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
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
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.
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.
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.
kill two birds with one stone here with a nice sparkling
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
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.
fortified wines are served in small quantities than regular
wines, and a bottle can easily last months after being
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.