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A Turkey Day Red

Every November the what-wine-goes-with-Thanksgiving-dinner agonizing starts all over again. One of my rules has always been to choose an American wine for this all-American holiday. But rules are made to be broken, right? This year my answer to the what-to-pour dilemma is the lively, juicy, easy-drinking 2009 Potel-Aviron Beaujolais-Villages. Light-bodied and gulpable, it has a silky texture, bright, tart berry-fruit flavors and surprising finesse for a wine at this price.

Beaujolais is superbly versatile when it comes to food, which is why it’s such a good pick for Thanksgiving. On my table will be the usual mix of sweet, tart and savory tastes: cranberry sauce; rich chestnut and apple stuffing; sweet potatoes glazed with brown sugar and orange zest; fairly bland turkey meat; creamed onions with cheese topping; and more. Because it has little tannin and no new oak, this delightfully fruity Beaujolais-Villages will bridge all these clashing flavors. Served slightly chilled, it will also perk up taste buds throughout the meal, which is much more important during a long Thanksgiving dinner than most people realize.

Beaujolais is made from the Gamay grape, and this one is made from 50-year-old vines. It has nothing in common with the cloying, candied, banana-scented Beaujolais nouveau that so many wine lovers rightly avoid.

Stephane Aviron, whose family has been in the wine business in Beaujolais for some time, teamed up with winemaking pal Nicolas Potel (noted for his hand with Burgundy) in 2000 to source grapes from some of the region’s oldest vines and produce serious, ageworthy cru Beaujolais, such as Moulin-a-Vent. Their cheaper Beaujolais-Villages, a step down in quality, is less complex and ready to drink sooner, but in the fabulous 2009 vintage it’s more intense and velvety than usual.

Best of all, this is a wine that appeals to novice wine drinkers as well as geeks. And if you’re hosting a large thirsty group, the price is right.

Zester Daily contributor Elin McCoy is a wine and spirits columnist and author of “The Emperor of Wine: The Rise of Robert M. Parker, Jr. and the Reign of American Taste.”