serving with light fare like salads and shrimp, as well as intensely-flavored seafood like salmon, mackerel and clams.

Italian Stuffing

Poultry of all kinds is a mainstay of Italian cuisine, and locating a recipe to fit your taste and budget is simple. For the most amazing aroma, give your traditional turkey an Italian flair with a Venetian-style rice and sausage stuffing. Combining cooked wild rice; sweet and hot Italian sausage; fresh chopped peppers, onions and spinach; minced garlic, oregano and basil, the rich, spicy rice and sausage stuffing definitely enhances the natural flavors of the bird.

Italian Wine with Turkey

Complement your Venetian turkey, or any holiday poultry dish, with a wine from the neighboring region of Trentino. It is here that Ca' Montini produces some of the best-rated and lively white wines on the Italian peninsula. The weather in this mountainous region provides the ideal conditions for growing Pinot Grigio, one of Italy's most popular varietals here in the United States. Ca' Montini Pinot Grigio ($16) has vibrant, crisp flavors of pears, green apples and golden honey, and it has been rated as one of the top-ten Pinot Grigio by the Wall Street Journal for two years in a row. Furthermore, the statuesque tapered bottle adds a touch of elegance to any spread.

Start with (what else?) Pasta

Of course, if you decide to proceed with a true Italian theme, preparing and serving a pasta dish, whether as an individual entree or as the main course, is essential. Tuscany, with its steep rolling hills and natural vineyards, has been a celebrated wine producing region since the days of the Roman Empire. The same fertile fields are also used to grow the wheat and grain necessary to make some of the heartiest pasta dishes in all of Italy. True Tuscan pasta dishes like Risotto, or Gnocchi, served with a hearty tomato sauce and meatballs or sausage, make for an excellent first course or side dish to go along with the ham or turkey in place of potatoes or yams.

The wine most commonly associated with Tuscany is Chianti, and a perfect and affordable match for your pasta dish comes from Piccini, the region's largest and most noteworthy producer. Piccini Chianti DOCG ($7) is a flawless match for all hearty pasta dishes, especially those with red meat sauce. A dry red wine with harmonious nuances of raspberry, black currant, spice and oak, it has a gorgeous ruby-red color and an essence that matches beautifully with the meats, cheeses and herbs used in pasta sauce. To find it, just look for the Chianti with the vibrant harvest-orange label.

Italian Wine with Holiday Ham

That other traditional holiday centerpiece, a glorious glazed ham, can also be given an Italian twist to make your dinner unique. After all, Italy is renowned for smoked ham, roast pork and sweet sausage. Instead of using a honey or cherry glaze for your ham, try making a southern Italian glaze made from pomegranate and clove. This glaze has a delightfully sweet flavor that blends flawlessly with the texture and taste of the ham. For sides to go along with this dish, prepare hearty Italian vegetables like eggplant, artichokes, pumpkin or zucchini.

To find a suitable wine for an Italian holiday ham, we return to Sicily. A red wine with deep flavors of red berries and spice to complement the natural sweetness of the ham and the glaze, and beautifully crafted from Nero d'Avola, Nero Mascalese and Pignatello, Corvo Rosso ($10) is a sophisticated wine that tastes well above its price and serves extraordinarily well with roast meats, mushrooms, breads or cheeses.

Whether you serve any of these dishes or just the traditional turkey and ham, the wines suggested will emphasize the flavor of your fare and make this a holiday meal to remember.

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