As America's culture becomes more European, wine has become a bigger staple in our culture. Where 20 years ago everything was all beer and pizza, I've spent the last five years going to an increasing number of football parties that are heavy on wine and cheese (and let's be clear, I am not a fancy guy who goes to fancy parties). These are just casual guys and gals who happen to prefer $15 bottles of wine over $10 cases of light beer.
Wine is obviously a tremendous option for the common March Madness party, but if you're a hardcore fan like I am, there are plenty of other uses. When your bracket gets busted, sometimes it can be therapeutic to drink an entire bottle of wine (responsibly, of course). Or when your bracket crushes all of your friends' brackets, it's nice to open a consolation bottle while they hand over the $500 you've won.
First up, a couple bottles for your March Madness party:
A Mencia from Bierzo?! Yep. You've never heard of it. But Spain is legitimately delivering some of the best values in the wine world right now.
Like it or not, New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, with its grassy lime notes, is 100 percent here to stay. Plus its a much better alternative to the normal party wine: Boring-ass Pinot Grigio.
When your winner gets knocked out in the first round:
I won't lie, this is a crushing feeling, so you're going to need something with a little "oomph" to get you through. At 16 percent ABV and showcasing absolutely enormous flavor, the Wild Duck will knock both your mind and soul back into alignment after a devastating loss.
When Duke ruins literally everything:
Let's call it what it is: Duke has caused more landmark moments over the course of March Madness than just about any other team. Brace yourself for the inevitable and pop a bottle of Pinot (one that's actually shockingly good for only $20). It will all be over soon.
When your winner makes it to the Sweet 16:
Nothing sweeter than a well-made Chardonnay. I don't mean sweet in the literal sense, but rather how sweet it is that people have finally figured out how to let Chard's natural fruit notes sing out without drowning them in oak.
...The Elite 8:
Now we're getting somewhere. At this point you feel like your guys really have a shot, so it's time to go big. It's time to go Bordeaux. Now I get it, when you hear Bordeaux, you're thinking triple-digit Premier Cru stuff, but let me drop the most valuable piece of knowledge in this whole article: Cotes de Bordeaux. It's basically one classification down from the super expensive stuff, but still freaking delicious, and it benefits from the centuries of know-how in the region.
...The Final 4:
Game time, baby. Let's break out the 10-year stuff. Rioja tends to run older since the region mandates a long time in oak for the highest-quality wines, and this is one of the best. Basically the Marques del Puerto is only made during the best years and from the best grapes. It's not an "every year" thing, and, let's be real, neither is having your winning team make it this far.
It's all down to your team and... probably Kentucky. What goes great with fried chicken? Burgundy. No I'm serious, the herbaceous cherry notes work amazingly well with crispy, fatty fried chicken. Also, your pick has made it this far. Reward yourself a little.
When you picked the team that wins it all:
Barolo is known as the wine of kings. Well you picked the Kings of March Madness, so get out your crown and scepter, collect your winnings, and pour yourself a glass of the royal stuff. I've gone back and forth on Barolo over the last few years, but recently I've found myself drinking more and more of it. This one has absolutely tremendous aromatics and structure, which are probably the two most important things to me.
(disclosure: I am still part owner of Wine Library, but I'd never recommend a wine I didn't think was awesome)