October is a beautiful time in Pennsylvania.
The mountains are ablaze with the changing colors of the forests. Skies are clear and deep blue. It’s a time for comfy flannel, crackling fires and football.
And with everyone’s favorite sport comes the tradition of the tailgate party.
This warm-up to the game has become an elaborate affair of ever-more sumptuous offerings as grill-masters and chefs of all stripes work to impress the fans. What will it take to match and complement such a movable feast? For today’s wine drinker, the choices are better than ever.
The screw cap or Stelvin is one of the latest ways to open and reseal a bottle of wine in a way that does not require a special tool. The downside is that people think the only quaffs wearing these caps are on the bottom rung of the quality ladder. This is not true. Although there are plenty of bottles on the shelves with cute animal labels, more and more serious producers are turning to this modern device. Invented in the mid-1960s, the Stelvin gained popularity in Australia when the cork oak crop failed about two decades later. For the tailgater, it provides access to good wine with the ability to re-close the bottle until more is needed.
What I find amazing is the variety and quality of the wine available. While perusing the aisles at my local FW&GS store, I was pleasantly surprised. From Spain, I found garnacha rosé, red tempranillo and blends of syrah and monastrell, all a match for grilled meats of every type. South Africa showed sauvignon blanc for shrimp and seafood, as well as shiraz and cabernet sauvignon for heavier fair. For those looking for more of a pedigree, there is German riesling and Oregon pinot noir. I see no reason for the party to falter because someone forgot the corkscrew.
Another way to have wine on the tailgate is by purchasing the notorious “bag-in-box.” It may not have the best reputation, although people swear by the convenience and the fact that no wine is wasted. As the liquid flows out, the bag inside recedes, and what remains is not exposed to the effects of air. Sizes of the boxes range from ½-liter up to 3 liters, which is the equivalent of four, regular-sized 750-ml bottles. There are larger boxes, but I don’t recommend these as they don’t have true varietal character and take liberties by naming nondescript West Coast wine after famous regions in Europe. California is well represented with mostly single grapes, red and white. South America is also here, as well as South Africa and Spain. There are some red wines from Italy, but the biggest surprise is that you can find blends from the Bordeaux region, as well as the Rhone Valley.
At your next tailgate party, try some of the most modern ways to enjoy wine and leave the corkscrew at home.
Keep sipping, Steve.