It might be heresy to propose this, but when I'm tailgating before (and, to be honest, during) a football game, I prefer my beverage of choice to be wine, not beer.
I can't be the only one out there with this inclination, so this column is dedicated to you, my group of football fans willing to risk the occasional raised eyebrow to sip as you please.
Naturally, the criteria for a tailgate-appropriate wine is different from my guidelines for regular weekday wines or those for special occasions.
Football-ready wines should be approachable and should not require an in-depth analysis after each sip. These wines should instantly comfort and bring a smile to my face, then quickly allow me to move on to chiding the opponent or heckling other fans.
The choices also should be affordable and typical tailgate food-friendly.
With this criteria in mind -- and knowing that the first glass gets tipped back earlier than most other sipping occasions -- I lean toward bold yet easy-drinking reds that work well with burgers, barbecue and wings, and softer, fuller-bodied varietal (single grape) whites and white blends that show a nice dose of acidity for classic items like chips and creamy dip or guacamole.
Cline, Zinfandel, 2007 CA ($10). This easy-drinking red Zinfandel (not to be confused with blush wines or White Zinfandel) has a gorgeous nose of vanilla due to oak aging, with black cherry and raspberry flavors that will sing with barbecue.
Torbreck "Cuvee Juveniles" 2008, Barossa Valley, Australia ($17). The Grenache, Shiraz, Mouvedre or "GSM" blend lends a baked blueberry nose and raisin, plum and cocoa notes on the palate that are not quite as powerful as many Shiraz from the same region, making it perfect for daytime sipping.
Yellow + Blue Malbec ($12). Made from organic grapes, this Malbec will not only stand up to chewy, meaty textures, but it's incredibly convenient. It comes housed in a soft Tetrapak (think juice box for adults) that's easy to lug around (it weighs less than two pounds) and won't break. Bonus: It has two more glasses of wine in it versus a regular glass bottle, making it great for larger groups. Available at Whole Foods.
Misiones de Rengo, Sauvignon Blanc 2008, Central Valley, Chile ($11). The crisp green apple and lemon-lime notes of this wine are grounded by slate-y minerality. Its hefty dose of acidity balances the creaminess of dips and guacamole. Best served well chilled. Available soon at samswine.com.
Next, Riesling, 2008, Washington State ($12). Slightly sweet and soft nose doesn't overpower. Juicy rush of apricot, melon and lemon zest comes out with a dry finish. This wine is certified organic to boot. Great with fish tacos in addition to salty chips and mango salsa.
Alois Lageder, Pinot Grigio, 2008, Alto Adige, Italy ($17). Tipping the high end of our tailgating wines, this savory Pinot Grigio sets itself apart from mundane, flabby examples of the varietal with its subtle smokiness, bright minerality and slight creaminess.