Seven Wines Every Man Should Have

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

While at the 2010 Philadelphia Sake Festival, I had two interesting exchanges with two different guys; one that I know, and one that was looking to make an impression.  The former admitted that there was a lot that he and a lot of other men needed to learn about wine, but not learn it from sommeliers and others that might add too much of the technical side to it; think "wine for cavemen."  The latter was focusing on his material accoutrements as something that would impress the ladies, but I countered with the fact that having some good wine and good conversation – don't even need the music on this one – will impress and woo the ladies even more.  

That got me to thinking about what every man should have in his wine closet, just the barebones that should be able to get him through any occasion; kind of like having at least one tuxedo, and one each of a gray suit, a blue suit, and a black suit.

I am going to divide the wine into four categories, but some can overlap.  And the categories are: white; red; sparkling; rosé/blush; and fortified/dessert.

There are just two main grape varietals that you should have in this category, and they are Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.  The first can go with almost anything, even red meats [depending on the style and strength], and the second is great for seafood, salads and even chicken in some cases [especially herb or lemon style recipes].

If oaked heavily, Chardonnay can have a very buttery taste and feel.  However, if done without oak, you can get a very clean taste that really shows you a lot of flavor, including tropical fruits such as pineapple, papaya and guava, to traditional fruit such as apricot, peach and lemon.  My current favorite is Lapis Luna's 2008 Monterey Unoaked Chardonnay, with my love of Beringer's Chardonnays at their Napa Valley level and higher, as well as Kendall Jackson's Grand Reserve Chardonnay, which is not to be confused with that Vintner's Reserve crap that Robert Parker gave 90 points to.

Sauvignon Blanc should have a higher acidity, and a higher concentration of citrus flavors.  However, it can be filled with tropical fruit flavors as well, as demonstrated by Concannon Vineyard's 2008 Central Coast Sauvignon Blanc, which has strong peach flavors.  Kono's 2007 Sauv Blanc actually has coconut in its taste.

Of the former and the latter, I tend to like New World styles, California and South America for the Chardonnay and New Zealand and Australia for the Sauvignon Blanc.

While Merlot and Shiraz(Syrah) have been bandied about in regards to reds, I would stick with Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon.  These are classic varietals which can really shine whether rendered in Old World or New World styles; yes, there have been bad versions of both, but these are grapes that most people tend not to mess up.

Pinot Noir, daddy to many other varietals, can have a very majestic flavor and feel.  The best that I have had usually have an aspect of white pepper, dark fruits (cherries, plums, blackberries) and smoke.  You get a little bit of the characteristics from the wood, and in some cases, attributes of leather.  My favorite right now is Rio Seco's Reserve Pinot Noir; it's all that.

Cabernet Sauvignon is the other go-to red wine.  It usually is put at the top of the flavor and complexity range when considered typical reds (Merlot, Pinot Noir, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec).  Like Pinot Noir, the price and quality of a Cabernet Sauvignon can range from under $10 to well into the hundreds.  I had found quality ones at around $10:  Cannonball, which has some Zinfandel in it; Kingsford Manor; Rosenblum Cellars; Mountain View Vintners.

Most every lady likes bubbles, and here is where things get interesting, and categories can overlap.  Your traditional Champagne can be white (blanc di blancs), red (blanc di noirs), or rosé.  I prefer a blanc di noirs as a rule, but more so than the grapes, the thing to learn is about the sugar level, or dosage.  It goes sweetest to driest from doux, demi-sec, sec (dry), extra-sec (or extra dry), brut (extra extra dry) or extra brut (the driest).  They usually are more expensive when you find a demi-sec, and a doux hasn't been commercially released in decades.

However, you don't have to go with some high priced French Champagne, as there are many others made either with the same grapes (Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Pinot Meunier), or mainly the same ones in the traditional style of secondary fermentation in the bottle (Franciacorta, Cremant) or those made with other grapes and the Charmat method (secondary fermentation in a steel vat) such as Cava, Sekt, Prosecco, Asti.

What matters most is taste, rather than price.

Let's start this one off by saying you need to abandon all knowledge and consumption of white Zinfandel, white Merlot and white Grenache right here.  These are sissy wines made for women and Americans that want something sweet.  These are not gateway wines but juice produced for palates more found in children than a mature wine drinker.

Now that that's been said, there are a number of blush wines that are quality, and they are consumed in Europe (dry styles) more than you would believe.  I tend to like those made from either Tempranillo, Syrah or Malbec (2008 Crios de Susana Balbao Malbec Rosé is a grand slam).  I have even heard of them drinking them with cola in Italy.

You can kill two birds with one stone here with a nice sparkling rosé.

The standard for fortified wine is port, with the best being produced in Portugal (Dow's, Graham's, Taylor's – not to be confused with that cheap port from New York State also called Taylor Port).  On the flip side, Heitz Cellars (California) has a wonderful Ink Grade Port which is made using the traditional grape varietals used in Portugal.

Basically, port is made by adding unflavored Brandy to a wine base.  That's the simplest method and the basic explanation.  The older the port, the better.  It should be noted that there are several different styles of port, such as tawny, ruby, white, crusted, vintage, late-bottled and even pink.

Outside of port, you might be able to get away with either Madeira (also from Portugal) or Sherry, which of both, there are several styles.  Both of them are also prized on age and vintage.

Note that fortified wines are served in small quantities than regular wines, and a bottle can easily last months after being opened.


Well, there you have it, the seven different types/bottles of wine that every man should have, divided into five easy categories.  The rule of thumb should be two bottles of each and one bottle of the fortified wine.  You can easily accomplish this for less than $100.  The only thing that you need now is a smoking jacket.

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Our Mission: The Black Winer strives to expose African Americans [and others] to wines, without the flair, stuffiness, and airs of elitism and snobbery that you get from sommeliers and high level wine enthusiasts. We believe in finding something that you like the taste of, outside of the basic brands that you have been force-fed over the years through a combination of ethnically targeted advertising, and what people in your family have historically been drinking.

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