Tailgating? Think inside the box (or can) when choosing wine
It’s been years since I’ve tailgated at a college football game, but I know that for many people — including, perhaps, you — it’s a fall tradition.
When I think of football, I typically think of eating burgers and chips, and washing things down with beer. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
These days, many tailgaters are going decidedly upscale with their affairs. At some tailgating parties, catered food is served on tablecloths and illuminated by chandeliers. At others, succulent barbecue is being served from mobile smokers. And, at many of these gatherings, there’s more to drink than soft drinks and beer. Wine, it seems, is an increasingly popular option.
Ed Buffington, co-owner of The Community Tap, admits he often gravitates toward beer when tailgating. But as a wine lover, he also appreciates the idea that some people want a nice glass — or plastic cup — of wine while tailgating.
“I turn away from the complicated wines,” he said. “I don’t want to overthink it. You’re focused on the interaction with your friends. You want it to be tasty, and not slow you down.”
Buffington said canned and box wines are great options for tailgating or even for casual game-watching parties. The Community Tap sells canned wine from Underwood (which is made by Union Wine Co. of Oregon) and Alloy Wine Works (a label of Field Recordings) of Paso Robles, California.
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“If it’s an intimate group, get a handful of cans and mix and match. It’s super economical,” he said.”
The Alloy Wine Works cans cost $8. Underwood, which is packaged in more traditionally sized 375 milliliter cans that contain half a bottle of wine, offers a pinot noir, rosé and pinot gris that retail for about $6 each.
“Alloy Wine Works do half-liter cans,” he said. “That’s about two-thirds of a bottle. They offer a rosé, a pinot noir and a full-bodied blend that’s zinfandel based. You can have your full-bodied red without worrying about breaking glass.”
For larger groups, however, box wines are worth considering. And yes, I know what you’re thinking: box wines are bad wines. But that’s simply not true these days.
“I have six different options,” Buffington said of The Community Tap’s selection of box wines, “all of which pass my standards. They’re high quality. They totally fit the bill for tailgating. I have red, white, rosé — anything from light to full bodied. All of my box wines are 3 liters. If you have a big group, boxes are the way to go.”
Buffington cited a Powers cabernet and a Powers chardonnay as two examples. Powers is a Washington state producer that’s known for well-made wines that are solid values. I’ve visited their winery and regularly recommend Powers wines to friends. Buffington sells a box of the cab or chardonnay — which contains the same amount of wine as four bottles — for $30.
“It’s high-quality wine in a box,” Buffington said. “If you buy Powers cab it is $14.99 a bottle, so I can get you the same amount of wine for half the price.”
And then there’s the convenience: no corks, no corkscrews and no glass. When the wine is gone, crush the box and throw it away.
Buffington said two of his more popular box wines are La Nevera, a Spanish wine, and Sant’Evasio, which is imported from Italy.
The La Nevera, which is produced from organically grown grapes in the Rioja region of Spain. It retails for $25, and because of its lighter body, is a great choice for tailgating, he said.
“They do a white and a red,” Buffington said. “It’s effectively a rioja.”
Because the regulatory council of Rioja does not allow any trademark from the region to be connected with a box-wine bottling, however, Rioja does not appear on the label.
Looking for something even less expensive? The Sant’Evasio, which is 100 percent barbera, costs $20.
“It’s legit,” Buffington said. “It’s got a DOC sticker — a government issued seal of quality — on the box. They make a white blend as well that’s similar to pinot grigio.
Now that we know canned and box wines are legit, what’s the best varietal to bring to the party?
“I think rosé is the winner for me,” Buffington said. “You can drink it cold. You can drink it cool. It’s versatile. Fried chicken and rosé? That’s a winner right there. A happy tailgater.”
For those who insist on a red, Buffington suggests lighter options like pinot noir. For the white wine drinker, go for pinot gris.
“The Underwood pinot gris,” he said. “Everyone seems to like that one.”