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Sportis Vinifera

This week’s sports frenzy presents an issue for me, as I believe the closest I’ve ever been to a tailgate party involved a bad parking spot, mistaken identity, and a pack of Johnsonville Brats. It wasn’t pleasant for anybody involved. As such, I figured I would take this opportunity to digress from my normal shtick and pursue one of life’s greatest questions. One that has haunted the dream of scholars and poets alike: If a sport were a grape variety, which one would it be?

Football – Nebbiolo: Nebbiolo can be extremely harsh and aggressive. It’s acidic, tannic, angry and probably abuses horse hormones. Moreover, it takes longer to harvest, spends more time in oak, and needs more time in the bottles than a lot of other grapes. Anybody who has had to sit through four hours of commercials interrupted by brief bursts of football can tell you a lot about patience like that.

Soccer – Cabernet Sauvignon: It is everywhere. It’s been in Europe for millennia, it’s huge in South America, South Africa, and Australia, and has been embraced by a large and vocal community here in the US.  If aliens were to come to earth and ask what our planetary sport is, we would have to say soccer. If they ask what our red wine is, it’s clearly Cab. It can be stunningly balanced and nuanced one moment; it can headbutt you in the chest the next.

Baseball – Zinfandel: Zinfandel made its way over to America in the mid 1850s, just around the same time baseball experienced a meteoric rise to prominence as the sport of the nation. It can be spicy, it can be over the top, and sometimes it can be accused of being a tad bit laborious. But just as baseball holds ancient roots in French games like la balle au baton, Zinfandel can trace its heritage back to the dawn of winemaking in Croatia.

Golf – Pinot Grigio: Big with retirees. It bores me to tears. You’ve no idea how hard I tried to work a Tiger Woods joke in here, but I can’t come up with anything. Ten bucks of Lot18 credit for whoever comes up with the best one in the comments.

Tennis – Chardonnay: A real crowd pleaser around the globe. Some of us find it skull-smashingly boring; some of us find it rapturously complex and dynamic. No matter which side you fall on, there is no doubt that Chardonnay isn’t going anywhere. Neither is tennis.

Olympic Swimming – Merlot: It is easy to dismiss for some, but anybody who has enjoyed Right Bank Bordeaux knows that this grape can be muscular, graceful, and downright sexy. Watch underwater footage of someone doing the backstroke, or look at Michael Phelps’ iconic screaming photo and you’ll get a pretty good idea of what grace and power look like. It is also rumored that Paul Giamatti hates swimming.

Basketball – Sauvignon Blanc: Zingy, dynamic, and exciting, what this pair lacks in geographical proximity they make up for in pure volatility. At their best, they exemplify high energy, fast-paced coordination. At their worst they throw chairs and give you heartburn.

So there you have it. Mystery solved. With this newfound information we can feed the hungry, cure the sick, and my editor will stop throwing bottle caps at the back of my head. The more observant among you will notice that I’ve left out some pretty important grapes. What sport do you think best suits Pinot? Riesling? What grape goes with curling? The people demand answers.  

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