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Wines for tailgating

(article, Anu Karwa)

p(blue). Editor's note: Anu Karwa wrote the Culinate wine column, titled Swirl, from July 2009 through December 2010.

I know beer is the beverage of choice for tailgating parties, but I'd like to serve wine, too. Are there any wines that are tailgating-appropriate without seeming stuffy? 

A football fan after my own heart!  

It might be heresy to propose this, but when I'm tailgating before (and to be honest, during) a football game, I prefer my beverage of choice to be wine, not beer. I can't be the only one out there with this inclination, so this column is dedicated to you, my group of football fans willing to risk the occasional raised eyebrow to sip as you please. 

Naturally, the criteria for a tailgate-appropriate wine are different from my guidelines for regular weekday wines or those selected for special occasions.  

[%image reference-image float=right width=400 caption="You might play it safe by choosing paper or plastic — cups for wine, that is — for your next tailgating party."]

Football-ready wines should be approachable and should not require an in-depth analysis after each sip. Instead, these wines should instantly comfort me and bring a smile to my face, then quickly allow me to move on to chiding the opponent or heckling other fans. 

These wines should also be affordable and pair well with typical tailgating food. 

With these criteria in mind, and knowing that the first glass gets tipped back earlier in the day than at most other sipping occasions, I lean toward bold yet easy-drinking reds that work well with burgers, barbecue, and wings, as well as softer, fuller-bodied varietal (single-grape) whites and white blends that show a nice dose of acidity for such classic football-friendly food as chips and creamy dip or guacamole. 

h4. For burgers, barbecue, and wings

Cline Zinfandel 2007 (California; $12): This easy-drinking red Zinfandel (not to be confused with blush wines or white Zinfandel) has a gorgeous nose of vanilla thanks to oak aging. Its black cherry and raspberry flavors will sing with barbecue. 

Torbreck “Cuvée Juveniles” 2008 (Barossa Valley, Australia, $17): The Grenache/Shiraz/Mourvèdre (or “GSM”) blend lends a baked blueberry nose and raisin, plum, and cocoa notes on the palate. This wine isn't quite as powerful as many Shiraz from the same region, making it perfect for daytime sipping.  

Yellow + Blue Malbec (Mendoza, Argentina, $12): Made from organic grapes, this Malbec will not only stand up to chewy, meaty textures, but it’s incredibly convenient for tailgating. That's because it comes housed in a soft Tetrapak (think juice box for adults) that’s easy to lug around (it weighs less than two pounds) and won’t break. Plus, it has the bonus of having two more glasses of wine in it than a regular glass bottle, making it great for larger groups.  

h4. For chips, dip, and guacamole

Misiones de Rengo Sauvignon Blanc 2008 (Central Valley, Chile, $11): The crisp green-apple and lemon-lime notes of this wine are grounded by slate-y minerality. Its hefty dose of acidity balances the creaminess of dips and guacamole. Best served well chilled.

Next Riesling 2008 (Washington, $12): The slightly sweet and soft nose doesn’t overpower, and then a juicy rush of apricot, melon, and lemon zest comes out with a dry finish. This wine is certified organic to boot. Great with fish tacos in addition to salty chips and mango salsa. 

Alois Lageder  Pinot Grigio 2008 (Alto Adige, Italy, $17): At the high end of our tailgating wines, this savory Pinot Grigio sets itself apart from mundane, flabby examples of the varietal with its subtle smokiness, bright minerality, and slight creaminess.

reference-image, l