Bringing Wine to the World Cup
by Sao Anash
My father and I have been exchanging emails about FIFA’s World
Cup Soccer. I was born in the Azores Islands, about 800 miles off
the coast of Portugal, on one of the smaller islands named
Terceira. Soccer is our island’s collective sport of choice.
My father grew up playing soccer with the boys in his village.
For my father and his friends, and for even my generation, soccer
is a transcendent game; it is at times dangerous and brutal, and at
other times as graceful as ballet. When two teams are well matched,
the game is consistently riveting. The level of physicality and
movement in soccer, paired with the national pride felt in the
beating heart of each die-hard soccer fan for his or her team of
choice, makes soccer one of the most widely appreciated and beloved
sports in the world. So, World Cup Soccer is a time for celebration
for many nations around the world, and certainly for many immigrant
communities throughout the United States.
Beer is a great beverage. I love all kinds of beer, and find
that I drink them mostly during the summer. But, for this
Portuguese girl, my beverage of choice for World Cup Soccer is red
Perhaps it’s due to the muscularity of the game, coupled with
the sometimes delicate movements of a player’s feet or head that I
find myself gravitating toward the syrahs in my cellar when World
Cup Soccer season rolls around. Like soccer, a good syrah is a
dance of opposites: it can be at once massive and almost
animalistic, with bacon fat and leather on the nose, while still
exhibiting much delicacy and elegance, with violets, white pepper,
and rose nuances emerging in the glass.
We are lucky here, in the southern Central Coast, to be
surrounded by so many great local and Central Coast-based syrahs.
Between Santa Barbara County and Paso Robles, one finds many
compelling, delicious syrahs from which to choose, and, for the
most part, they are all much more affordable than a cult cabernet
from Napa Valley, but I would argue that they are, despite varietal
differences, just as interesting and satisfying to drink.
Take, for instance, the 2004 Hug Cellars, Bassetti Vineyard
Syrah (hugcellars.com), which was born to be paired with a
convivial gathering of friends and a great soccer match. The nose
on this wine provides ample notes of espresso, bacon fat,
brambleberry, smoky meats, crème de cassis, and sage. It is
luscious and generous, with underlying elegant tannins. This is the
perfect wine for true syrah lovers, and, at $40 a bottle, it can
almost be considered affordable when compared to Côte Rôties that
demand three times as much, but aren’t, by any stretch, three times
as good as this keeper.
Another great wine to decant and share with friends while World
Cup Soccer unfolds on ESPN is the 2004 Ambullneo Vineyards,
Howling, Central Coast Syrah ($59). This wine consists of fruit
from two great vineyards — Bien Nacido in Santa Maria Valley and
Rimrock Vineyard in Arroyo Grande — and requires a degree of
rumination and some decanting. There’s a lot going on in each glass
of this stunning syrah, so, as the players move across the field,
marking their territory, then erasing it as they move closer to the
opposing goalie, you will want to swirl, smell, and drink it with a
degree of concentration and passion that only a true soccer fan
would understand (ambullneovineyards.com).
If you’re watching your wallet these days, the truly enjoyable
and satisfying 2000 Epiphany Starlane Vineyard Syrah/Cabernet
fetches about $20 a bottle at their tasting room in Los Olivos, and
you should be able to find it pretty readily around the county.
This wine is mostly syrah (80 percent), with the balance dedicated
to cabernet sauvignon. This is a big wine, but the mouth feel is
velvety and elegant. I would pair this red with several artisan
cheeses, leaning more toward the aged and dry cheeses. Because of
this wine’s palate size, it’s one to sip slowly, throughout the
game, as your team (hopefully) scores the most goals.
Go Pauleta and Ronaldo! Go Portugal!