You don't have to be a football fan to enjoy a Super Bowl party. You don't even have to be intrigued by the question of which Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman will show up on Sunday – the gasket-blowing post-NFC Championship guy, or the one who charmed the world (or at least us) Monday night on MSNBC's All In With Chris Hayes? (Maybe both.) Super Bowl Sunday is also a national holiday for those who love friends, shouting, beer and television.
In honor of this, we check in with Lou Amdur of Lou Provisions & Wine, who has some unexpected thoughts about what is appropriate to drink while watching the Broncos and Seahawks battle it out on Sunday, Feb. 2, in New Jersey.
Squid Ink: When we think of Super Bowl-watching parties, we think of beer-drinking, beer commercials and empties everywhere.
Lou Amdur: Hell, I am the last person to ask about beer. First, I'm not into hoppy beer – I like hefeweizen and sour ales. No, wait, I LOVE sour ale. Also anything from the Loirette brewery. I don't like beer with a lot of crap added to it. I like beer that tastes like beer. Lambic ales are great, but they typically have just one flavor added to them.
LA: There are a couple of ciders to look for. One is the FUCKING FANTASTIC pear cider from Ciderie de Vulcain (Switzerland). Any of the Cyril Zangs ciders are also highly recommended.
SI: Your voice suddenly got excited the way football fans do when their team scores.
LA: I am picturing a bucket of fried chicken in front of me, between my mouth and the TV, and then there's this crisp, dry, slighty tannic cider in my clammy hands.
SI: A gastric touchdown, indeed. What's another great cider?
LA: Tilted Shed Ciderworks' Graviva! That's from Sonoma, all Gravenstein apples.
SI: Can you describe the taste of that?
LA: Malic-tart, fruity, off dry, fizzy. Like an adults-only Gravenstein apple.
SI: What's the perfect low alcohol wine for sports-watching?
LA: Anything from Teutonic Wine Co. I don't know if there's any of their Pinot Meunier still in stock in L.A., but if you can find that, grab it. Ricardo Zanotto's sparkling glera. Sort of a rustic- style Prosecco.
LA: Seek out a Prosecco col fondo. That's a Prosecco bottled with the lees (fragments of the yeast). Dry, complex, looks like a hefewiezen. Kinda operates like a crisp lager, a little bitter. A couple other low alcohol wines to look for. Trollinger, from Andi Knauss – find the cheap liter bottling. Failing that, his Lemberger is great, if slightly higher in alc. Super juicy, not tannic.
SI: What's something you could bring to drink that fits in with the tense, explosive, yet celebratory mood?
LA: Something that's simple, fresh, and undistracting, but also ludic and jubilant. Cà de Noci's “Sottobosco” fits that bill – it's a fresh, fizzy wine that works well with fatty food, made from traditional Lambrusco grapes.
SI: Is there such a thing as a wine that shows solidarity for your team be it the Broncos or the Seahawks? Sort of like painting your face, but as expressed by wine.
LA: Broncos – how about a red wine that's low alcohol and a little horsey?
SI: Um, horsey?
LA: Not horse sweat, but more fresh, sweet horse, nuzzling the carrot in your fingers. Grolleau – for full-on horse, a grolleau from Olivier Cousin. Less horsey is Jo Pithon's Grololo. Both from France's Loire Valley, both low alc. Grolleau is an old Loire variety much despised by Robert Parker. The wine that it was historically used for, Rose de Anjou, is a fresh, sweet wine that is probably considered a granny wine today, and so a lot of vigneron are grafting over this now unfashionable grape – but it's capable of making lovely, rustic dry red wines, and really deserves to be preserved.
SI: And a wine for a Seahawks fan? There are lots of nice wineries in the Pacific Northwest, no?
LA: You know, I saw a sea hawk a few months ago perched on a tree around the Silver Lake reservoir. I had no idea how large these beautiful birds are. I'm going to suggest something saline and briney, in honor of this bird. A couple of dry, salty white wines: first, Marc Olliver's basic Muscadet – it's about $14. Great, crisp dry white, low alc, good with seafood and oysters, of course, but also with almost anything fried. It's grown near the Atlantic, where the Loire river empties out to the sea, so it picks up a saline character – not from the sea itself but probably from the coolness of the region.
SI: Can we pair some wines with Super Bowl snacks? For example, what goes well with buffalo wings?
LA: The wing is spicy-savory, and the dip has blue cheese in it, which is lactic and tangy, so it's already a complex, complete flavor. I might suggest a fresh, off-dry Cerdon du Bugey rosé from Renardat-Fâche.
SI: How about Ruffles potato chips and the kind of dip that is made with sour cream and Lipton's Onion soup mix?
LA: A couple of thoughts: One is a dry Mosel riesling, or even one with a bit of sweetness – kabinett level – something from Clemens Busch, who looks like he could be a linebacker himself, but one from the set of Game of Thrones. Mosel riesling – good minerality and acidity, so it's refreshing with the oil of the chips and the fatty lactic tang of the sour cream dip. The other would be one of Christophe Foucher's wines, maybe his Rossingoux sauvignon blanc. But the caveat there is you want to give that wine some air – not a good pop and pour wine.
SI: Duly noted.
LA: Wait I have another thought – the chardonnay Le Fleurs from Labet. That might be easier to find – real nutty tasting, not bizarre – chardonnay grown on white marl.
SI: White marl?
LA: Wait, the Rebula from Kabaj – that's the ticket! Somehow, that just works for the flavor of dehydrated onion.
SI: The Rebula from Kabaj? Is that another Game of Thrones reference?
LA: It's real. It's a lovely wine and one that Robert Parker hates. Very traditionally made. From the queen of Slovenian white grapes, rebula – known as ribolla across the border in Italy – crushed, and then spends 30 days on the skins, so it's a light amber in color.
SI: Recently, we were at a new restaurant in Beverly Hills. There, we asked put the same question we are essentially asking you – “What's a nice thing to drink at a Superbowl party?” – to the restaurant's incredibly helpful somm. He replied without pause, “Champagne!”
LA: Champagne – isn't that the gut reflex for everyone?
SI: Is that a bad thing?
LA: I love Champagne, but (a) it's not inexpensive, at least the kind you want to put in your mouth and (b) really, Champagne and the Super Bowl?
LA: You're not going to be focusing on the wine. And, a good grower Champagne really deserves your focus. Waste of money for that context. Unless you have pinky drinking friends who scream into their hankies.