What do our wine preferences say about our personalities?
It might be an overly simplistic manner in which to draw conclusions; but part of what makes us human, is the ability to make judgements, and thus observations of one another. This shrewd skill helps us in assessing character, and determining whether we have the capacity to connect with others. What better way to accomplish that, than judging each other’s wine choices?
Wine is a constant evolution, a never ending and infinite array of expression and change. Just look at how the world of wine continues to expand. Unless of course you’re a tried and true fan of the classics; Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne, to name a few – these are regions entrenched in tradition, and styles revered the world over for their iconic status. However, even these age old practices are beginning to progress, too, as children and successors of these generations owned wineries take over and inject their youthful vision and approach.
Poetic and seemingly farfetched of an argument it may be, the style of wine one drinks says a lot about one’s character, and personality. Allow me to explain, as I take you on a journey from light bodied, spirited, tense, angular styles, to medium bodied, round, spherical and soft examples, to big, jammy, punchy, muscular and robust expressions akin to a 6’5 shredded athlete personified in bottle (we all know those styles, insert wink face here). We choose cars, homes, food, and fashion based on our personalities – our beverage of choice is no different in this regard, and can say a lot about who we are.
Take sauvignon blanc, for example. In its most natural state, it’s unbelievably playful, fun, bright and exuberant. It’s unapologetically itself – no matter where it’s sourced or grown, it always remains one thing – aromatic. Whether it’s oaked or not, it has a telltale personality – highly expressive, distinct and recognizable. The late Didier Dagueneau, of the Loire Valley, was revered for his interpretation of the grape, and created a cult following for this reason. Those who were lucky enough to have known him, described him similarly to that of the characteristics and traits of the grape he so esteemed, too.
Chardonnay, on the other hand, can be a little more subdued, depending on how it’s treated. Considered a non-aromatic variety, it can be neutral, stoic, hard to read and muted, only opening up and showing its disposition with a trained nose and palate. Throw it in an oak barrel, however, and it’s a completely different beast – its edges rounded, softened – a completely different experience of the varietal entirely. “It’s the kind of person that clearly shows what life has thrown at them”, shares Michael Alexander, assistant winemaker at Summerhill Pyramid Winery.
While Riesling, a complex and haunting minx, can be abrasive in its youth, with ascorbic wit and bracing acidity. It can be so unapproachable when young, 5-10 years of bottle age can be necessary before it’s ready to be enjoyed. Even with extensive age, its tenacious and gregarious personality never wavers. Strong willed, tireless, and resolute, Riesling, while caustic, remains steadfast and resilient. Grant Biggs of Kitsch wines put it best recently, “If you don’t drink Riesling – fuck you”.
Segueing us in to reds – “thin skinned, temperamental, difficult but at the same time, delicate, and if treated well – beautiful!”, so says Jak Meyer of a celebrated grape in the Okanagan Valley – Pinot Noir. It has been coined in the wine community as the “heartbreak grape”, though it should more appropriately be termed as the “hard work” grape, as Luke Smith, proprietor and Pinot Noir winemaker of Howling Bluff on the Naramata Bench, refers to it. Its relentless and tireless challenges in the vineyard can make for equally stunning, or terrible examples. Pinot Noir requires industrious work ethic, due to its delicate, fragile and naturally vulnerable character. Once a winemaker determines out how to get this finicky grape to let its guard down, it can be, and is, one of the most remarkable and stirring expressions of wine found the world over.
Merlot, however, has been the victim to much undeserved backlash, due in part mostly to misinformation in mainstream media. At times deemed as average, generic, or even boring; making it an easy choice for house pours, weddings or large gatherings where inoffensive and approachable styles reign. Jamie Goode put it best when I asked him his opinion on Merlot, recently: “Easy, soft, pragmatic and sometimes surprisingly serious, like the party person who rallies round in times of trouble.”
Leading us finally to Cabernet Franc – an often misunderstood, and poo poo’d upon varietal, described sometimes as cabernet sauvignon’s younger sibling. Medium bodied, and not quite as powerfully tannic as cabernet sauvignon, making it less preferred among those who enjoy big, in your face examples of red wine. Yet, that is where those who easily cast it off as a lesser cabernet sauvignon, are missing out. Words that easily come to mind to describe cabernet franc – seductive, hedonistic, silky, luscious and evocative – to name just a few. As Jasmine Black, assistant winemaker at Van Westen Vineyards so eloquently put it: “It’s the sibling that doesn’t need to scream at you to get your attention – it simply flirts with you through its aromatics and crushable acidity until you have all but forgotten about cabernet sauvignon.”
Wine, like humans, is alive. We are always more than meets the eye – there is always something more going on beneath the surface, and that can change by the minute, hour, day, week, month and year. We are never the same version of ourselves at any given moment –isn’t that such an exciting, and titillating notion if applied to wine? If instead, you stopped picking your wine by the label, or stopped drinking the same style you’ve relied on like an old friend, and began looking for expressions that spoke to your personality, or raison d’etre – perhaps the whole experience could, and would be, a lot more powerful, and significant.