What to drink with turkey and ham

Festive gatherings — tables loaded with family favourites or pot luck dishes, everything from soup to nuts.

Finding a wine to navigate through all that can be problematic. Focus on the turkey or the ham? Try to find the something that goes with everything? Or stick to the tried and true?

Ham has fat and a lot of salt, which is surprisingly compatible with a wide variety of wine. But tannin’s romance with fatty meats becomes star-crossed by the salt. Whites are often a better bet with ham, avoiding the quarrel entirely. But if you must have red, think reds with lowish tannins, lots of fruit and good acidity.

Turkey by itself is fairly straightforward, a lean, slightly gamey protein, perhaps a bit dry. Look for wines with gamey flavours and some sweetness or juiciness to offset the dry meat, and some rich texture to play off the turkey’s leanness. In white Gruner Veltliner, new world Chardonnay, Riesling, and blends like Tinhorn’s Two Bench White would be stellar matches. In reds, Gamay, Malbec, Merlot, even some Sangiovese or Tempranillo could work. Add potatoes, gravy and assorted veg though, and it’s a different story.

The wines suggested can take on all this and not get lost in the shuffle. Consider these wines good leaders, a bit bossy, wrangling all the flavours, so everybody can get down to the business at hand —enjoying themselves and each other.

Agusti Torello Mata Brut Cava (Penedès, Spain), $20

Every gathering needs bubble and we found this new-on-the-market cava to be perfect for any occasion. Cava is made like Champagne, spending at least nine months creating the tiny bubbles in the bottle. The Mata Brut is just off dry, with complex aromas and flavours and enough acidity to work with ham. Love prosecco? Give this Spanish cava a try.

CSM-CV-RieslingChateau Ste. Michelle Riesling (Washington State, USA), $18

A terrific everyday wine with just a hint of sweetness, still refreshing with thirst-quenching lime and stone fruit flavours. This is the wine that put Washington State Riesling on the map, and don’t turn your nose up because they make a lot of it. It’s good. Have with baked ham with pineapple, and a ham sandwich the next day.

Chard-Prato-grande BOTTLE 2012 uprightDe Angelis Prato Grande Marche Chardonnay (Italy, 2012), $19

Italian chardo nnay? Sure, why not? The Prato Grande is an excellent all-round drink for turkey and ham. Understated with lowish acidity (which makes it handy for aperitifs as well), you’ll find yourself reaching for this when you are not sure what to pour. It’s congenial, tasty and won’t put a big hole in your wallet.

Torres Salmos (Priorat, DOCa, Spain, 2008), $30

Grenache can be the best party guest, juicy and fun, with lots of personality, sometimes serious depending on who its blended with and, when made as well as these wines, always delicious.

torres salmos 2005 prioratThe Grenache, Carinena, and Syrah grown on the steep hills of the Priorat region make serious wines, and the Salmos broods a bit when first opened. Let it breathe for a few hours to capture the glorious cardamom, lavender and wild herb aromas, lapin cherries with pepper flavours, and rich notes of mossy earth and wood, surrounded by lovely structure. Deeply-coloured, inky, delicious.

Santa Maria La Palma Cannonau di Sardegna ‘Le Bombarde’ (Sardinia, Italy, 2011), $19

Cannonau is the name for the local variant of Grenache and the wine must spend two years aging before release. Which means less fresh red fruit flavours, more earth and leather satchel, but there’s still a hint of wild myrtle and green leaf. Soft-textured with a lingering finish. According to Dr. Oz we should be drinking it daily — Cannonau having the most antioxident properties of any grape.

El Petit Bonhomme bottle shotEl Petit Bonhomme Tinto (Jumilla, Spain 2012), $15

A blend of Grenache with Syrah and Mourvedre, aka GSM. Tons of juicy, plummy red fruit, lively, peppery, with all the exuberance of Grenache along with elegant Syrah, and bass notes from untamed Mourvedre. This is one happy wine. You’ll be happy too as it’s way under $20. Great for those friends who bring one bottle and drink two.

Find these wines at Liquor Select, Unwined, and other fine wine shops. Not all wines in all stores, prices approximate.