The roar of the crowd, the crash of helmets, the shriek of whistles, and the smell of pizza and hot wings. Monday Night Football seems made for drinking beer. But that doesn’t mean beer is the only thing for gridiron guzzling. Plenty of wines go great with typical football foods, and that way, you save room for more nachos and dip by opting for vino over suds.
To get some ideas of what wines to look for this football season, I talked to Ben Teig, the wine director and sommelier at LA restaurant Redbird.
Cluster Crush: Why do you think people don’t consider wine as a good football-watching drink?
Ben Teig: For a very long time, wine had a reputation for being snooty and just for the upper echelons, but I think everyone should be able to have wine, no matter how much or how little they have to spend, and be able to enjoy it.
When you’re watching Monday Night Football, the TV commercials are usually for beer, but wine has a place in football and shouldn’t be intimidating. Football is relaxed and wine should be too. After all, what goes better with football than food…except wine! So wine makes football even better.
Cluster Crush: What is your NFL team? How are they doing so far this year?
Ben Teig: I’m a New Yorker, so my team is the New York Football Giants! They started their season slow and blew a couple of leads in the fourth quarter, so they started 0-2, but they won the next few games, so I’m hopeful.
Cluster Crush: What kinds of food and wine pairings do you like when watching football?
Ben Teig: As I mentioned, I’m a New Yorker, so pizza is one of those classic foods you have with football, and nothing goes better with pizza than a Chianti. Chianti goes great with those red sauces and pairs well with cheese and bread.
If you’re ordering a supreme pizza with those strong black olives, a Cornas from the Rhone Valley will be perfect. It’s got those same aromas.
Cluster Crush: What are some other classic football foods and wines people should think about pairing with them?
Ben Teig: With veggie dips or chips and guacamole, Pinot Noir is always great on the red side, especially one with a nice balance of earth and fruit to it like the JK Carriere Provocateur from the Willamette Valley. Sauvignon Blanc and Grüner Veltliner are good options for the whites. I’m currently pouring Habit Grüner from Santa Ynez that smells like a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc with gooseberry and grapefruit, but on the palate, it is linear with a beautiful minerality, so it’s great with food.
Spice is very difficult to pair wines with, so I might not drink wine with hot wings since most wines cannot stand up to that level of spiciness. The heat will bring out the alcohol in the wine and make it feel hot and acidic.
Cluster Crush: Are there specific wines fans of specific teams should think about? For instance, should Pittsburgh Steelers fans look out for stainless-steel-fermented Sauvignon Blanc or Chardonnay?
Ben Teig: That’s fun to think about. As a Giants fan, I’d go with a big red wine with bold flavors. If you like the Jets, think of something that reminds you of a rocket like a nice sparkling wine. Dolphins? Have some seafood and pair it with a wine like an Albariño. If you root for the 49ers, I would choose something from the California gold fields, perhaps a Mendocino Zinfandel. Something with a high acid content that electrifies your palate would be a good match to the Chargers. And for those Arizona Cardinals, which makes me think of Redbird since this used to be the cardinal’s residence in LA, you could try a holy wine like Vin Santo.
Overall, though, for football, you don’t need to go too expensive and break out a 2000 Super Tuscan. Remember that it’s more of a casual event and just bring a nice, friendly wine that goes with a lot of food.
Cluster Crush: Any great fall wines you’re pouring at Redbird people should look out for?
Ben Teig: We just added a really cool wine, which sounds super nerdy, but it’s an orange wine from Greece made from the Debina grape. It’s called Domaine Glinavos and is semi-sparkling with a little residual sugar, with flavors of sour apple and baking spices like cinnamon and nutmeg, so it reminds me of an Old World Spanish-style cider. And what’s better for a nice fall drink than something like a cider?
Want more imbibing ideas? Check out this post on barbecue wine pairings.