Wined Down: Does Wine Have A Place In Football Tailgating?

Vinted on December 12, 2012 binned in Wined Down (

My vote is “YES.”  It is possible, people – it’s just a bit tricky and, like going up against the better NFL defenses, requires careful planning. Wine can work at a tailgate party. I’m trying to stay interested this season, despite the Steelers’ lagging playoff run hopes. And yes, I realize that we lost to the Browns this season. Still trying to deal with that one…

Anyway… wine + tailgate requires a strategy because, as anyone who has ever braved freezing cold stadium parking lots can attest, beer has an all but complete lock on tailgating festivities. I happen to love beer, but I don’t think that should mean that wine never sees the fun of a good tailgate. To get an insider perspective on all of this, I recently got some time in with former NFL rookie sensation Rick Mirer during wich we talked wine, football, and the tailgate for my latest Wined Down column for

Why talk to Mirer? He is uniquely positioned at the intersection of wine and American football; after he left his journeyman career in the NFL, he started up a Napa wine label and a charitable foundation for children’s health and education. He seems to be a pretty nice guy; at least he didn’t hang up the phone when I told him I was a die-hard Steelers fan (“hey, I appreciate loyalty,” he told me when I asked him if my cheering for an NFL team that was one of his staunchest rivals was a deal-breaker for our conversation). And yes, I know we lost to the Browns this season, okay?!??

Anyway… For the record, Mirror makes a fairly complex and hefty Cabernet Sauvignon (I enjoyed the 2008, but its rich, dense and chocolaty style is better encountered at the steakhouse than on the back of an SUV outfitted for a tailgate party); their 2010 Sauvignon Blanc won’t be mistaken for Sancerre anytime soon, but does the Napa SB thing pretty well, and has a nice acidic line to carry the low-hanging, ripe tropical fruits.

Personally, I’ve had success with both inexpensive and pricier screw-capped wines at the tailgate (cork extraction – and corked wines! – are both generally a bit of a buzz kill in the parking lot) as well as with Tawny Port (paired with stogies) in post-victory, wait-for-the-cars-to-thin-out environs.

How about you? Have you pulled off wine successfully at a tailgate party? Or should we all just stick with beer and forget about it? Shout it out in the comments!






  • Char

    Well, its all about preference, but having said that and being the wine lover that I truly am, (and beer for that matter), I gotta say there is nothing like a really good brewski (or two or…..) with football. It just makes sense. Wine, I just can't put the two together.

    • 1WineDude

      Char – I hear you. I’m also gonna grab beer first at the tailgate. BUT… it *can* be done. I have done it successfully! :) Usually with screwcapped wines (less hassle), cheap plastic glasses or those plastic tulip tumblers, and especially Tawny Port (with stogies for those who smoke them).

      • masi3v

        "Usually with screwcapped wines (less hassle), cheap plastic glasses or those plastic tulip tumblers, and especially Tawny Port (with stogies for those who smoke them). "

        Um, where were those a few weeks ago? Just askin'…

        • 1WineDude

          Mask – went conventional since we had a lot of time the night before the STEELERS sent the Eagles on their losing streak :-) And we did have Port (just not Tawny)…

      • Char

        OK, speaking of screwcapped wines….where can one find a decent Cabernet….screwcap-wise? I haven't found one yet. What am I doing wrong? Any recommendations?

        Plastic glasses… really? Nooooooooo

        • 1WineDude

          Char – it's the shape that matters, but if you're bringing really good juice then I'd go glass. As for screwcapped Cabs, some high-end wines have gone there but they're very pricey. For tailgating I'd go with something like Crios who I think do a decent Cab or Cab blend under screwcap.

  • masi3v

    While I do not tailgate all that much, when I do, I only have a beer or two since they tend to make me feel bloated (who wants to spend the whole damn game running to the can?). I have ventured into another beer dominated arena with wine, though–the monthly poker game. I caught a little heat for it initially, but the guys started coming around when I broke out some of the good stuff….

    • 1WineDude

      Masi – and you have some pretty good stuff, my man!

  • MyrddinGwin

    You could potentially go with Champagne. As several people, including Sir Winston Churchill, have said in some way or another, "In victory, deserve it; in defeat, need it."

    • @fatcork

      Champagne is right for ANY occasion, especially a tailgate party!! You can serve the cheap stuff with OJ before the game, and break out the good stuff with goat cheese to wrap up the after game party!

      • 1WineDude

        @fatcork – There's cheap stufff?!??? :)

      • Char

        Just had my first taste of Champagne with Creme de Cassis…..amazing and very doable for game day.

        • 1WineDude

          Char – interesting. Haven’t tried that yet. But I did go for mimosas with leftover vintage Dom once…

          • MyrddinGwin

            Adding Crème de Cassis to a glass of white wine that's been in the refrigerator a day or two too long can make a tired wine really enjoyable again, and can help prevent any open wine from going to waste. It's a variation on the Kir cocktail from Burgundy, which traditionally used cheap Aligoté wines. Using Champagne as the base wine makes the cocktail a Kir Royale. Substituting the cassis with a raspberry liqueur in a Kir Royale makes a Kir Impérial.

            • 1WineDude

              MyrddinGwin- okay, I know what I'm doing this weekend now! :)

  • 1WineDude

    MyrddinGwin – nothing says "we are victorious and superior to our challengers in every conceivable way" than Champers :).

    • MyrddinGwin

      And in sadder cases than victory, discreetly opening it and pouring it into a plastic beer cup not only signals deep depression from the situation, but it also contains roughly twice as much alcohol as the same amount of beer.

      • 1WineDude

        MyrddinGwin- Good point… :)

  • Steve Howe

    Boxed wine is a great choice at a tailgate party…..served in plastic cups of course!

The Fine Print

This site is licensed under Creative Commons. Content may be used for non-commercial use only; no modifications allowed; attribution required in the form of a statement "originally published by 1WineDude" with a link back to the original posting.

Play nice! Code of Ethics and Privacy.

Contact: joe (at) 1winedude (dot) com





Sign up, lushes!

Enter your email address to subscribe and get all the good stuff via email.

Join 36,926 other subscribers