The grapes that go into the wine don’t matter nearly so much as the nature of the wine itself. That is, you want wines with lively acidity and relatively low alcohol, the sorts of bottles that are refreshing and energizing over the course of a long feast.
Smaller gatherings offer different opportunities. You don’t need as much wine, so if you like you can open your finest bottles.
Dinner for four, for example could begin with hors d’oeuvres and sparkling wine.
It could be Champagne. But if you want to emphasize American wines, I have found wonderful choices from the West Coast: Blue Ox, Cruse, Schramsberg, Iron Horse, Soter and Under the Wire are a few names worth knowing about.
Follow that with a good white wine, whatever strikes your fancy. Chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, chenin blanc, riesling, all will be great, but don’t stop there. You might like an assyrtiko, or maybe a carricante. Maybe you’re beginning with a creamy soup? Any of these wines will work, as long as they are not too oaky.
I would follow up with a red — a pinot noir or syrah, or maybe a Barolo or a Beaujolais. Whether serving turkey, or downsizing to a duck or chicken, these are all flexible with wine, so match the bottle to your sense of the occasion rather than with the food.
Maybe you would prefer two whites, or no whites at all. Why not? This is the year to eliminate rigid constraints.
Even so, the wine panel stayed with its philosophy of seeking out lithe, agile wines. If you have followed us over the years, you will have seen the recommendations for many different specific bottles — Beaujolais, Loire reds, Italian reds, Oregon pinot noirs, rosés, sparklers and even ciders.