Comfort Wines 

After a long dry spell, this Wineau longs for the familiar.

Not drinking wine was my least favorite thing about pregnancy. I'd hoped that my doctor might have new, unpublicized data that said, "Ill effects debunked, drink all you want!" but no such luck. She advised one glass a month, max.

I stuck to that until Month 6, when I had dinner with four doctor friends (including one who was pregnant and another who's an OB-GYN). They railed collectively against the litigation phobia pervasive in their industry and manifest, they claimed, in the no-drinking guidelines for pregnant women. Hmm, food for thought — as was "once a week is fine" (a stranger at a dinner party), "after five months, anything goes" (the woman who cuts my hair), "no harm in once a day" (a colleague), and "how could you be so selfish" (every other commenter on BabyCenter.com). In Month 8, I happened to see another doctor in my practice who, upon learning that I write about wine, said, "Well, I hope you've been drinking during your pregnancy!" The baby, apparently, had had enough of the mixed messages — 48 hours later, out she came.

You might think that after eight months of hand wringing over "can-I" or "can't-I" I'd be living it up over here, enjoying exotic varietals and a range of labels to make up for lost time. Instead, thanks to breastfeeding and fatigue, I've gravitated towards medium-bodied, not-too-high-alcohol wines made from Rhône grapes. Comfort wines, let's call them.

The 2005 MAN Vintners Shiraz found favor in our household a couple of summers ago, so for $7.99 the 2007 vintage seemed like a safe bet. This wine had a closed aroma at first, but a day after we opened it, it had blossomed into a mellow red that nevertheless boasted lots of cherry. MAN also makes a $7.99 Pinotage, which piqued my curiosity since that's not a grape that often comes cheap. I thought this one was just fine, despite what our Token Winemaker called out as a strongly vegetal aroma of overcooked green beans.

The sleeper hit of my post-pregnancy tippling has been the nonvintage Chateau Calage Syrah/Grenache/Mouvedre blend ($7.99) from Languedoc. This wine is made for Fresh & Easy supermarkets, and it's a delightful blend with strong notes of black fruit and a sophistication that belies its price. In a postpartum haze, we let this one sit too long in our sunny living room and now wonder how much better it might have been if properly stored. We'll happily try another bottle to find out.

Despite my recent affinity for Rhône reds, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention a fabulous turkey-friendly Riesling on this Thanksgiving eve. Token Winemaker can't stop gushing about the 2007 Targovishte Riesling ($6.99) from Bulgaria — an off-dry, crisp, and subtly effervescent wine he loved for its light fruit, floral, and vegetal notes and its great balance.

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