“Super Bowl Sunday is a national holiday,” declared Master Sommelier Sur Lucero this week, and the crowd went wild. Then our team went back to placing bets on the Conference Championship games and comparing notes on the perfect pairings for game-day staples like Buffalo wings and seven-layer dip. “It’s a long day of snacks and excitement, with super-human acts of athleticism on display. My wine can’t slow me down,” Sur added. “It has to have power and substance, while showcasing muscularity and agility.”
Read on for our Most Valuable Pairings, the Wine Access MVPs.
Pairing: Northern Rhône Syrah
Master Sommelier Sur Lucero: “When it comes down to burgers or sliders in an active environment, I often look to the Northern part of the Rhône Valley and the Syrah grape for delivering a spicy, wildly aromatic red with substance and definition. Areas that deliver for me are St. Joseph and Crozes Hermitage, while I sneak my third or fourth slider onto my plate. The wines can be lively and assertive, and I have no time to slow down while the game is on!”
Food: Jalapeño Poppers
Wine: Off-dry Riesling
America’s Sake Expert Eduardo Dingler: “This is the ultimate rollercoaster of crunchiness, creaminess and heat, which is best paired alongside the intense honeyed spice that Spätlese level Riesling delivers. Its great fruity flavors and freshness hold hands with the jalapeño’s mouthwatering, sour heat which makes for a memorable experience bite after bite.”
Wine: Sparkling Wine
Napa Valley Wine Academy Professor Robert Emery: “It really depends on the toppings, but in general, anything sparkling, from Prosecco to Champagne. A good rule of thumb for pairing is that anything you might think of pairing with beer is a perfect match for sparkling wine. In this case, the bubbles are a great contrast and palate cleanser to the pizza’s creamy cheese. If your pizza has spicy toppings like pepperoni, an off-dry sparkling like Prosecco is ideal.”
Food: Buffalo Wings
Wine: Demi-Sec Vouvray
Head of Wine Vanessa Conlin: “My favorite wine pairing for buffalo wings is a demi-sec Vouvray. The off-dry wine can counter the heat from the buffalo sauce, and Chenin Blanc as a variety has a zingy natural high acidity that refreshes the palate. Another option is to deep-fry the wings and keep the buffalo sauce on the side, which is a way for me to sneak in my favorite fried chicken pairing — Champagne.”
Food: 7-Layer Dip
Wine: Rhône Blends
Napa Valley Wine Academy Professor Robert Emery: “With such a complex array of flavors, it’s smart to reach for a versatile red blend. I like something with a little spice and tannin to play off the fat in the dish, like a Rhône blend. The smokiness can play off the beans, the fruitiness matches the spice in the dip, and in general the flavors work really well together, so as not to distract from your sports-ball game.”
Food: Potato Skins
Master Sommelier Sur Lucero: “Classic Super Bowl food! I hollow mine out pretty well so there is just a thin layer of potato left, and then I reach for gruyere cheese, creme fraiche, and chives. Mine are a bit more elegant than most renditions which is why I reach for vintage Champagne. It’s always this time of year where I find that I have given up beer for a little bit of time, but this doesn’t mean I do not have something bubbly while watching the game! The creamy notes of brioche, toast, and almond from aged Champagne match perfectly with the earthy tones of potato skins, and vibrant lactic quality of creme fraiche. It is an elevated experience for sure!
Wine: Loire Valley Chinon
America’s Sake Expert Eduardo Dingler: “Chili offers a huge range of flavors and textures ranging from spicy to sweet and even smoky, so having a wine with as much character and complexity makes a perfect pairing. Cabernet Franc is an incredibly complex grape, and in the spicy bottles from the Loire Valley, and specifically Chinon, it is a perfect match for Chili. These reds perfectly cuddle the layers of flavor in chili with its unique aromatic characteristics and vibrant structure.”
Food: Chips & Guacamole
Former Ritz Carlton Sommelier Neil Mechanic: “I can’t get enough of chips and homemade guacamole at any party. Bottom line you need a crisp, high acid white to cut through the rich creaminess of the avocado. Having a white with ample fruit components to contrast the hot sauce or salsa you may serve with this party combo. A fruity Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand comes first to mind, but throw a curve in the game plan with a Greek white from the Peloponnese or the island of Santorini. Seek out a spicy Moschofilero grape from Mantinia or an un-oaked Assyrtiko from Santorini that struts heady aromatics, mouthwatering minerality, and salinity.
Food: Pigs in a Blanket or Sausages
Wine: Dry Riesling
Former Ritz Carlton Sommelier Neil Mechanic: “Pigs in a blanket is a party classic that is always a crowd favorite. Whoever came up with wrapping a weiner dog in crescent dough needs to be commended. Up your game by topping the dough with a sprinkle of ‘everything bagel’ seasoning before baking. Reach for a hearty German stone ground mustard and you’re set. Super Bowl gatherings are typically a long party day so making sure you have wines that are light on their feet with low alcohol is a must. I usually reach for a German Riesling for most pork preparations. A high acid Riesling cuts right through the fat and briny texture of the hot dog. The notes of apple and stone fruits have an affinity to the sausage family. Seek out a ‘Trocken’ or dry-Riesling ‘Kabinett’ instead of off-dry or sweet Riesling. You’ll find your guests will appreciate the dryness and it will hold up to condiments better. At 10 to 11% alcohol by volume, you’ll be able to power through the long party day.”