Tailgating has come a long way since my introduction to it in the mid-1980s at Indiana University, where our focus was beer, beer and more beer! Beer will always have a special place at tailgating parties, but with shows such as “Top Chef” encouraging us to embrace our inner “master chef,” I challenge you to include wine at your next tailgating party. The wines listed below all have a freshness and balance that makes them the perfect choice, whether standing alone or paired with your favorite tailgating cuisine.
What I love about some of my favorite white wines is that their taste makes me feel like I am biting into a piece of fruit. Wines that do this usually are unoaked or only sit in oak for a short time. I am talking about flavor here, with aromas and tastes such as citrus, apple and pear.
My first recommendation is a wine called Burgans Albariño, from Northwestern Spain, in an area called Galicia. Burgans (named after high hillside vineyards) has an amazing floral nose with flavors of tangerine-type citrus fruit. This Albariño is fermented and aged in stainless steel to preserve its natural lift and the minerality of the grapes.
My second suggestion is Domaine Lafage Côté Est, a wickedly good French blend composed mostly of Grenache Blanc and Grenache Gris with Chardonnay and Marsanne. It comes from an area in southern France called the Roussillon, one of the oldest viticultural areas in France, known for its vines that were cultivated by the Romans. Featuring some of the same orange notes found in the Burgans Albariño, this wine includes a lime zest and a spicy edge with white pepper and fennel.
Try pairing both of these wines with a salad or seafood dish of choice. Each wine also goes great with your favorite spicy tailgating snacks.
Pink Wines (aka Rosé Wine)
Don’t be afraid of pink wines! Rosés are a perfect fit for tailgating, as they can hit that combination of red wine flavor with the crispness and tartness of a white. I recommend Les Jamelles Cinsault as a fine rosé option this fall. Made using a grape common throughout southern France, this wine is grown mostly in Nimes, which is close to an area called Tavel, known for classic rosé wines. The wine is bursting with strawberry and raspberry flavors and is extremely versatile in its ability to pair with an array of foods, from seafood to barbecue.
How about a couple of wines to work with those grilled burgers and sausages?
Chono Elqui Syrah will bring out the best in those wonderful smoky flavors from the grill. This wine is from the Elqui Valley in Northern Chile. Located between the edge of a desert and the Pacific Ocean, the grapes are exposed to extreme climate changes daily with very warm days and exceptionally cool nights. This Syrah has classic aromas of spicebox and blueberry with a nicely balanced flavor of dark fruit components.
Finally, Laurel Glen Winery in California makes a fantastic red blend called Reds – perfect for all you Cardinal fans. This wine comes from Estate Lodi fruit, composed of Zinfandel, Carignan and Petite Sirah. Lodi, in the interior of California near the Sacramento River Delta, is home to many vineyards planted in the late 1800s by pioneers. The fruity weight of the Zinfandel is tempered by the spiciness of the Carignane, and the Petite Sirah gives this wine depth and backbone. It is a classic wine for grilled meats and barbecue.
All of these suggested wines retail for between $10 and $15 and are available at your favorite local wine shops, including Old Town Wine and Spirits, 1529 Bardstown Road, and The Wine Market, 1200 Bardstown Road.
Kevin Lowber is a sales representative at Vintner Select, a wine distributor dedicated to bringing fine quality wines from around the world to Kentucky, Ohio and Indiana.