DICK ROSANO One of the primary rules of pairing wine with food is to "follow the cuisine." If the menu is French, choose French wines, ditto for German, Argentine or Greek, and it's certainly true for Italian.
(Actually, the real "first" rule of wine pairing is to drink what you like, reasoning that you shouldn't have to drink wine you don't like just because some wine "expert" says it's the right one.)
So, when you're making lasagna for company on Thanksgiving weekend, it's a no-brainer. Usually, such a dish, with long-cooked flavors of tomato, cheese, oregano and marjoram, cries out for a substantial, and earthy, peasant red wine from Italy. Chianti works, and so would a Rosso di Montalcino.
But today's menu presents a subtler challenge. It is lasagna, yes, in form and preparation, but with nontraditional flavors such as Gruyere cheese, ham, onion and mushrooms. And as if that weren't tricky enough, the standard red sauce has given way to a creamy bechamel, intricately woven into a wonderfully succulent dish.
Sticking to the advice of matching the ethnicity of the food and wine, I recommend pairing Italian wines with this dish, but with a twist. My first choice would be an effervescent, almost-dry style of Prosecco, one of Italy's most popular sparkling wines. Try the Nino Franco Rustico Prosecco (Friuli-Venezia Giulia, non-vintage, $13). The sparkling effect of this medium-bodied wine will cut through the bechamel and the cheese and enliven the multiple flavors of this dish.
Another possibility would be to serve an Italian chardonnay. Try the 2004 Plozner Chardonnay from Friuli ($14). Its medium-bodied, slightly creamy flavors have a bright acidity that will help to raise and separate the flavors of the dish, rather than overpower them.
Dick Rosano, author of "Wine Heritage, the Story of Italian-American Vintners" (Wine Appreciation Guild, 1998), teaches wine and food pairing at L'Academie de Cuisine. His pairings appear on this page monthly with Entertaining.