OK, you’ve prepared a tray of baked ziti, have the nuclear-hot buffalo wings roasting in the oven, your secret-recipe chili simmering on the stove, and spread out the chips, dips, pre-cut veggie platter and getting ready to dole out the over-under squares in the final score pool. For beverages, you have the keg on ice and six choices of soda. What about the wine?
Huh? Who drinks wine during the Super Bowl?
Lots of people, if you’ll just give them the option. The trick is to provide the right wines for your crowd and your food spread — without killing your budget.
With big parties of people that may have diverse tastes, I like to go with reliable, popular standbys that meld well with a variety of foods, such as Pinot Grigio or Soave. There are plenty of solid, if unspectacular selections that come in wallet-forgiving 1.5-liter bottles. One 1.5 of Pinot Grigio or Soave is a must — the wine will go with nearly anything you’re serving, and be acceptable for drinking on its own. If you’re serving some particularly spicy dishes, you may also want to offer a bottle of German Riesling. Riesling is another food-friendly wine that matches with nearly everything, and its slight touch of perceived sweetness will provide a fine foil for hotter foods (i.e., buffalo wings, hot poppers, etc.).
In addition to the whites, you should also consider a dry rose, as most will go very nicely with myriad appetizers, from pigs in blankets to pate. The key, however, is to get a “fresh” vintage, especially in the under-ten-buck range. Fresh means the vintage on the label is from only a year or two ago. Look in the wine shop’s “Spain” or “Portugal” aisle for the best values.
For reds, it’s probably a good idea to pick up at least one bottle of inexpensive Pinot Noir, for no other reason than the fact that most pedestrian wine drinkers think it is the “best” wine to drink. If you have more savvy wine geeks, then by all means find a red to match with whatever you’re serving as a main course. For example, if you’re doing the baked ziti thing, Chianti is a no-brainer. If you’re doing some kind of chicken dish, go with a Cru Beaujolais or a lighter Merlot. Also, Cotes-du-Rhone (France) is an affordable, reliable red that matches with a variety foods and is pleasing to most palates.
Considering that football tends to draw crowds with a higher-than-normal testosterone level, you may want to also have on hand a bottle of the biggest, baddest red wine you can squeeze into your budget, such as a jammy Zinfandel or a palate-shattering Shiraz. There are some remarkably affordable wines that fit this profile; for example, anything from Ravenswood will fit the bill — after all, their motto is “no wimpy wines”. Rosemount and Penfolds also offer big, fruit-forward reds in the $10-20 range, as does anything from the Australian Wine Collection (you’ll see an identifying circular sticker on the bottle neck). In addition, you’ll probably score a hit without damaging your budget by choosing almost any red wine from importer Peter Click’s portfolio (look at the fine print on the back label to find a foreign wine’s importer).
If you think your party invites will appreciate it, go the distance and pick up a bottle or two of sparkling wine to celebrate the winning team. A good Cava (Juve y Camps is a reliable brand) or Prosecco will only run you about ten to twelve bucks, as will a sparkling wine from Domaine Ste. Michelle.
Keep the game plan simple — easygoing, food-friendly bottles with a few surprise, big-play reds mixed in — and you’re sure to score with your Super Bowl guests.