Food & Drink

For the big game: Drink big bubblies

You’re strategically seated on your battered but accommodating sofa in front of your behemoth flat-screen TV, surrounded by your BFFs and the myriad requisite snacks, and it’s the peak moment of the year — the kickoff of Super Bowl LI.

You pop open your commodious cooler, bravely thrust your hand down into the frigid ice, rummage around and pull out a cold bottle of … bubbly?

Why not? It’s a free country. Be the first in your crowd to throw a football TV party that’s all sparkling wine. That’s sparkling wine, not French Champagne, which might make your BDBs (beer-drinking buddies, male and female) think you’re putting on airs. I’m talking about California sparkling wine, Italian prosecco, Spanish cava — which have all the bubbles but less of the bombast of $80-a-bottle Champagne.

Pro football players love sparkling wine. They even spray each other with it after the game in the winners’ locker room. (Hint: See if you can see the labels on the bottles; I’d love to know the brand.)

The sparkling wine business will thank you for it. They’re always complaining that Americans think bubbly should be consumed only at weddings and New Year’s Eve celebrations.

But the Super Bowl is a celebration, right?

A good celebration. You’re not expected to send greeting cards, give presents. You have license to eat too much bad food, drink responsibly and doze off at the end. A lot like Thanksgiving.

All-bubbly celebrations have precedent. All the fancy fine-dining societies do all-champagne dinners, serving light champagnes with hors d’oeuvres, increasingly weighty champagnes with the soup, fish and meat courses and sweet champagnes with dessert.

It works just as well with chips and dip, chicken wings, barbecued ribs and brownies. You just have to match the right bubbly to each snack. You can pace it quarter by quarter, making it a point to laugh at halftime when TV shows the wimpy light beer commercials. Here’s a snack-by-snack guide:

▪ With chips, pretzels, corn curls, dips from guacamole to artichoke to onion; might serve light, dry, bubbling prosecco.

▪ With cold cuts, cheese plates and quesadillas, a blanc de blancs or brut bubbly made mostly with white chardonnay grapes.

▪ With pulled pork, fried chicken, ribs and such, a blanc de noirs bubbly, which is a white sparkling wine made primarily with the white juice of red grapes.

▪ With the ultimate grilled New York strip, a sturdy, dry rose sparkling wine with enough red juice in it to give it a touch of tannin.

▪ With sweet desserts from brownies to Mississippi mud pie, a fizzy, sweet, red Italian lambrusco.

Super Bowl Bubblies

▪ Nonvintage Lamarca Prosecco DOC, Italy (100 percent glera): soft, lively bubbles, aromas of apricots and lemons, intensely fruity; $17.

▪ Nonvintage Chateau Ste. Michelle Blanc de Blancs sparkling wine, Columbia Valley, Washington (100 percent chardonnay): energetic bubbles, hint of yeast, flavors of citrus and ripe peaches; $11.

▪ Nonvintage Segura Viudas Reserva Cava sparkling wine, Spain (macabeo, parellada, macabeo, xarel-lo grapes): lots of lively bubbles, crisp and lively, floral aromas, quite dry, flavors of green pears, $11.

▪ Nonvintage Gloria Ferrer Sonoma Brut, Sonoma County, California (91.2 percent pinot noir, 8.8 percent chardonnay): lively bubbles, hint of toast, aromas and flavors of just-ripe yellow apples, hint of nuts on finish; $22.

▪ Nonvintage J Vineyards & Winery Russian River Valley Cuvee 20 Brut, Sonoma County (50 percent chardonnay, 49 percent pinot noir, 1 percent pinot meunier): crisp, lively, yeasty and dry, with flavors of citrus and almonds; $38.

▪ Nonvintage Gloria Ferrer Blanc de Noirs sparkling wine, Carneros (92 percent pinot noir, 8 percent chardonnay): powerful bubbles, fruity aromas, flavors of black cherries and vanilla, long finish; $22.

▪ Nonvintage Schramsberg Vineyards Mirabelle Brut Rose sparkling wine, California (53 percent chardonnay, 47 percent pinot noir): zesty bubbles, toasty aroma, red berry flavors, full body, hint of tannin; $30.

▪ Nonvintage Cleto Chiarli Lambrusco sparkling wine, Emilia-Romagna, Italy: bright ruby hue, lightly fizzy, lightly sweet, aromas and flavors of ripe red berries and tropical fruit; $13.

Dear Readers

I want you to know that I am retiring from writing a weekly wine column after 26 years and more than 1,300 columns with tasting notes on 13,000 wines, At my home in northern Michigan, I am developing an appreciation for the area’s burgeoning food and craft beer scenes.

My final column will appear in the Herald on Saturday, Feb. 25.

I thank my readers and editors.

Cheers, Fred Tasker