| Booze |

Five Super Bowl wines that score big

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The Super Bowl ain't exactly designed for wine lovers. Even though wine consumption in the United States is higher than ever, this annual football lovers' celebration (and the vast majority of its commercials) usually revolves around that good old sporting event standby: beer.

Don't get me wrong; beer is great. But from a practical consumption standpoint, aren't you just about ready to float away after even a couple bottles of the sudsy stuff? Whereas with wine, you can avoid that bloated, gassy feeling altogether and feel great (er, maybe a little drunk) after three or four glasses. Look at this year's Super Bowl as the perfect opportunity to shake things up a bit by hosting (or coercing your host to throw) a party where wine is the featured libation.

But if you actually want people to attend your event, you'll have to choose your wines carefully: The variety and type of wines you pour will most assuredly brand you a winner or a loser. Football is a manly sport, so forget about pouring bland, lightweight pinot grigio. No, the spectacle that is the Super Bowl commands that you consume wines worthy of the day: lively, festive, and able to go head-to-head with the hearty, possibly spicy fare you're likely to be grubbing on. Score big points during the biggest sporting event of the year with these five winning wines:

Kenwood Brut Yulupa Sparkling Wine NV ($9): Yeah, you read that right -- there's a sparkling wine on the list. But what other wine starts a party like bubbly? The Kenwood Yulupa could be a metaphor for the entire day: It's truly bursting forth with fun and excitement. Refreshing flavors of Bosc pear edged with a tart lemony crispness make this an ideal match-up for anything fried. Don't be afraid to drink bubbly on Super Bowl Sunday! If you think pouring this wine is too high-falutin', consider these three words: Cheese curds, anyone?

Chateau D'Aqueria Tavel Rosé 2009 ($20): It may be cold out there, baby, but believe it or not, lots of people are starting to jump on the year-round rosé drinking bandwagon, especially when it's one as robust and bone-dry as the Chateau D'Aqueria. This heady blend of big red grapes (mostly grenache, with other Southern Rhone varietals like cinsault, syrah and mourvedre mixed in) is no girly glass of wine. With majorly ripe berry fruit flavors like this, go for a game-day food pairing of herb- or spice-rubbed chicken kebabs with yogurt dipping sauce.

Trig Point Alexander Valley Merlot 2007 ($13): If you're looking for a straight-up crowd pleaser, this is the wine for you. It goes down smooth, this one. With its flavor trifecta of ripe plum, blackberry and tummy-warming spice, it's not overly complex; we're talking about about a 300-thread count wine versus a 900-thread count one. But since you're not trying to seduce anyone, there's really no need to pull out the fancy sheets, right? If burgers are on your Super Bowl menu, you'd better be pouring this wine.

Ercavio Tempranillo Roble 2008 ($9): Don't you just love it when you discover a $10 wine that drinks like a $30 wine? The Ercavio is one of those. The first sip will make you doubt you're drinking the youthful tempranillo that's described on the label, given the mouthfuls of ripe Bing cherry, cola and warm vanilla overtones that practically leap from the glass. Set this one up next to a platter of smoked baby-back ribs, and you've got yourself one rockin' Super Bowl wine pairing.

Las Lajas Malbec 2009 ($9): Oh, Phil Sevier. You never cease to amaze us with your talent for selecting and importing our favorite kinds of wines: cheap and fantastic. How you managed to find this estate-grown and bottled MVP of a malbec is nothing short of a miracle -- which is what everyone wants to experience on Super Bowl Sunday. Rich, with a ton of crushed blackberry fruit flavors and earthy, spicy tobacco leaf aromas, this wine will have you craving a french dip (topped with a mountain of caramelized onions) like never before.

So enjoy the game, but keep one eye on these wines as they're liable to disappear before halftime.

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