How to Pair Wine with Super Bowl Foods
You’re going to score big with these dishes and wines.
Super Bowl XLIX will be played on February 1, 2015 at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona. It’s too early at the time of writing to pick wines from the two final states represented in the game, though for something you could find easily throughout the US there are only two producers in the current eight team bracket: Washington and North Carolina, and only one of them can possibly advance further in the bracket. And I do have one North Carolina wine in there, but it’s partially from California. In full disclosure, I've had relatively obscure wines from Colorado, Maryland, Texas, and Indiana in the past.
Obviously Super Bowl parties are mostly about the food, with beer as the traditional accompaniment; maybe margaritas or even just soft drinks depending on your region and family traditions. I’ve always brought leftover wine samples along with me, and on one occasion got to sip on homemade Chardonnay that came out of the host’s garage here in the scenic wine country of suburban Memphis, Tennessee.
I’ve picked five of my favorite Super Bowl snacks and have paired wines with each. While I almost entirely serve foreign wines during Thanksgiving, with this particular American holiday I choose to go fully domestic. Because a wine with a recognizable story can be a great conversation starter for those occasions that are not traditionally associated with wine, I’ve got two bottles from celebrities, but not from the world of sports. Just in the NFL you’ve got Mike Ditka, Drew Bledsoe, Joe Montana, and several others who currently make (or have made) wine, but these are often small passion projects that are difficult to find and are liable to set off some fellow party guest with a grudge going back decades.
Now that the coin has been tossed, here is my starting lineup.
Pairing #1: Guacamole and Arizona Rosé
In a little over a decade in the start of the 21st century, Americans went from eating 8 million pounds of avocados on Super Bowl Sunday to 79 million pounds, primarily in the form of guacamole. I prefer it as fresh as possible, and set aside half of the batch to mix in some chopped chipotle peppers that have been canned in adobo sauce. It will give a spicy, smoky, savory edge to the creamy dip for those that aren’t afraid of a little heat. Now, it may seem odd to pick a rosé in this instance, but not when it’s an Arizona wine made by Maynard James Keenan, lead singer of Tool and A Perfect Circle.
Cochise County, Arizona
89% Zinfandel, 9% Sangiovese, 2% Petite Sirah
Dominant aroma and flavor of strawberries, with a strong citrus element. Strawberry lemonade? That's close, and this is fairly strong for a dry rosé. It reminds me a lot of some of the stronger California pinks I've had in the past, and I prefer the milder, lighter, European-style rosés. The bright acidity will match well with the lime juice in the guacamole and help cut through the fat of the avocados.
Pairing #2: Cocktail Weenies and California Pinot Gris
You really shouldn’t have to wait for sports championships to fire up a crock pot full of Li’l Smokies (cocktail weenies) with equal parts Heinz Chili Sauce and grape jelly, though I find that a healthy dollop of Dijon mustard does wonders. It’s the laziest form of BBQ sauce, and one that does a dishonor to the secret family recipes of the mid-south, but it’s also so tasty. You can set out toothpicks but at some point people will be using a fork to spear two or three at a time. I found this to be a perfect match for Alsatian Pinot Gris a few years ago, but for getting your older relatives on board, break out a wine from Fred MacMurray, who starred in numerous Disney movies in the 50s and 60s and played the dad from My Three Sons before becoming a winemaker in retirement.
Russian River Valley/Sonoma Coast
100% Pinot Gris
Light citrus aromas with high acidity and a bold body. A few tropical fruit notes as it opens up. This is a much bigger wine than Pinot Gris from Alsace or Oregon yet has its own unique New World expression that reminds me a bit of a few New Zealand Pinot Gris bottles. Excellent with the tiny hot dogs and sweet-savory sauce that slowly caramelizes by halftime.
Pairing #3: Buffalo Wings and Sparkling Wine
And it’s during the halftime show that you can focus on somewhat more complex foods like Buffalo wings. Not that they’re complicated, but you’re not just blindly shoveling cheese dip in your mouth while watching the game. You’ve got to balance hot fried poultry, bleu cheese dip, celery, carrots, and a beverage on a corner of an end table while making sure the dog doesn’t eat any chicken bones. When it comes to the midpoint of the game, it’s also time for a palate cleanser like a sparkling wine.
100% Chardonnay: 88% North Carolina, 12% California
The nose is light with a faint tropical fruit note. It's crisp and clean with a touch of lemony acidity. Decent bubbles with a short finish. A good complement with food and generally a fun wine to imbibe. It's not often that I get to enjoy vintage sparklers and I'm curious as to how this one will develop over the next few years. Sparkling wines have the added benefit of behaving quite nicely with hot foods, so if one of your knucklehead friends has brought over “nuclear” wings made with ghost peppers, you’ll be prepared.
Pairing #4: Sloppy Joe Sliders and Pinot Noir
As someone who loves cooking during such events, the evening time is great for bringing out a modern take on a nostalgic dish. I’m talking about sloppy joe sliders. Don’t just grab the jar of Manwich. Make the saucy ground meat dish from scratch, use shallots instead of onions, and if at all possible, incorporate buffalo, venison, or other game meats into your grind. When served on small buns, it’s a curious treat that takes you back to childhood while at the same time appealing to your adult palate. Let’s go for a western-themed California Pinot Noir.
Monterey, Sonoma, San Benito, California
100% Pinot Noir
Chocolate covered strawberry aroma, with deep berry flavors on the palate, firm tannins and a rich, deep finish. Particularly if you can get some venison or elk into your recipe, you’ll find the slightly earthy elements of this wine showing beautifully. While this is a serious red wine, much leniency will be given for swirling and sniffing from a red Solo cup at this point in the evening.
Pairing #5: Brownies and a California Red Blend
Late in the game, dessert tends to come out, and there’s usually a tray of brownies. This is a painful reminder to Cleveland fans like me that the Browns have never played in the Super Bowl. I’m partial to ones that have big chunks of macadamia nuts and white chocolate chips, but obviously every house has its own recipe. As things are winding down, it’s nice to relax with chocolate and a big California red blend.
Proprietary blend of Syrah, Zinfandel and Barbera
$15, 13.5% abv.
It's a ripe and fruity red blend with a lot of red cherry elements and a bright, clear mouthfeel. Low acidity and medium tannins, with an aftertaste of blackberries and black cherries. It's an interesting blend of grapes, and while I think that the Zinfandel carries most of the tune, the supporting players are definitely present. Chocolate and red wine tends to be something of a contentious issue among wine fans, but I think these two go along great together.
Here’s hoping that your Super Bowl celebrations involve the pulling of a few corks!
*Snooth Editorial: In case you didn’t hear, the Seattle Seahawks and the New England Patriots will be playing The Big Game on Sunday. Washington wines are a no-brainer. The state boasts thirteen American Viticultural Areas and over 850 wineries. You can find some choice bottles and tasting notes here. As for New England, the wines of Vermont are a fantastic choice. Check out our Vermont wine guide here.