Story by Charles Fredy
Recently I read about research by Dr. Max Lake—surgeon, winegrower, and author of Scents and Sensuality—who has studied the connection between wine and romance. That may sound like a no-brainer to most of us, but Dr. Lake wanted to know why the aroma of certain wines can spark an amorous flame. He found that some wines mimic the scents of human pheromones, the chemicals that signal attraction in the brain. Earthy, leathery, musky reds tended to resemble male pheromones; whites and sparkling wines, with their yeasty, doughy scent, resemble female pheromones.
While that’s not a subject they cover in sommelier school, it’s true that certain wines can enhance a particular mood.
Champagne is a perfect example. Its effervescence alone is festive—how can you not have a good time, with bubbles tickling your nose? The association between champagne and celebration dates back at least to the 1700s, when the introduction of corks and glass bottles strong enough to hold the pressure made it possible for what had been a still wine to become sparkling. Champagne became the favorite drink of royalty and the wealthy, and remains the drink of special occasions. Perfect anytime is Billecart-Salmon Rosé NV.
If you want to impress with a red, cabernet is your wine. It’s sophisticated, has tremendous structure, and is one of the most long-lived reds—one reason it’s the wine most sought after by collectors. When we think of wines that will age for years—such as the great Bordeaux wines that go to auction—most are cabernet or cabernet-sauvignon based. Time to cellar some 2009 Chateau Margaux. It is the most impressive young wine I have ever tasted.
Among whites, chardonnay is a good choice for cozy, friendly occasions. It has a natural affinity for oak; most chardonnays are barrel-aged in wood. The barrel creates a roundness in the wine, and an acidity that’s more refined than wines aged in stainless-steel tanks. As the wine ages, its texture evolves with the wood, gaining a smoky, caramelized or vanilla flavor not inherent in the grape. A real crowd-pleaser is Far Niente 2009 from Napa Valley.
When the mood is saucy, choose a quality zinfandel or shiraz. These edgy, boisterous wines are highly extracted reds—their intense, fruity flavor commands attention. They’re high in alcohol content, as well, 15 percent or more, on average, compared to a sweet German Riesling that may be 7 or 8 percent. While they may not be for everyone, they are definitely sexy wines. Turley Hayne 2009 tops my list, or head Down Under for some Torbreck 2009 from Barossa Valley.