Game on?

Score a touchdown with the perfect football-food wines
By RUTH TOBIAS  |  October 30, 2006

Autumn, and the livin’ is easy — at least for you beer buffs. After all, it’s football season; you’ve got your game, your chips and dip, and your tub of choice brews, and you’re set through the new year. Meanwhile, we winos get left out in the cold, yearning from kick-off to OT for nothing so much as a wedge of Brillat-Savarin with a spot of viognier …

But not this year. In the dreary face of another dry spell, I set out on a life-saving — or at least lifestyle-saving — mission: to find wines I could pair with the sort of game-day snacks that, admittedly, go so fabulously with beer. Well, okay — I set out to find experts who could find the wines for me. (We winos are capable of only so much.) Here’s what they had to say.

Silvertone Bar & Grill (69 Bromfield Street, Boston, 617.338.7887) being a mecca for comfort foodies and oenophiles alike, who better to seek out than owner Josh Childs? But since he isn’t around when I stop by, general manager Mary Palmer talks to him for me. Childs-via-Palmer points out that choosing a wine to drink with, say, Buffalo wings isn’t as challenging as you might think: just focus on flavors that either match closely or counter one another completely. For instance, says Palmer, “wings are spicy, so to complement that spice, you might want to select a zinfandel from California or a syrah from the Rhône region of France.” Conversely, “a nice contrast could possibly be a Loire Valley white or a German riesling that would cleanse your palate with each sip.” Okay, I ask, if it’s so easy, what about, say, nachos? “Nachos are another matter,” admits Palmer. “Josh suggests any kind of sparkling wine, be it from California or a French Champagne.” That said, don’t blow your stash on a bottle of Dom just to wash down a mess o’ chips and cheese; think affordable, easy-drinking, lightly sweet sparklers to balance out the salt and spice.

Speaking of spice: in the part of the country I’m from, Oklahoma — where football’s a religion and beef is literally its sacred cow (um, only edible) — thick, jalapeño-spiked chili is the centerpiece of every fall feast. Though you won’t find it on the menu at the brand-new Back Bay brasserie Bouchée (159 Newbury Street, Boston, 617.450.4343), the French are hardly strangers to hearty soups and stews. So I ask beverage manager Bill Earle to rustle up some recommendations. “Well, if we’re talking American wine,” he says, “I’d bring zinfandel because you’d get a rich fruit, and you’d also get some spice to go with the peppers in the chili. It’s higher in alcohol than most wines, so it has good body, which means it holds up against the food. But if we’re talking French wines, I’d go with a grenache-based southern Rhône wine for the same reasons. [The Rhône Valley] tends to be the warmest region in France, so the wines have a little oomph to stand up to strong foods.” (By all means, try this at home — unless home is Oklahoma, where drinking French wine with chili might get you thrown in the back of a pickup and taken to whereabouts unknown.)

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