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Thanksgiving. Christmas. New Year’s Eve. Valentine’s Day. Bless their hearts for coming up with so many occasions for us to crack open a few bottles of wine.

If you’re like most people at Thanksgiving you want to enjoy some beautiful wines without spending a fortune. With that in mind, here are some recommendations and food pairings that won’t break the bank but will certainly make for a memorable occasion.

Kick off the meal with a glass of bubbly. California sparklers can be excellent value, typically between $25 and $35. For me, many of them are on a par with the quality of entry level Champagne and yet they are half the price.

Many California sparklers are made by famous Champagne houses anyway, or Spanish Cava producers. Gloria Ferrer is a sure bet, and the Mumm Cuvee Napa can be very tasty too. They pair well with smoked salmon.

For the clean crisp taste of Sauvignon Blanc, bursting with grapefruit and citrus flavors, buy from Chile or New Zealand, although Sancerre in the Loire is the benchmark. Good Sauvignon Blanc can be had for less than $20.

Santa Rita makes some excellent wines from the Casablanca valley in Chile, and so does Villa Maria in New Zealand. A goat’s cheese salad is the perfect match before the main course.

If turkey is on the menu, then think Riesling, Gewurztraminer or a soft fruity Pinot Noir. These varietals typically work well with white meat but have enough flavor intensity to stand up to the stuffing, and all the other trimmings.
Pfaffenheim Riesling and Gewurztraminer from Alsace is always a hit, and run between $20-$30. Pinot Noir from Oregon and California can be very seductive too.

After a little rest, the festivities can continue with a luscious sweet wine to pair with a light fluffy cheesecake. Sauternes can be stunning, although they can be more expensive. Chateau Doisy Vedrines is classic. But there are other options too, and a late harvest wine from B.C. like Quails Gate Optima is also delicious.

Thanksgiving is a special day, and so we’re not finished yet. Where’s the Port? Whilst these can be extremely expensive, the best deals are in Late Bottled Vintage. Dows and Taylor Fladgate are good deals and delicious. One benefit to an LBV is that you can leave the bottle open for at least a few days, in the event you don’t polish it off. A little chocolate mousse is the ticket, along with vows of going to the gym next year.

You’re wondering if you find high quality in lower priced wines? Yes, to a degree, you can. The price of a wine is influenced by many factors.

First, a producer has to consider the costs of production. From a vineyard standpoint, the key factors are the cost of land or grapes, the cost of labor, and the yield that is harvested from an acre.

Then you have the winemaking costs. One of the key factors are the maturation vessels, with new French oak barrels costing up to $1400 each, as opposed to wines made in stainless steel tanks. Another factor is how long a wine needs to be matured before release, and it’s tough on producers to carry large stocks of red wines in barrel for 2 years, and then maybe some time in bottle thereafter.

Then you have the packaging costs, which include the labels, closure, carton, capsule, and bottle. You can spend as little as $2 for an entire package, or as high as $4 just for a glass bottle. Marketing costs can be very high, or almost non-existent.

When pricing wines the producer will always consider the market demand, which is often influenced by the prestige of the area and his winery. He’ll also consider the demand for the varietal or blend and the media reviews. Ego can play a part too.
So if you are bargain hunting look for wines from lesser known wine regions or obscure varietals, and wineries that haven’t established a reputation yet.

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