image of tailgating fan with wine


Most people have heard the conventional “winesdom” that whites go better with fish and poultry, reds with meats. But how does that help when I’m trying to pair wines with nachos, wings and hot dogs? What’s an adventurous tailgater to do?

Bringing your tailgate party up to the next level is as easy as raising the bar: the liquor bar, that is. Instead of the same old beer and soft drinks, try bringing the grapes next time your team is bringing the noise on the gridiron. Wine with buffalo wings? Yes indeed. You may never go back to beer again!


Buffalo wings, the old standby for sports-related gatherings, are surprisingly versatile. We all know they go great with celery and bleu cheese, but did you know they were also tailor-made to enjoy with a reasonably priced sparkler? The bite of the bubbly perfectly offsets the bite of the Buffalo sauce for a perfectly unexpected taste treat. And you thought you’d tried all the ways to enjoy those little morsels of mini-chicken! If champagne isn’t your thing, try an off-dry (not dry, but a step away) Riesling or a Zinfandel. These grapes do a stalwart job with sweeter bbq as well as the zesty sauces. Just stay away from the Chardonnay on this one.


Is any tailgate complete without a sampling of ribs? I don’t think so. Nothing says you’re a serious tailgater like smoky bbq sauce under your fingernails, and nothing complements that sauce like a hearty Lambrusco. While the sweet notes of the church wine will send you to bbq rib heaven, there’s always room at the rib table for a Cuvee or a Zin. It’s really just a matter of personal preference and availability.

Steak and Eggs

For the early morning ‘gater, nothing beats steak and eggs in the parking lot of your team’s stadium. You get the crisp autumn air, the company of friends, and two of the finest foods that ever graced a breakfast plate; it would be a shame to top such a championship meal with anything less than a superb wine pairing. While eggs tend to coat the palate and ideally would merit a suggestion of something bubbly, the steak part of this equation begs for a high acidity red like a Pinot Noir or St. Laurent. These will both cut through the richness of the eggs while bringing out the full awesomeness of delicious grilled steak. If this ends up on your menu, please pm me your location in the tailgater’s lot. I like both my steak and my eggs medium.


But what about nachos? You took the words right out of my mouth. Nachos are delicious and totally customizable to your specific tastes, just like the wine that you’ll be drinking with those little salsa loving bad boys. Loaded nachos? Try a Sauvignon Blanc or an unpretentious red like a Grenache or a Cali blend. Looking for something to set those delicious chicken nachos on their ear? Chardonnay if you’re feeling the white grape, Merlot if red. You really can’t go wrong with either.


Finally, what is the one ubiquitous offering at every tailgate? That’s easy—it’s chili. Chili chili chili. There are chili nachos, chili dogs, and just plain old chili, but there will definitely be chili. The varieties will set your head to spinning (pre-wine!) if you’re not careful, so let’s make this simple: stick to the three m’s. Merlot, Malbec, or Monastrell. All three are winners, so it’s really up to you to decide which you’ll be using to up your tailgate game. As far as the fairer skinned grapes are concerned, if the sweet pale notes of a Riesling are ringing your bell, my advice is to stick to an off-dry.

So you see, there is no reason not to try a wine-based tail-grape party (sorry, I couldn’t resist). If you can eat it, you can find a wine to drink with it. It’s really that simple. Of course, all tastes are unique, so don’t be afraid to branch out and try some different pairings based on your own experience. The worst that could happen is you drink some good wine and eat some good food that doesn’t necessarily go well with said wine. A tragedy, but a small and much less regrettable one than living cautiously in a world that begs you to be bold.

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