Tailgating is as much a part of attending sporting events as the event itself. And depending on how your favorite team or driver is doing that season, the tailgate can end up being more fun than the game or race itself, too. Remember: Everybody wins in the parking lot.

No matter where in the country you are or what event you are attending, you will always find a wide variety of foods being cooked in many creative ways (the file cabinet pizza oven in Buffalo is one of my favorites). When it comes to drinks, however, the options are fewer, as beer tends to be the tailgating beverage of choice.


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While I enjoy drinking a cold one with burgers and dogs before a game as much as the next fan, I occasionally like to switch things up with delicious bottles of wine paired with classic tailgating foods from the region or city of the event.

Here are four wines for tailgating, including one that features a sausage football. Well, they both come from the same place…

4 winning wine and food pairings for tailgating

Wines for tailgating infograph that shows which wines pair best with which foods.

Wines for tailgating with slices for skirt steak on a cutting board with chimichurri on top.

New York | Ross Lane & Skirt Steak

Take a quick stroll through any pregame parking lot in New York (OK, New Jersey) and you will see a surprising number of fans preparing skirt steaks with all sorts of different marinades, from classic BBQ to carne asada, chimichurri, and teriyaki. The Ross Lane is a great choice here, as its ripe cherry notes and velvety texture leaves plenty of room for the meaty, gamey flavors of the skirt steak to stay in the forefront. It’s also not too heavy oaky, and the vanilla flavors don’t overpower the subtle marinades on the steak.


Wines for tailgating with a pulled pork sandwich.

North Carolina | Pinot Noir & Pulled Pork and Chopped Brisket Sandwiches

The Carolina pulled pork sandwich is one of America’s classic regional dishes, but marinating, seasoning, and cooking a six-pound pork butt for eight hours isn’t for everyone — especially when most parking lots don’t open until five hours before kickoff. Instead, opt for the barbecue pork and brisket collection or, if you want some sides as well, the barbecue meal, which comes with a pound and a half each of pulled pork and chopped brisket, both of which pair wonderfully with pinot noir. The wine has enough body and ripe fruit flavors to stand up to the brisket but also enough acidity to balance out the vinegar-based, tangy flavors of a traditional North Carolina barbecue sauce. For an indulgent twist, throw some mac and cheese on top of the pulled pork for a creamy, salty flavor bomb of a sandwich.

MORE: Pairing wine with BBQ


Wines for tailgating with a closeup of a plate of fish tacos.

Southern California | Sauvignon Blanc & Fish Tacos

Seafood is not the most common tailgate food, but in Southern California you’re bound to see as many fish tacos as you do burgers and dogs, if not more. Tailgate chefs can argue for days about what local fish is best to use for tacos, but halibut and cod are always a safe bet, so why not get both! In terms of pairing, this sauvignon blanc is an excellent choice. The array of citrus flavors helps temper your choice of spices, herbs, and seasoning without overpowering the subtle flavors of the fish, and refreshes your palate for the next bite. For a great side dish that also pairs well with wines for tailgating, try this slightly spicy chorizo queso dip with your favorite chips.


Wines for tailgating with a porterhouse steak on a grill.

Texas | Cabernet Sauvignon & Porterhouse and Ribeye

Texas and steaks are as synonymous a combination as, well, tailgating and football, so this one is a no-brainer. These two bone-in cuts have a bold, meatier flavor and are a key part of the Texas tailgating experience. A good cabernet and bone-in ribeye is easily one of my favorite pairings. The dark fruits up front and earthy, herbaceous undertones of the cabernet blend seamlessly with the flavor of the meat, while the slightly bitter tannins mirror the acrid, charred flavors imparted to the steak from the grill. With the porterhouse, the wine’s rich mouthfeel is a perfect complement to the soft texture of the filet, with the blackberry and black pepper notes helping to elevate the char-grilled flavors of the strip.

Author

David A. Cohen left his former life as a publicist and literary agent to pursue his passion for wine, food, and travel. He is a Level 2 Certified Sommelier and a graduate of the International Culinary Center Intensive Sommelier Training course, and maybe a little too obsessed with wine and food pairing.

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