01/30/2012 11:55 EST | Updated 03/31/2012 05:12 EDT

Sure Bet Wines for Super Bowl Sunday


Football's big day is almost upon us and bars, breweries and television commercial producers have been ramping up for weeks in anticipation. Arguably one of the biggest sporting events around, fans and party goers will spend Feb. 5 perched in front of big screens, a drink in one hand, a fistful of nachos in the other.

Likely, beer will be the beverage of the day with more than 325 million gallons estimated to be consumed in the U.S. alone (we tried to convert that figure to a Canadian litre, but gave up when we hit 10 digits before the decimal). Even though beer has the title for fans' favourite Super Bowl bevvie, there are some solid wine options out there for those not interested in the suds.

First, let's start with the food: Chances are good you're not going to see a sale on ground beef this week as there will be a chili in every football fan's pot next Sunday. Guacamole, hot wings, subs, ribs and pizza are probably all going to factor into the spread in some way as well.

OK. Let's tackle the spicy food. California Zinfandel is a good way to go here as it's a medium to full-bodied wine, without too much tannin (tannin is the mouth-drying stuff found in big red wines and is known to exacerbate heat) full of spicy berry and black pepper notes. It's also fruity and not too heavy, which means it has crowd appeal.

Shiraz can also work for the same reasons as Zin: It's fruity and plush, most people like it and its spicy/peppery notes can compliment spicy food. California's Central Coast/Santa Barbara region has some softer styles that aren't excessively alcoholic. It may seem counter-intuitive for a party, but you want less alcohol when serving spicy food as alcohol, just like tannin, can increase food's heat in a painful way -- not in a fun-loving, hot-wings contest kind of way.

Off-Dry Ontario Riesling is another good pick to help cool the palate and balance a spicy meal. It's also a terrific choice because its racy acidity (the component of wine that makes your mouth water) cuts through the fattiness of a dish. Think about how lemonade and BBQ are such perfect partners down south.

New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc is also a great option. Not only is it popular, but the elevated acidity, just like with Riesling, means it can stand up to spicy food, but its vegetal note makes it an ideal pairing for salsa and veggies and dip.

And don't forget the bubbly. Sparkling wine is perfect with salty foods like chips and popcorn and can also pair with just about anything from creamy dips to fried foods. It may seem an odd choice to serve at such a testosterone fest as Super Bowl Sunday, but as Napoleon once famously said, "I drink champagne when I win, to celebrate... and I drink champagne when I lose, to console myself."