I have to say that I've completely let myself down. I've been a lifelong hater of soccer, it's boring, it's frustrating and tedious to watch, you can't use your hands, there's no heavy hitting or grand slams or ally-oop dunks. But, after watching Team USA surprise Ghana, live on Monday afternoon I'm officially a convert. I know, I know, what a sell out. But, you have to admit that it was pretty exciting to see and now I fully understand the fascination the rest of the world holds for futbol. It's a game of suspense, lots and lots of suspense until it's released by a goooooooooooooooool!!!!!
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Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not going to go out, drink a lot of beer and whiskey and start a soccer riot, I simply can relate to the throngs of soccer fans out there because it's not a bad little game if you don't mind sitting through a lot of mind numbing kicking of balls and running around by the most in-shape athletes of any sport. To make it more interesting, and, dare I say "palatable" I analyzed the field of 32 teams and have come up with a wine drinking strategy that those of us into wine and not so much into soccer, can appreciate.
This year's field is very rich in wine. Pretty much every major wine producing country has a team in the tournament (with the notable exceptions of New Zealand and ironically South Africa who hosted the last one, but at least we don't have to listen to those stupid vuvuzelas), so finding appropriate wines on which to sip while watching the games is not difficult. What is difficult is which, and in what order to appreciate each country's wine offerings while simultaneously judging their soccer prowess.
I'll start with the USA's group, which is noted by the soccer world as "the group of death" so the fact that we won a game is not only huge but apparently flies in the face of what FIFA had in mind. We had a softball opponent in terms of wine, Ghana grows many cash crops, including cacoa, coffee and wheat but its equatorial position prohibits viticulture so the USA definitely had the advantage here, which is why I ceremoniously sipped some good old American Zinfandel while watching our boys score an unlikely 86th minute goal to wrap up the win. Up next is Portugal, certainly a more formidable wine opponent, but grab a bottle of domestic sparkling wine, drink it during the first half, then start pouring port in copious amounts to lessen the emotional effect of Portugal's high scoring front line as they decimate our defense. Trust me, three glasses of port will surely have you sanguine about the USA's lack of big time soccer talent, and will also stop any questions regarding the gigantic youth soccer network that continues to not produce world class talent even though you continue to truck your kid to and from soccer practice.
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As for the rest of the teams in the World Cup, we have all the European heavy hitters; France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Greece, even Bosnia, Croatia, and Russia. Not to mention the new world's champs like Chile, Argentina, Australia, Columbia (who's wine production rivals that of Arizona), and Brazil. The last of which can't be forgotten because a commercial for the "Wines of Brasil" is on every fifteen minutes, full disclosure I've never tasted a Brazilian wine, so not knocking it. All I'm saying is that there are some pretty serious match-ups on the "pitch" as well as in the glass. Drink your country's wine, and the other country's wine, have fun with it because I'll be doing the same waiting for a goal to be scored, waiting, waiting, kicking of balls, waiting, oh wait here he goes....nope, still waiting. Here's to making the most of this year's World Cup!
When I'm not writing this column, or reading vintage charts to my daughter, you can find me pouring wine at FnB.