Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Pairing Wine with Football Food

By Liza B. Zimmerman

Just became it’s game season doesn’t mean you need to drink beer. There are many great wine pairings that will work with those wings, cheese-filled pizza and that dips. I once hosted a Super Bowl party in New York that was totally high-end, South African wine themed and everyone still talks about it to this day.

First you have to decide how big the gathering will be and what foods will be featured. If you live near a great wings place in San Francisco, as I do, that might just do enough with some whole-grain chips and guacamole. Here are some basic guidelines on a variety of good pairings.

Grill that Meat
If you have an outside grill, or even a baby George Foreman grill, bring on that meat. You can easily buy pre-marinated cuts at Trader Joe’s but it is more fun to mix it up yourself. Layer in a handful of fresh and dry herbs, rub that meat with salt and pepper and maybe add some mustard or Middle Eastern spice like Sumac.

What you pair with meat will depend not only on the type but also how you cook it. Charred beef goes well with big tannic wines, such as Zinfandel—Sobon Estate from Amador is a great choice—Petite Sirah such as Bogle and of course Cabernet Sauvignon. High-alcohol wines with softer tannins such as Tres Palacios "Family Vintage" Merlot from Chile will also work well.

If you go with pork, depending on how you cook it a slightly sweet, high-acid white might do the trick. If it’s a simple preparation like Choucroute Garnie—a mix of sausages and sauerkraut—go for an Alsace, or Alsace-inspired Riesling or Pinot Blanc. If you are adding a tomato-based sauce, bring out a soft and simple red such as a Beaujolais Nouveau or simple Cabernet Franc from the Loire Valley.

Spicing up Those Wings and Dip
Tangy marinade needs a little bit of a kick from acidity, if they are hot-pepper driven maybe an off-dry white. Once you add a touch of tomato and garlic a peppery Merlot perhaps from Chile or a blend like Rupert & Rothschild’s Classique, which is also a great value, will do the trick.

If you really want to enjoy that blue cheese dip that often comes with the wings, you should do so with a somewhat austere white. Reds are very hard to pair with cheese. Believe or so that dip might like work with some Rhone varietals, from France, or sourced domestically such as Tertulia Cellars “Redd Brand” Syrah from Walla Walla.

Middle Eastern, chick pea- and eggplant-based, spreads are a bit more generous in their pairing affinities. It always fun to try something from their relative motherland, such as a beautiful wine from Lebanon, such as Musar’s “Jeune Rouge,” if not something Southern French and gracious such  Domaine Lalande "Les Haut de Lalande" Pays de la Cite de Carcasson will pair nicely.

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

Liza B. Zimmerman has been writing and consulting about wine and food for two decades. She is principal of the San Francisco-based Liza the Wine Chick wine writing, education and consulting firm. She has worked on staff and freelance at national magazines such as Wine Enthusiast, The Magazine of La Cucina Italiana, Wine Spectator, Where SF and the Examiner. She currently contributes to Cheers, Wine Business Monthly and the Examiner, among others.

Zimmerman focuses on demystifying wine and transforming it into a tool for business and networking for companies all over the country. Past clients include Genentech, Roche and IBM.

She has visited all the world’s major wine regions and is one of select few in the U.S. to hold the Diploma of Wine & Spirits (D.W.S.), the three-year precursor to the Master of Wine.

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