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Wine lovers don't have to drink beer on game day

Super Grapes

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Super Bowl Sunday may be the greatest unofficial American holiday. A day of football, friends, and gluttonous grubbing and drinking is as American as can be, so let's make sure our glasses never empty. You should definitely start the festivities with a nice cold can of beer, but once the food starts flowing this year, let's pop some wine bottles too. Together we are going to explore five favorite Super Bowl dishes and what wine to drink with them.

1. Loaded Nachos with JalapeƱo: Riesling

Personally, my favorite Super Bowl snack. Nothing pairs with spicy food better than German Riesling. The spicier the nachos, the more residual sugar you want in your glass of riesling. Germany classifies each bottle based on the quality and ripeness of the grape when harvested (Kabinett, Spätlese, Auslese, Beerenauslese, Trockenbeerenauslese, and Eiswein). The common misconception is that these classifications relate directly to how sweet the wine will taste. Let's explore this. Think about a peach. If you pick a peach and bite into it when it is less ripe, the peach will be more tart than sweet and will be firmer to the bite. A few weeks later, once the peach becomes ripe, it softens and the sugar content becomes much higher. It's the same thing for the riesling grape. If the grape is picked and designated as Kabinett, then it will not be fully ripe. Thus, in general, it will not be as sweet as say a riesling grape picked a little later and designated Spätlese or even later as Auslese. If sweetness is your main concern, then we are talking about its style. If you want to make sure the riesling is dry, look for the "Trocken" designation on the label. This term assures that the wine will be dry no matter if it is classified as as Kabinett or Spätlese. My choice would be Spätlese to accompany loaded nachos topped with spicy jalapeños. If your loaded nachos aren't spicy, go Kabinett or Kabinett Trocken.

Recommended producers: Hexamer, Messmer, Donnhoff, Merkelbach, JJ Prum

2. Juicy Chicken Wings: Champagne

I'm going all in on this one. There is no better pairing with chicken wings than Champagne. I don't care how they are dressed, if they are spicy or sweet. If you pop a bottle of Champagne for your friends while indulging in chicken wings, they will love you forever. Now, for those who read my New Year's Eve Grower Champagne article, you know the difference between "Grower" and "Non-Grower" Champagne, and I hope you have given Grower Champagne a try. If you haven't, here's another excuse to ask your local wine shop for a bottle of Grower Champagne.

Recommended producers: Chartogne Taillet, Pierre Gimonnet, Pierre Peters

3. Ribs: Syrah

For all you Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, and Zinfandel drinkers out there, on Super Bowl Sunday give Syrah a chance. Syrah may be the most overlooked grape variety on the market. Syrah is glorious, and there is no better time of year to drink it than right now. I will warn you, once the right bottle of Syrah comes along, it will change your outlook on not just full-bodied but red wine in general. For me, Syrah is the king of all red wine varieties, so give it a shot no matter how the ribs are being prepared.

Recommended producers: Instead of a producer, I recommend you go French and pick a bottle from an appellation like Côtes du Rhône, Côte-Rôtie, or Cornas.

4. Cheeseburgers: Barbera

Barbera hails from northwestern Italy's Piedmont region. The beauty of this grape is that you can spend very little money on a bottle, and it will be delicious. The grape is pleasing to those who prefer both fuller and lighter styles of wine. Barbera displays sweet dark fruits but with extreme elegance. It can be powerful and rich on the nose and concentrated and smooth on the palate. A glass of this Italian variety alongside a burger topped with melted cheese will not leave you disappointed. The best Barbera stems from the towns of Alba and Asti in Piedmont. Look for Barbera d'Alba or Barbera d'Asti on the label and you can't go wrong.

Recommended producers: DeForville, Vajra, La Spinetta, Vietti

5. Pizza: Gamay

Gamay is the most famous as the grape of Beaujolais, France and presents itself as a juicier pinot noir-esqe red wine. It can be highly aromatic and absolutely delicious with just about any food. No matter if you go straight cheese or amp your pizza up to the supreme level, Gamay is going to be the perfect companion. There is even exquisite Gamay being grown in Oregon and California (keep a look out). This is a grape variety to get familiar with, and alongside pizza is a wonderful way to start the relationship.

Recommended producers: Foillard, Lapierre, JP Brun, Pascal Granger

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