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Gridiron Wines 

by Christina Kelly & r & & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & W & lt;/span & ine is not the traditional beverage that comes to mind when watching the Super Bowl. In fact, it seems like a collision of food cultures -- where spicy chicken wings, beer nuts, pizza, chips and chili meet foie gras, crostinis, creamy cheeses, Greek olives and tuna tartar.





Most Super Bowl foods are easy to fix and don't require precise measurements: a cascade of cheese on the tortilla chips, a few onions, a little tomato, some chopped cilantro, shredded chicken, maybe a spoonful of refried beans, and voila -- you have nachos.





Surprisingly, many game-day snack foods work well with wine. Nothing pairs with salty chips or spicy wings better than a refreshingly zesty sauvignon blanc like Lone Canary, dry-style riesling from Chateau Ste. Michelle, or sparkling wine from Mountain Dome. Bold spicy foods with big smoky tomato flavors -- like chili, enchiladas or burritos -- require a wine with body, good fruit and enough acid to give the food some pizzazz. With those foods, think medium-bodied merlot or zinfandel or young Chianti Classico.





A football-watching party is not the time to dust off that bottle of vintage Bordeaux or the cult California cabernet sauvignon -- game-day snacks are fairly simple food, so simple and inexpensive wines work well. Just keep in mind that the bolder (spicier) the food, the greater the wine-pairing challenge. Many of the snack foods and wine pairings will fall into the category of "kind-of works." However, when in doubt, don't punt -- serve sparkling wine. You might find your guests taking notice of more than just the football game when you connect with the right combination.





The bottom line is to have fun and serve the types of food and wine you like. We've selected six snack foods typically served at Super Bowl parties and provided wine recommendations.





Guacamole: The best wine selection depends on the spiciness of the guacamole. For the milder version, a crisp sauvignon blanc with tropical fruit flavors and maybe a little herbaceous lift works well. If there is something like chicken paired with the guacamole, a fruiter pinot noir also compliments the dish, although try to use tortilla chips with less salt. If the guacamole is spicy, go for an off-dry riesling.





Chili: If you keep your chili on the fairly mild side, plenty of wines will cozy up to a simmering bowl, although this is one of those "kind-of works" pairings. Bold wines and delicate wines do not blend well with chili. Go for something with good acids to match the acidity of the tomatoes. A sangiovese, such as one from Zefina or Arbor Crest, works well, since the varietal comes in different weights, from light to heavy-bodied. A somewhat sweeter zinfandel can match the spice of the chili -- Rancho Zabaco Sonoma County Zinfandel will carry you into the end zone. If white is your delight, try something like Beringer Napa Valley Chardonnay -- it works and your white wine-only guests will appreciate it.





Potato chips: With the salt, your best bet is sparkling wine or a Prosecco (Italian sparkling wine). The bubbles cut through the salt and add a little effervescence in the mouth. However, since there are so many flavored potato chips, try an Australian or California shiraz with the salt-and-pepper chips to match the spiciness of the pepper. For something like cheesy-flavored Doritos, go with a medium and fruity zinfandel -- look for Maryhill Zinfandel. If you go wild with flavors (jalape & ntilde;o chips and such), stick with sparkling wine or Champagne.





Nachos: Tough call on this, since people put all kinds of toppings on tortilla chips -- from chicken to beef, jalape & ntilde;os to onions, and all types of cheese. If the peppers are on the side, start with a bold Walla Walla syrah. Whether chicken or beef, a medium-style pinot noir could also work, although steer clear of the lighter pinots. If the nachos have beans, cheese, tomatoes and beef, go for a slurpy zinfandel, and the juicier the better. This is football -- you can spill and slurp.





Buffalo wings: As much as you might be tempted, very few red wines can make a spicy chicken wing sing. You have tomato sauce, hot sauce and the chicken all competing with the wine. The pink sweet wines like white zinfandel or the sweet Lambrusco cut the spice and are low in alcohol for your partygoers. If you dip the spicy wings in either ranch or blue cheese dressing, you have another flavor profile to work with. Serve a Washington riesling or gew & uuml;rztraminer, such as offerings from Chateau Ste. Michelle, if your wings are red hot. You could try a chardonnay, such as Townshend Cellars -- it tempers the heat and can stand up to the blue cheese.





Pizza: Toppings, toppings, toppings -- the key to the right wine is what's on top of the pie. You hear the term "pizza wine," which generally means a simple swill with no particular distinction. You can have a terrific wine as long as it is reasonably low in acidity and has lots of fruit. The temptation here is to serve Italian wine, and a light Chianti or a Dolcetto d'Alba would work. However, you can get the same synergy with a Washington sangiovese, cabernet franc, nebbiolo or especially a medium-weight zinfandel. Watch the alcohol levels, since high-octane wines will bury the flavors of the pizza. If your pizza tastes steer you in the direction of garlic sauce with chicken, consider an Oregon pinot gris. For a vegetarian pizza, go for an herbaceous sauvignon blanc that can take the green peppers. A great combination will score big points for your guests -- maybe even more than in the Super Bowl itself.

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