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  • Writer's pictureNicole Leonetti

Food & Wine Pairing - Tailgate Edition

It’s the most wonderful time of the year – FOOTBALL SEASON! The only thing I take as seriously as food and wine is football. I am a die-hard New York Giants fan and I look forward to football season each year – no matter how much they may have disappointed me the prior season. It is so much fun to have friends over on a football Sunday and there is always plenty of food and booze. While I am happy enjoying a few Bud Lights during a game, I’m typically ready for some vino on a Sunday afternoon. It may be overwhelming to figure out what wine would be best for tailgate food but fear not! I am here to help you navigate a few popular tailgate options and the best wines to pair with them. The most important thing to understand is that no matter what you eat and drink on a football Sunday, it will taste much better after your team wins—so don’t overthink it!

Guacamole: (Broadbent Vinho Verde – 50% Loueiro, 40% Trajadura, 10% Pedernã) – You will typically see guacamole on the table every football Sunday at our place. You can find my guacamole recipe HERE. I have found my favorite pairing to be a light, crisp Vinho Verde. This is a Portuguese wine that is bursting with citrus fruit and has a slight effervescence that pairs nicely with the guacamole. The high acidity of the wine goes hand in hand with the lime juice in the guac. Also, Vinho Verde typically has a fairly low alcohol content, which means it’s perfect for day drinking during those football games! The best part is you can get very inexpensive bottles of Vinho Verde that are delicious. This makes it easy to buy a few to have on hand or to bring to a tailgate party. If you prefer red wine, I suggest a Beaujolais or Pinot Noir because their light tannins will not overwhelm the guacamole.

Hot Dogs: (2019 Schloss Vollrads Riesling (Kabinett) – Rheingau) – While I love a hot dog and beer combo while watching a baseball game, I’m looking for wine once football season rolls around. While you could easily pair a hot dog with a Pinot Noir—the smooth tannins and bright red fruit flavors will be nice with a hot dog and mustard--I think we could be a little more daring. I considered an Austrian Grüner Veltliner, which has great acidity that can cut through the hot dog and toppings; however, I ended up going with a Rheingau Riesling. This one has a tad of sweetness that is kept in check with its high acidity to make it a refreshing counterpart to my hot dog topped with spicy mustard and jalapeno peppers!

Hamburgers: (2018 Volpaia Chianti Classico – Sangiovese) – While you can’t go wrong with a Syrah or Pinot Noir with your burger, I prefer a nice Sangiovese on a football Sunday. The tannins and acidity will match with the burger and the herbal notes will enhance the flavors of the meat. You will find Sangiovese in many of Italy’s most famous wines – Chianti, Brunello di Montalcino, etc. So, you can enjoy a nice trip to Italy from your couch as you watch your favorite team in action. Also, you need to think about what cheese you will have on your burger. I like to do some shredded gruyère on top of my burger. With gruyère, you want a bold red wine with a little bit of age – so a Chianti Classico fits the bill!

The moral of this story is that you can have a lot of fun with food and wine pairings at your next tailgate. Or, you can open a bottle of Pinot Noir and be good to go for the day! Pinot Noir is very versatile when it comes to food pairings so it’s always a good alternative.

**NFL Teams as Wines**

NY Giants = Napa Cab: Iconic - just as a Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa is. Big, bold! Sometimes you’ll get a clunker, but--for the most part—you know you have something good on your hands.

Cleveland Browns = Merlot: Due to a little film called Sideways (yes, one of my favorites), Merlot became a laughingstock. No one wanted to touch it! But who is laughing now as more people are reaching for that merlot and isn’t it what makes those Right Bank Bordeaux so fabulous? I see the Browns getting the comeback their fans have been not-so-patiently waiting for.

Dallas Cowboys = Buttery, Oaky Chardonnay: Super popular in the 90s, but now people would rather forget about them!

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