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November 13, 2012

Bring an Italian to Thanksgiving this Year

A Selection of Top Italian Wines Tailor-Made for Turkey

  • By Katie Kelly Bell for her Forbes "Adventures in Taste" bog, reprinted with permission from Forbes magazine

For this most American of holidays, consider breaking open some vino from the Old Country, Italy to be exact.

Lamberto Frescobaldi; his Luce label; Castello di Nipozza which houses the Frescobaldi cellar Lamberto Frescobaldi; his Luce label; Castello di Nipozza which houses the Frescobaldi cellar

Thanksgiving inspires more debate about which wine should be served with the roasted bird, than any other holiday or meal. I have a very simple solution to this vexing conundrum: drink what you like, lots of it. Roasted turkey is a very forgiving dish, it will tolerate a range of wines, so at our house this holiday we’ll be uncorking some Italians. Italians are playful, intelligent, and good at loosening up a crowd. Invite one to your table this holiday, you won’t regret it.  Happy Thanksgiving!

Poliziano Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, 2008, $28. 

Crafted as a blend with 85% Sangiovese and a 15% combination of Colorino, Canaiolo and Merlot, this is a stunner at just $28. The palate has a whiff of red brick complimented by rich ripe cherry and warm spice. Sip on it before dinner and with the meal, it’s a good multi-tasker.


Poliziano “Asinone” Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, 2007, $58.

Asinone is the first single vineyard wine in Tuscany and only crafted in the best years. Comprised of 100% Sangiovese grapes, the winery characterizes it as the highest expression of our production,” which generally means this wine is made from seriously amazing grapes.

The flavor profile is ripe and vibrant, with layers of all the good things: chocolate, tobacco and spice.

This is a luscious wine with a backbone, so it won’t bog your palate down with over-concentrated fruity intensity. The perfect dinner wine.


Marco Caprai of Arnoldo Caprai wines Marco Caprai of Arnoldo Caprai wines

Sagrantino di Montefalco Collepiano, Arnaldo Caprai, 2005, $60. 

100% Sagrantino. Where has this wine been all my life? Growing in obscurity in Italy’s Umbria region until some dedicated winemaking families took an interest. The ambitious labor of love from Marco Caprai and the Arnaldo Caprai family have resuscitated this once-fading varietal. Today this extraordinary Italian grape varietal is enjoying attention from sommeliers, who praise its food-friendly phenolics. Be warned: the more expensive, blockbuster versions of this wine (such as Sagrantino di Montefalco, 25 Anni, Arnaldo Caprai, 2007, $100) require heavy aeration to calm the tannins, and might well be too tight without at least a decade of bottle age. But, the Collepiano is a ready-to-drink adventure that your guests will love.

The aromatics are divine, oozing spices, dark cherry, toffee and cinnamon, the scents just blaze out of the glass.

The mineral and tannin edges balance nicely with the velvety qualities of this wine. Enjoy it with the bird or after dinner with some mature cheeses.


Luce Della Vite Luce Toscana 2008, $93.

The estate was founded in 1995 as part of collaboration between the Mondavi and Frescobaldi families. The winemaker of the Luce della Vite estate, Lamberto Frescobaldi, enjoys the advantage of roughly 700 years of family history in winemaking. They know a thing or two about the land and the climate, and when innovation should prevail over tradition. Grown on Tuscan soil, the wine is a blend of 45% Sangiovese and 55% Merlot—not a legitimate blend according to government regulations for the area, hence the wine’s classification as IGT (indicazione geografica tipica).

Don’t let the ordinary classification fool you, this is a serious wine with velvety texture, smooth rich fruits and compelling milk chocolate, currant and leather tasting notes.

Drink it before dinner, with dinner, and afterwards… if there’s any left.


Lucente, 2009, $29.

This is the second label, or more mid-priced version of Luce. Comprised of 75% Merlot and 25% Sangiovese, its ripe, rich fruit notes make it taste like a bottle of Italian sunshine. This is a very fruit forward and concentrated crowd-pleaser for your Thanksgiving repast.