Tough Choices: What does your wine say about you?

It strikes me as odd that when there are four Mercedes in the driveway and the finest Chanel on their owners’ frames, usually a big, cheap jug of Yellowtail Shiraz ($11) is open on the kitchen counter. Possibly during a dinner party, Mer Soleil Chardonnay ($40) or Silver Oak ($90) graces the table, but the rich folks frequently undersell themselves in everyday company. Maybe they are trying to save on something that doesn’t send the money message. In the U.S. where flash is heralded more than intellect, what does someone’s wine choice say about them?

FOR A DATE

I recently gave counsel to a friend who was making dinner for a new guy. He wasn’t really into wine, but he liked it — mostly whites. My friend isn’t exactly a wine nerd, but she wanted to send the right message: “I like you.” If she buys a Kendall Jackson Chardonnay, she might be considered boring and bandwagon. Everyone drinks that stuff, but it’s safe. If she buys a sweeter wine like a riesling, he might think she’s a wuss. If she chooses a varietal he has never heard of, like chenin blanc, he might feel inadequate in his wine knowledge. But then again, maybe he likes a woman with different tastes — nah … there aren’t many single American men who share that sentiment, so odds are he doesn’t. So after a phone-guided tour through the Publix wine aisle, we settled on a St. Francis Chardonnay ($11) — somewhat familiar, fruity and smooth. Apparently it did the trick — they’re still dating. I doubt the wine made any difference, but maybe the wrong wine would have?

MACHO, MACHO MEN

Then there are the macho I-only-drink-cabernet guys. The bigger and bolder, the better to prove their manliness. I mean, nothing says sexy more than a man with stained teeth recovering from dry mouth. What they don’t realize is that this narrow choice screams dull and repressed. And newbie. People “in the business” agree that the more mature palates appreciate the softer pinot noirs. Yes, they still drink brawny cabernets, but their tastes change with the mood and food. Pinot is a beautiful thing. Really.

EASY WOMEN?

There’s an Internet joke that circulated a few years ago, stereotyping women by the type of adult beverage they consumed. Chardonnay women were said to be uppity and high maintenance, and white zinfandel drinkers were easy. It completely cracked me up since I regard Chardonnay women the same as cabernet men: kinda boring. I could hang out and play pool with a crisp sauvignon blanc woman, and a spicy syrah or red zinfandel girl, but those who can’t break out of the Chard box normally smile and hope no one says words over two syllables. Now white zin drinkers are perhaps a different story. I have no idea if they’re easy, but these people are almost always testing wine’s waters, so I treat them with patience. Like the precocious child that shows potential in an elementary school classroom, they need to be slowly introduced to new choices. And it often works. It’s getting them past the Yellowtail stage that’s the challenge.

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