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Utah wine educator Sheral Schowe will be asked dozens of times before Thanksgiving, "What wine should I serve with dinner?"
It's a good question, with multiple answers, says the owner of Wasatch Academy of Wine and a certified French Wine Scholar.
From the lean turkey and fatty gravy to sweet potatoes and the acidic cranberries, the flavors in this holiday meal "go off in several different directions," she told guests during a recent holiday wine event sponsored by The Salt Lake Tribune.
With such an eclectic menu, it is best to avoid the usual choices like cabernet sauvignon, merlot and heavily oaked chardonnay, she said. Those wines have "grippy tannins" and will overpower dinner.
With that in mind, wine lovers should seek out sparkling wines, rosé varieties, lesser-known whites and low-tannin reds for the holiday.
Schowe and two other Utah wine experts (Gus Magann, owner of VineLore, a Salt Lake City wine brokerage firm, and Jim Santangelo, a wine educator and owner of the Wine Academy of Utah) explain why these wines work for the holiday meal and offer buying suggestions.
Their picks fit every budget and are available in Utah state liquor stores.
Think bubbles • Champagne is the go-to drink on New Year's Eve, but Thanksgiving is a great time to pop the cork on a sparkling wine. Schowe suggested Aimery Cremant Brut, a sparkling wine produced in Limoux, a warm region of France. A blend of 70 percent chardonnay with touches of chenin blanc, mauzac and pinot noir, "this is my go-to wine," Schowe told the Tribune group gathered last week at the Gygi Culinary Center. "I serve it at every single holiday."
Slightly effervescent, the wine complements all kinds of foods, and it's more affordable than its bubbly, more expensive cousin champagne.
Other sparkling wine options include prosecco, a sparkling white wine from the Veneto region of Italy, and a sparkling lambrusco, a red grape, grown in the Emilia-Romagna region of northern Italy. (See box for details.)
"These wines are great with the meal," Magann said of the European sparklers. "They may seem too light for the food, yet the sparkling effect cuts through everything and moves the eating forward."
Rosé rules • Thanksgiving is the perfect time to serve a dry, crisp rosé wine. Don't confuse rosé a favorite European table wine with white zinfandel or "blush" wines. The two may have the same color, but not the same taste. White zin is sweet and complements few foods, while rosé and its close cousin vin gris is dry and a good food partner.
Schowe's choice is the 2014 Tavel from Château de Trinquevedel, which is produced in France's southern Rhone region. "It goes with everything on our plate from the stuffing to the soup," she said. The only exception may be dessert, because it's too dry.
But some rosé wines will work with the sweet stuff, said Magann, such as the Vin de Bugey Cerdon. This sparkling French rosé is acidic, yet has a sweet finish and contains only 8 percent alcohol. "It's great with turkey, stuffing and the pumpkin pie," he said.
Lesser-known whites • While you might be used to traditional oak-aged chardonnay, skip it at Thanksgiving. Stick with lesser-known, aromatic varietals such as chenin blanc, riesling and pinot blanc. They taste great and are affordable.
The 2014 Sauvion Vouvray from France's Loire Valley was Schowe's pick for The Tribune event. Sauvion is one of the oldest family estates in the region, she said, and the wine is lively and has a food-friendly acidity with notes of honey and fruit.
The Alis Lageder Pinot Bianco, from the Alto Adige region of Italy, has peach and other fruit flavors and "stands up to richer appetizers with its fuller body and good acidity," said Santangelo.
And a "semi-sweet, yet amazingly crisp" riesling from Oregon's Willamette Valley Vineyards offers "tons of fruit" flavors such as pear and pineapple, Magann added.
Low-tannin reds • Save the heavy, tannic reds, like cabernet and merlot, for your next steak dinner. The best choices at Thanksgiving are velvety reds made with grapes such as aged beaujolais, pinot noir and veneto.
Beaujolais "Les Moriers" from the Domaine Chignard vineyard in France is another of Schowe's favorite Thanksgiving wines. Light with floral aromas, it has acidic and mineral notes a result of gamay grapes grown in pink granite in the Fleurie geographical region, she said.
Schowe said the aged beaujolais wines should not be confused with the beaujolais nouveau or new wines that will be released Thursday, Nov. 19, just a few weeks after harvest.
For the ultimate "American Thanksgiving" wines, Magann has two suggestions: the 2013 Harazthy Zinfandel from Lodi, Calif., which he described as being "great with turkey and stuffing"; and the 2013 Elk Cove Pinot Noir from the Willamette Valley in Oregon, with its "juicy sour cherry and plum flavors with a cinnamon stick."
12 Thanksgiving wine suggestions
Utah wine experts share their favorite holiday wines from around the globe. There's a wine to fit every budget.
France • Aimery Cremant Brut, Limous Languedoc, $19.98
Italy • Zonin Prosecco , $12.99
Italy • Cleto Chiarli Lambrusco, $12.99
France • Vin de Bugey Cerdon Rosé (also a sparkling wine), $25.99
France • 2014 Chateau De Trinquevedel, Tavel, $20.99
Italy • 2014 Alois Lageder Pinot Bianco, Alto Adige, $14.99
Oregon • 2014 Willamette Valley Vineyards Riesling, $11.99
France • 2014 Sauvion Vouvray, Vouvray Loire Valley, $10.19
France • 2012 Domaine Chignard Fleurie "Les Moriers" Beaujolais, $29.99
Oregon • 2013 Elk Cove Pinot Noir, Willamette, $27.99
Italy • 2012 Tenuta Sant'Antonio "Scaia" Corvina, Veneto, $12.99
California • 2013 Harazthy Zinfandel, Lodi, $11.99