Wine Wisdom columnist Chris Dillman recommends a Gewurztraminer for holiday meals.

I pick up a familiar theme with this review, talking about essential bottles of wine.

That's why I strongly recommend the 2008 G&M Machmer Bechtheimer Stein Gewurztraminer Spatlese, a particularly good choice for the holidays.

Gewurztraminer's name reveals both its origins and character. Wurz is German for "spice" and Traminer means "from Tramin," a town in northern Italy and the grapes supposed place of origin. So, Gewurztraminer is the "spicy grape from Tramin." Sptlese refers to grapes bunches that are selected for their exceptional ripeness. In this case they give a wine with rich but well-balanced sugar.

The grape's spicy exotic character varies depending upon the growing environment and the style of wine. The most common aromas and flavors are jasmine, rose petal, black tea, beeswax and honey. In addition, the fruits (peaches, pineapple, orange, mango) always have an added baking spice dimension. This exotic personality can stand up to and mingle well with exotic ingredients that would destroy other wines. Chilis, daikon, cilantro, fish or soy sauce and ginger will lay waste to most wines -white or red -but Gewrz's personality can shine through. Not only does its personality shine, its balanced sweetness and acidity suppress the heat, salinity and pungency that these ingredients bring with them.

Although Gewrz is a great choice for Asian dishes, it's also my go-to wine for holiday dining: Cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes, herb stuffing, salty ham - all big flavors and rich textures that love Gewrz's bold personality and sweet-tart balance.

Bottles retail for $12.99 and are available locally at the Andersons, Weiland's and Market District, among others. If your local store doesn't carry it, order it for you from Solera Imports.

Chris Dillman is the assistant wine steward at the Giant Eagle Market District at Kingsdale