It is obvious why beer is the favorite pre-game beverage: it comes in its own, lightweight container, it’s easy to get cold and keep cold, it doesn’t require a fancy opener, and it’s delicious. Due to its fussy reputation, wine is not usually included on the tailgate checklist. You have to remember to bring an opener and glassware, and it takes up precious room in the cooler that is reserved for that essential beer. If you have never considered wine a tailgate beverage, it’s more fun and easier than ever to include as a simple and festive option for a pregame cocktail.
Screwcap Savvy Choose a wine that doesn’t require a wine key, and eliminate an item to bring on game day. Look for wines enclosed with a screwcap. Although once used for inexpensive, lower-quality wines, today screwcaps are used for wines of all levels of quality and price. Screwcap closures are used for wines that are meant to be drunk young, so pick one and you will get a delicious, flavorful, easy-drinking style… perfect for pre-game festivities. If you go for bubbles, remember that you also won’t need an opener. A new closure that is becoming more popular on moderatelypriced bottles is called a “zork,” a plastic, reseal-able top that is fun and easy to un-do and handy for tailgate situations. Look for Leese-Fitch (Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon or Zinfandel) from California for around $9.99 retail, or Plungerhead Zinfandel from Lodi, CA for around $15 retail.
Simply Stemless: Stop with the Solo Cups and Styrofoam Leave your crystal stems at home; the best casual vessels for wine are stemless glasses. Riedel makes the most popular type called the “O” Series, which are durable, versatile, and far superior to a plastic cup. Many companies are making these inexpensive stemless styles that are perfect for game day. Another option, my personal favorite and new in the Birmingham market, is a stemless plastic wine glass called “GoVino.” They are unbreakable, reusable, washable, recyclable, inexpensive and great for quaffing wine where glass is not allowed or appropriate. They are thin and hard (from the first glance, you will swear they are crystal) and perform like glass, so they do not affect flavor and deliver delicious sips, unlike thick, opaque plastic or foam cups. They are now available at Western Market and Piggly Wiggly for around $12.99 retail for a four-pack, and are also available in a flute shape for bubbly as well.
Consider the Kickoff and Cuisine Morning tailgate? Choose a Moscato or Bubbly to go with the bagels and cream cheese or breakfast pastries. Moscato is now widely available in still or bubbly styles, and offers up delicious sweet peachy flavor and refreshing acidity. Kenwood Vineyards makes a still version bottled with a screwcap closure that is tasty for around $15. Look for a Spanish Cava or Italian Prosecco for bubbles; both offer great value and are fabulous to mix with OJ for perfect mimosas. Belstar Prosecco is a delicious option for around $14 that offers soft, refreshing lemon and pear notes. Lunchtime and evening tailgates are most likely all about the burgers and BBQ, which require big, bold, red wines.
Go For the Bold Smoky grilled meats, sausages, and barbeque all demand a rich red and bold flavor. Keep in mind that sugar in BBQ sauce, marinades, and baked beans will make a dry wine taste sour. Game-day wines should therefore be extremely fruity and even a tad sweet in order to stand up to the sweetness in these classic tailgate foods. For chicken or to drink on its own, choose Pinot Noir or Beaujolais; both are light and easy-drinking. Angeline Pinot Noir from California retails for $15 or less, is intense and fruity, and has a silky texture with a hint of vanilla. Sausages and dogs require more heft; Syrah/ Shiraz offers gobs of fruit, smokiness and spice. Boxhead Shiraz from Australia is a screaming deal for around $10, offering lush, ripe fruit, fun peppery spice and a playful package. Burgers and barbecue scream for red Zinfandel, with jammy fruit, pepper notes, and enough body to stand up to rich meats and bold condiments. Four Vines “OVC” (Old Vine Cuvee) from California won’t break the bank at around $10 and over-delivers with intense blackberry, plum, pepper, a hint of oak, and easy tannins.
KISS: Keep It Simple, Silly Wine isn’t intimidating or complicated, and it doesn’t need to be serious or expensive. Game day is no exception. Have fun with it, don’t spend a lot of money, enjoy it, and add even more flavor to your tailgate fare. Keep these simple tips in mind, and you are well on your way to a tasty tailgate, whether at home or away.