While the popular image of tailgate parties is grounded firmly in images of pony kegs and hot dog hibachis, anyone who has actually attended a football game in the past decade knows that the eating game has been elevated: There are some serious eats going down every week in America's parking lots. And so, joining Coors and Budweiser in the cooler are a dizzying array of not only craft brews but even (gasp) wine.
To the pros, this comes as no surprise. Americans have steadily increased their wine consumption for decades, and we now annually drain an entire gallon of wine more per person than we did 20 years ago – bumping us up to an average of 2.73 gallons consumed per person in 2013. "Wines are surprisingly great for tailgating," says Theresa Paopao, named Boston's best sommelier by 'Boston' magazine and current beverage director at Ribelle, in the Boston suburb of Brookline, Massachusetts. "The problem is that people overthink it. In general, wines that work particularly well for tailgating are totally crushable, light, and go well with salty food." Which means you don't have to forgo all the wings, burgers, dogs, nachos, sausage, and cornucopia of other artery-suffocating foods that define great tailgating.
Paopao notes that these easy-drinking wines also tend to be cheaper than their more complex counterparts. "There's no need to spend more than $15 to $20 on a wine that you're taking to a tailgate," says Paopao. "When you do that, you're either paying for more complex flavors, like oak, that don't actually go great with tailgate food, or you're drinking a wine that deserves more attention than just being a way to wash down wings." Here are Paopao's picks to go all the way at your next pregame showdown.
From The Tank Vin Rouge
Paopao favors light and crisp whites, pinks, and bubbles for tailgating, but how does that help the many of us who are dedicated red drinkers? Paopao suggests syrah blends. "Syrah and grenache blends are spicy and juicy – which are especially great for burgers and ribs." And breaking with decades of perceived wisdom and snobbery, Paopao particularly likes one blend that is available in . . . a box? "Seriously, people need to get over the box hump and start to realize that shitty wine comes in bottles too," she says. "A wine that tastes good to you is a good wine, no matter the vessel. A box just offers you more of it and in eco-friendly packaging for the win!"
Try: From The Tank Vin Rouge ($29.95 for the equivalent of four bottles)