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Wines for Tailgating

young couple enjoying wine at a tailgateWhile tailgate parties often conjure up images of burgers, brats and beer, why shouldn't wine be a part of the party, too? After all, wine has now surpassed beer as America's alcoholic beverage of choice. According to one study, by the end of the decade, America may even surpass France in wine consumption.

And so it follows: Shouldn't America's favorite sipper be on the menu at the quintessential American party?

Safety First

However, before you grab some bottles off the shelf, be sure to grab a designated driver-tailgates by definition require cars and driving, so keep it safe. Also grab plenty of non-alcoholic options, as partying in the parking lot has a way of making one thirsty, and wine simply isn't meant for gulping to quench thirst.

The only question is: which wine to take to the tailgate? This depends on your tailgating style. A few suggestions:

Zinfandel for Grillmasters

Whether you bring a simple little hibachi or go all out with fancy grills with all the bells and whistles, chances are you'll have some beef and pork sizzling over the coals. Red Zinfandel will go particularly well with such meaty, robust foods. Dark, thick and rich with berries and spice, fuller-bodied versions of this wine particularly sing with anything slathered in barbecue sauce.

Zinfandel also has the distinction of being an all-American wine-few countries outside the U.S. produce it. The wine's pleasant richness and heft will go best as the weather cools. Bring on the Zin when you pull out the sweaters.

Shiraz for Chips, Dips, Sandwiches and More

Like Zin, Shiraz (also known as Syrah), will go great with anything hot off the grill; however, it's also a smart choice to bring to a potluck-style gathering when the menu will be anyone's guess! That's because Shiraz is one of the food-friendliest reds around. Its tantalizing berry-fruit flavors and peppery-spice notes mesh well with all kinds of party foods, from chili and pizza to hoagies and potato chips.

Shiraz has the added benefit of being available in boxes. This style of packaging means lots of good news for tailgaters: Boxes take up less space than bottles and are much more portable, plus they're practically unbreakable and offer terrific value for the money.

Fancy Sippers for Fancy Foods

It's true-there's plenty of gourmet action going on at tailgates these days. If your style is more about world-class cheeses, high-end charcuterie and one-of-a-kind salads than about flipping burgers, a sparkling wine might just be in order. Yet this isn't the time to pull out the French Champagne (you'll want to be able to afford gas for the ride home, after all!). Instead, reach for Cava, a sparkling wine from Spain, or Prosecco, an Italian bubbly. Both are much less expensive than their French cousins.

Most sparkling wines buddy up beautifully with a variety of foods, and Cava and Prosecco are no exceptions. Reach for Cava if you like a more traditional, brut-style sparkling wine—it's toastier and drier than Prosecco, which can often be lighter and fruitier.