Wine Pairings for the Super Bowl!


Well, I thought I’d written about this long ago, but wrong again! And, search analytics are telling me that you want to know about wine pairings for your Super Bowl party, so I’ve been remiss.

You know, I don’t think anybody thought about this a few decades ago, so we truly are becoming a wine-drinking country! Congrats to us! Here goes:

First, my old saw no matter the occasion: Most wines and foods taste pretty good together, so serve the foods you like with the wines you like and you can’t go too far wrong.

The main wine components that can trip up your enjoyment of any pairing are high alcohol, high tannin and overdone oak. And, really heavy reds aren’t as versatile as the light to medium-bodied ones. Fortunately, if the wine is of moderate alcohol, it’s probably not too heavy either.

The most broad brush, sweeping advice I have if you’re serving several different kinds of apps or dishes is to go to my old favorite: When in doubt, serve a bubbly – or a clean, high-acid white – easy on the oak or none at all. But, I’d still put out at least token red or two because there are those who drink red no matter what. Try to avoid high-octane reds – shoot for under 14%. Better stock some beer, too, huh?

White wine goodies
If you’re doing really simple stuff like chips, popcorn, fries, onion rings and nuts whites and fizzies are really the ticket for salty foods. Haven’t we heard, ad nauseum by now, that sparkling wine and popcorn love each other? In fact, they’ll love each other a little more if you sprinkle some truffle salt on the popcorn. Adds such a nice note of elegance to offset the carnage on the screen. Nuts can go either way – red or white – they’re very wine friendly!

But, there are those who don’t like sparkling wine. This is almost impossible for me to grasp, but there it is. So, if you’re looking for reliably high-acid whites look for Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Vermentino (emerging variety – maybe you want to shake things up a bit) or Pinot Grigio from a cool climate like northern Italy. Nothing cuts through the fat and grease better than a clean, crisp white or bubbles.

White Zin, Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Vinho Verde: All crisp and food friendly. A little sweetness isn’t such a bad thing either, in fact it will help if you do a hot, spicy version of these wonderful junk foods.

Rosé is versatile. The lower the alcohol, the more likely it has  high acidity.

Red wine foods
Pizza, burgers, hot dogs, chili, chili dogs, chicken wings (doesn’t it seem like all the celebrity chefs are pushing chicken wings this year?)

I’m really drawn to fruity, spicy Zinfandel for these treats, just be sure to check out the alcohol before you buy because many of them are really up there.

A Beaujolais (Gamay) type is another way to go.

Reds from northern Italy are good candidates: Barbera, Valpolicella (not Amarone) and Chianti have solid acidity and aren’t too heavy or tannic so they won’t fight with strong food flavors too much. Forget the great Italian reds like Barolo or Brunello.

If you’re making the 5-alarm version of any of these goodies, be extra careful about the alcohol. Alcohol, all by itself, feels hot on your palate so when you add on your favorite habanero salsa, look out!  You don’t want a house full of fire-breathing dragons rushing to the kitchen for water! Those Italian reds are good choices – sleek and low tannin.

Sweet foods
The wine needs to be at least as sweet as the food or it will taste sour. Best to test it out before serving. For an all-American dessert wine look for late-harvest Zinfandel. Other port styles do well, especially with chocolate. Moscato is nice if you’re serving fruity sweets. Or, maybe it’s time to bring out the coffee.

Confession: I really don’t care about football in the least. As a northern Californian, it’s embarrassing that I had no idea the Niners were doing so well until a week or two ago. But I love a superbowl party! For me, it’s all about the togetherness and a really great excuse to eat very naughty foods. Nevertheless, GO NINERS!!

Send me your wine question  I’ll get back to you in a jiffy!

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