The Super Bowl offers a simple proposition: There are two teams; you pick one and root for it. When it comes to food and wine, however, the typical Super Bowl party is a free-for-all. Each year, as I gather for the game with a dozen or so friends, the food choices range from sushi to manicotti, from pigs in a blanket to chicken wings, burgers and, of course, all kinds of cheeses, chips and dips. Some will insist that beer is the only beverage for such a contest. But for those who prefer the grape, which wines are capable of handling this culinary assault?
For me, the key is to serve relatively fruity wines with bright acidity that will hold up to the taste blitz. Two of my favorites from Super Bowl-neutral territory start with a red from Washington state: Chateau Ste. Michelle’s delicious 2008 Columbia Valley Merlot, which is softly tannic with bright cherry and subtle spice notes and costs around $14. Among whites, consider inexpensive sparkling wines – they match well with a range of foods – such as Gruet Winery’s Brut from New Mexico, of all places. With fine bubbles and lemon and pear flavors, it’s widely available at about $15.
Tom Wark, owner of a California wine marketing and PR firm and editor of the Fermentations wine blog, took a decidedly different approach. “Heck, Ed, this is easy,” he wrote in an email. “You have to represent.” As in the Giants and the Patriots. For white, he chose Hermann J. Wiemer’s 2010 Dry Riesling from New York’s Finger Lakes, at $17. “The red,” he said, “goes to Massachusetts and the Patriots with the 2010 Westport Rivers Pinot Noir Rosé at $16.” (He predicted the Pats will win in overtime by three points.)
Randall Grahm, the iconoclastic founder of California’s Bonny Doon Vineyard, declined to pick a winner, being “more than a little broken-hearted” about the late demise of the 49ers. But he had plenty to say about wine. For a white, he suggested a grüner veltliner from Austria, noting that this “spicy, peppery, clean, high-acid wine will work well with the cilantro in the salsa that is going with the dip, and can also make the transition into the sausages that may be grilled for the event.” For other grilled meats, he recommended savory reds such as a cabernet franc from France’s Loire Valley or a syrah (perhaps his own Bonny Doon Vineyard Syrah “Le Posseur”). “Or,” he said, “you can go the other way and think about breaking out a really nice, soft and juicy red Burgundy.” The latter, of course, is from pinot noir and for me, a mouth-watering suggestion.
As for the combination of wine and football, Grahm said in his inimitable way: “I am personally taken with the symmetry of the delicacy and grace of the wine juxtaposed with the brutality of the concurrent spectacle on the screen.” His way of saying he plans to enjoy the game – and the wine.
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