Baseball's new chant: Get your wine here!

NEW YORK/TOKYO Tue Jul 12, 2011 10:02am EDT

A flag is stretched across the field for the national anthem before the start of the New York Mets home opener against the Washington Nationals National League game in MLB baseball action at Citi Field in New York April 8, 2011. REUTERS/Jessica Rinaldi

A flag is stretched across the field for the national anthem before the start of the New York Mets home opener against the Washington Nationals National League game in MLB baseball action at Citi Field in New York April 8, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Jessica Rinaldi

NEW YORK/TOKYO (Reuters Life!) - Beer, long the preferred beverage at baseball games, is seeing some competition from wine as North American stadiums go up market and increase their beverage offerings.

Wine has been seen as the beverage of choice by the upper classes, while beer and hotdogs have been staple fare at baseball games across the United States.

But Major League Baseball parks in the United States have been expanding their cuisine, offering not just hot dogs and hamburgers, but Dungeness crab and sushi to the general admissions crowd.

"I've known people in the wine business who would go to sporting events and drink beer, because they wouldn't drink the wine. Now, they don't have to," said John Sergi of Centerplate, a hospitality company, that paired the stadiums with retailers of top quality wines.

This season fans at the New York Mets' Citi Field and the Seattle Mariners' Safeco Field can drink quality wines in 187 ml-sized (6 oz) plastic bottles with their own glass and even sip it back at their seats.

"What's the point of having all this great food and not having good wine?" Sergi said, referring to food at the stadium from some of New York's finest chefs.

Boston's Fenway Park, home to the Red Sox, has also upped its wine game, with choice red blends and Chardonnay from Napa Valley.

The stadiums, including the Toronto Blue Jays' Rogers Center, which are offering fine dining and wines are operated by Aramark, a privately held company that provides similar services to corporations, schools, hospitals and prisons.

But not all baseball fans are happy with the changes.

Caroline Firth, an information technology consultant, tried the wine at Yankee stadium and wasn't impressed.

"I had to walk miles just to get a small glass of wine, and it was very ordinary wine at that, and all for $15. I'd drunk it by the time I got back to my seat," she said.

In Japan where baseball is also a passion, wine is available along with beer, which is served by attractive young women who walk around with a small tank strapped to their backs. But beer is still the beverage of choice.

The beer, which costs 800 yen ($9.89) and is poured through a tube connected to the tank, is served in plastic cups.

At the Tokyo Dome, a big stadium downtown, fans looking for a stronger drink can sip whisky with ice and water and shochu, a distilled vodka-like alcohol either straight up or topped with lemon.

(Additional reporting by Tokyo newsroom; editing by Patricia Reaney)