This Sunday, millions of people around the world will be watching the Super Bowl 51 matchup between the New England Patriots and the Atlanta Falcons. After a long NFL season that began in early September, we finally get the opportunity to see who will hoist up the Lombardi trophy.
So, who’s going to win? Will it be the New England Patriots, who are making their 9th Super Bowl appearance with 4 championships and an established dynasty to their credit? Or will it be the Atlanta Falcons, who are making their second trip to the big game in an attempt to win their first title? One thing’s for sure – I will be sitting on the couch enjoying a bottle of wine hoping my prediction will come true. (My pick is at the end of this blog post!)
I know the productivity of us Americans and many other NFL fans around the world will come to a halt this weekend and maybe, depending on the level of celebration and disappointment we all experience, far into next week. As a sommelier and a football enthusiast, boosting my productivity means constantly finding new ways to consolidate studying and enjoying my favorite hobby at the same time. In my mind, there’s no better way to combine both while watching the Super Bowl then to play one of my favorite games.
Those familiar with my blogs know that I get a kick out of imagining celebrities as bottles of wine. I’ve turned Lionel Messi into Malbec, Matt Damon into Bordeaux, and Golden State Warrior Steph Curry into Barolo, and I couldn’t help but do the same for some of the players from the New England Patriots and Atlanta Falcons.
How does it work? Basically, I use each player’s key characteristics (there are 5 players from each team, just to be fair) and find a wine that shares those same qualities. It’s a fun exercise, a quirky educational tool, and a way to learn a little something wine-related while watching the biggest game of the year.
See, you are being productive!
NFC Champions: The Atlanta Falcons
Quarterback Matt Ryan
Since being drafted in 2008, Matt Ryan has established himself as one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL. His nickname, “Matty-Ice”, refers to his calm demeanor and ability to stay laser-focused while shredding any defense that stands in his way. He needs a wine that is consistently great in every vintage, approachable in flavor and price, and that has a cool name. That wine is Two Hands Gnarly Dudes Shiraz, which offers raspberry, plum, and pepper aromas with a big, robust, jammy finish that is every bit as persistent as Ryan himself.
Head Coach Dan Quinn
A lot of people do not realize that Dan Quinn has appeared in 3 out of the last 4 Super Bowls! Before coaching the Falcons, he was the defensive coordinator for the Seattle Seahawks, who won the championship back in 2013. For Quinn, I need a wine that has built a solid reputation in the Northwest as one of the most influential voices in the industry. That wine, called Northstar Merlot, provides a substantial amount of blackberry and blueberry fruit aromas with a full-bodied, smooth, and juicy finish.
Wide Receiver Julio Jones
In my opinion, Julio Jones has been the best wide receiver in the NFL for the last five seasons. When he gets on a roll, it’s impossible to guard him! For the right combination of power and “blazing” speed, I had to pick a Zinfandel here. Frog’s Leap is a good example of a powerful Zin with cooked cherries and raspberries on the nose and a hot and dry finish.
Running Back Devonta Freeman
“Speed then Havoc” is the best way I can describe Devonta Freeman’s style of play as the starting running back for the Falcons. He begins by playing very calmly and smoothly at the snap and then wears down the defense throughout the game with his strength. Pio Cesare Barolo is the perfect parallel thanks to its raspberry, truffle, rose, and leather aromas that start soft and then build to an intense dryness on the finish.
Linebacker Vic Beasley
Every time I see Vic Beasley sack a quarterback, the play starts out a touch rugged then smooth upon contact. Although he’s just two years into his career, he’s one of my favorite players in the league. I had to use Finca Villacreces here. This wine begins a little gritty with tart blackberry, plum, and minerals on the nose then finishes supple and smooth.
AFC Champions: The New England Patriots
Quarterback Tom Brady
The GOAT! There isn’t an award or accomplishment that Tom Brady has not achieved in his stellar 17-year career. When I thought about what wine would represent him, two things came to mind: Brady is from California and he’s incredibly well known. Caymus is one of the most well-known fruit-forward wines from Cali, so it makes perfect sense. There’s intense cherries, blackberry, and plum aromas with a smooth, full-bodied, and supple finish – the GOAT for many California wine lovers!
Head Coach Bill Belichick
I like to refer the head coach of the New England Patriots as “The Don.” He’s the coldest guy in the room and he’s not afraid to cut a player at any time. He also speaks at press conferences while somehow not actually offering any information about the team. He has a lot in common with an iconic Super Tuscan called Tignanello. This wine’s structured tart fruit and bold herbal and tannic finish defy the normal structure that the stereotypical Super Tuscans are supposed to have. Both Bill Belichick and the Tig are outliers: they do things their own way, defy the rules, and get tons of praise as a result.
Linebacker Rob Ninkovich
Whenever someone says the word “Malbec”, wine lovers seem to suddenly remember how much they enjoy that wine. They always say, “Oh yeah…”! The same can be said about linebacker Rob Ninkovich. His impact on the football field isn’t seen on television normally but he always seems to make the right play, doing all of the possession changing tackles and making stops to force fourth down. Susanna Balbo’s Malbec is similar – people forget how great it is until they get a whiff of that deep blackberry and earth on the nose followed by a full-bodied, warm, and velvety finish. You won’t forget the wine or the player ever again.
Wide Receiver Julian Edelman
Julian Edelman was a college quarterback that turned into an NFL wide receiver. When he joined the New England Patriots, he cared less about his statistics and focused on his craft instead. Edelman deserves a wine that matches his structured mindset and drive to be successful. It’s got to be Donum Estate Pinot Noir. This red offers dense cherry and raspberry aromas with a balance of minerals, ripe fruit, and acidity. It may not be flashy but it’s a winner for both the winemaking team behind it and for anyone lucky enough to drink it.
Cornerback Malcolm Butler
In his first year as an NFL player, he was involved in one of the most dramatic plays in NFL history. In Super Bowl 49, Malcolm intercepted a pass at their 1-yard line with less than a minute left in the game. He took no “prisoners” and ruined the Seattle Seahawk’s championship hopes in an instant. I had to use The Prisoner Wine Company’s red blend for obvious reasons but I also appreciate it for its supple red fruit and touch of pepper on the nose as well as the medium-bodied, jammy, and a supple-yet-smoky finish.
My Super Bowl 51 Prediction
New England Patriots defeat the Atlanta Falcons 34-24!
My reasoning is simple: This season, the Patriots were undefeated whenever the scored 30 points and 1-5 when they didn’t. I can’t see how Atlanta’s defense can keep the Patriots to less than 30 points, so a New England win seems all but inevitable.