The National Football League’s season kicks off this Thursday at Soldier Field, where the Chicago Bears will host the Green Bay Packers. Not only will this event mark the 199th game between one of the league’s most historic rivalries, but also the NFL’s 100th season.
Whether your get-together consists of devoted football fans or those who use the game as an excuse to eat snacks and enjoy a few drinks, you’ll need some bottles on hand.
Of these recommendations, you’ll see wines for $25 or less that range from Cabernet Sauvignon to Riesling, and have accessible profiles that will pair easily with party staples like chips, guacamole, pizza, beer cheese and, of course, buffalo wings.
Wines to start the football season
Barra 2017 Estate Grown Cabernet Sauvignon (Mendocino); $20, 92 points. This is a broad, rich and relaxed wine made from organic grapes. It shows generous black-plum and blackberry flavors, full body and grippy, moderate tannins. It does a great job of filling a big frame with opulent, delicious and ripe fruit, while adding subtle spice and wood-smoke nuances that enhance each sip. Editors’ Choice. —Jim Gordon
Nittnaus Anita und Hans 2017 Eastside Blaufränkisch (Burgenland); $18, 92 points. A little bit of struck match on the nose leads onto a juicy, palate that brims with dark, alluring and juicy fruit. Think plum, cherry and blackberry. There is something joyful and sinuous about this and its soft, smooth tannins. This serious red does not take itself too seriously. Frederick Wildman & Sons, Ltd. —Anne Krebiehl MW
Westerly 2017 Sauvignon Blanc (Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara); $24, 92 points. The slightest bit cloudy in the glass, this bottling shows a wondrous combination of grassy aromas and fruity tones of passion fruit and guava on the full nose. The palate is flavorful in ripe tropical fruits as well as strong grass and wet stone accents. —Matt Kettmann
Bucci 2017 Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Classico Superiore; $20, 91 points. Aromas suggesting tropical fruit, apricot and spring flower lead the nose along with a whiff of aromatic herbs. The aromas carry on to the juicy, polished palate along with yellow peach and white almond. A mineral vein lifts the finish. Empson USA Ltd. Editors’ Choice. —Kerin O’Keefe
Giesen 2017 Pinot Noir (Marlborough): $20, 91 points. Pale cherry in color, this is a delicate and fragrant wine with aromas of drying red cherry, raspberry, rhubarb, floral, pencil lead and savory, slightly meaty nuances. The palate leads with tangy, crunchy red fruit, lifted acidity and a line of finely woven tannins. This is a well-priced Pinot that would be as happy on the weeknight dinner table as it would at a fancy dinner party. Pacific Highway Wines & Spirits. —Christina Pickard
Nathan K. 2017 Dry Riesling (Finger Lakes); $25, 91 points. Pristine aromas of steel, lemon and stone drive this textural off-dry Riesling. The entry to the medium-bodied palate is smooth and silky, broadened out by juicy white-fruit flavors and honed by lime-driven acidity. There’s a delicate framing of white-tea-like astringency that keeps it all in check. —Alexander Peartree
Charles & Charles 2018 Rosé (Columbia Valley); $15, 90 points. Syrah (71%) makes up the backbone of this wine along with Cabernet Sauvignon (17%) and other Rhône varieties. An appealing pale-salmon color, this wine has bright watermelon, strawberry, kiwi and cherry candy aromas that lead to a tart pink-grapefruit flavor and mouthwatering acidity. Best Buy. —Sean P. Sullivan
CVNE 2016 Cune Crianza (Rioja); $14, 90 points. Berry, spice and tobacco aromas work in unison to give this Crianza a nice start. A firm palate avoids jamminess and shows grip. Dark plum, raspberry, spice and pepper flavors hold on through the finish. For everyday Rioja, there isn’t much better than this. Arano LLC. Best Buy. —Michael Schachner
Meli 2015 Carignan (Maule Valley); $17, 90 points. For years running Meli has been a consistent producer of quality Carignan at a good price. This vintage is maybe the winery’s best yet, with plum, berry, licorice and fennel aromas leading a foresty nose. Blackberry and black cherry flavors come with a peppery backing, while this feels fresh and tastes of dark plum and raspberry on the finish. Drink now–2022. Global Vineyard Importers. Editors’ Choice. —M.S.
Pike Road 2017 Pinot Noir (Willamette Valley); $20, 90 points. Pike Road blends purchased grapes from top vineyards such as Shea, Zenith and Temperance Hill, produced under the watchful eye of Elk Cove’s Adam Campbell. A terrific value, this supple young wine incorporates blackberry, black cherry, black tea and dark chocolate elements, nicely wrapped up with smooth, ripe tannins. —Paul Gregutt