As fall and winter approach, so does the non-stop entertaining. Whether it’s packing the grill up for a tailgate or furiously prepping the house for your Sunday football viewing parties, the food is the easy part: burgers, dogs, BBQ, wings, and dips. But what if guzzling down packs of light beer isn’t your thing? When we think tailgate, wine isn’t usually the first beverage of choice. However, there are fantastic, delicious and great value bottles, cans (!), and boxes that are perfect to accompany your food and take care of the crowd. Plus, boxed wine and cans are some of the best enclosures out there, keeping oxygen completely out until they’re opened. They’re the most sustainable packaging available for the environment and for your party.

Can It

First, yes, there are delicious canned wines out there. They’re perfect for taking to tailgates or just to stock the fridge for guests as an alternative to beer. They still have the same great taste you’d find in a bottle as long as you pick the right can. A favorite: Alloy Wine Works out of California. Winemaker Andrew Jones is focused on creating balanced wine, regardless of whether it’s in a bottle or can. He finds outpost vineyards throughout California and hand harvests his grapes with care. His canned chardonnay, pinot noir, and “everyday rosé” are juicy, fresh, and everything you want packed into a 500-milliliter tall boy. One important thing with canned wine, though, is to look for cans that are vintage dated, meaning it says right on the label when those grapes were harvested. That way you know exactly what you are getting and nobody is sliding you a mixture of bottoms of old tanks that they couldn’t sell from years past. Archer Roose is another smaller sized can that fits the bill. The rosé from Provence and the sauvignon blanc from Chile are both perfect for that crisp, refreshing flavor that you can throw in your koozie and sip from your couch while watching the big game.

Box It Up

If canned wine isn’t going to be enough for your group, and you need something that will take you from the coin flip to the last play, grab a box. One delicious value is the Carussin “Asinoi” Barbera d’Asti that comes in a neatly packed, 3-liter box, and is a bright, balanced red that will match a variety of foods. Barbera is one of the most versatile red wine grapes in the world, and will go with anything from your burger to your spinach dip.

Still not enough? The 5-liter Centorame Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo box is a rosé that will please any white or red wine lover. It’s a bit darker than other rosés, made from the Italian Montepulciano red grape, but has the zip and crushability of your favorite white wine with the same red berry flavors as your favorite red. It’s economical, delicious, and conveniently kept in your cooler or fridge with a self-serve tap for refills.

Now, the Party Pairings

Besides the amazing alternative packaged wines that are out there, sometimes you just want to get a great bottle of wine that will go with your nachos—a perfectly reasonable request. Here’s some great go-to pairings for some of our favorite tailgating, party, and bar food.

Hamburgers: When you go to pick out a companion, focus on the toppings. A traditional bacon cheeseburger? Go with something a little heavier like a cabernet or a Malbec. The Broadbent Malbec comes in a liter-sized bottle and is filled with blackberry fruit and is perfect for beef. It has enough body to stand up to that cheesy bacony goodness since it’s adorned with a softer finish that’s perfect for a crowd.

Hot Dogs: Think of the origin of the hot dog—sausages. One of the main rules of pairing is “if it grows together it goes together,” meaning you pair regional cuisine with regional wines. Sausages make me think of Germany, and although it’s tempting to pair them with an ice-cold beer, a German or Austrian Riesling is your go-to here. If you’re putting some spicy mustard or sauerkraut on top, find a Riesling with a little bit of sweetness for balance, like the Kruger-Rumpf Feinherb. If you’re loading up your dog with some peppers and onions, go with a dry style like the Leitz “Eins Zwei Dry” or the Tegernseerhof “Terrassen.”

Nachos: Cheese, black beans, tomatoes, lettuce, guacamole, sour cream—these are all tough ingredients to pair altogether, but that’s what Grüner is for. This Austrian grape makes one of the best white wines for pairing with virtually anything you can think of. It’s fruity, dry, crisp and refreshing, and often comes in a liter-sized bottle. Try the Mantlerhof “Gutswein” liter. It’s zippy, clean and will pair with whatever 7-layer loaded nachos you’re offering up.

Pulled Pork: Rosé! Yes, rosé can be served even in the fall. It’s a year-round beverage that never disappoints, especially when it comes to some BBQ. Try a version that’s a little heavier for the season: the Tegernseerhof Zweigelt rosé or the Amido Tavel are both delicious and have some darker berry flavors and a crispness perfect for your sandwiches, ribs, or even brisket, no matter which style sauce you lean toward. Another great option is a red Zinfandel like the one from the Camp Wine Company.

Wings: If you’re all about the buffalo sauce and the spice, grab something with a little bit of sweetness. Spice needs sugar to balance it and the last thing you want with all of that heat is a high-alcohol red to set your mouth on fire. The Meinklang “Prosa” Frizzante pinot noir is a game-changer. Fizzy, cold, and juicy red cherry and strawberry flavors make this a delicious option for mild to hot wings, even with barbecue sauce.

Dips: If you’re like me, most dips I make require at least a little bit of cream cheese. If it doesn’t, is it even a dip? Something with a little bit of body, but also a little bit of acidity to cut through the cheese is necessary. Think of an unoaked, crisp chardonnay or even a chenin blanc. Adi Badenhorst’s “Secateurs” Chenin out of South Africa is a great value with good apple and pear flavors that are crowd-pleasing and something new for your friends and family to try. It even has a halfway mark on the label to make sure your mate drinks their fair share of the bottle!
At your next tailgating or get-together, remember to celebrate with your favorite wine in a can, bottle or box. It’ll sure to be a game changer that the fans will love.

Liz Olivieri is the manager of the Raleigh Wine Shop. Let us know how we can help you find your perfect wine for any occasion here: