Do you know your wine style? Throw a holiday party to find out!

5 years ago

Entertaining for the holidays? Tired of the boring old party with cliché holidays themes and dishes? Step outside your hosting comfort zone, and find out what kind of wine drinkers you and your friends are. You might just surprise yourself. And you will definitely have festive fun in the process...

I am lucky enough to have spent the entire summer of 2011 living the glamorous life of a Napa Valley local.  California wine country, while truly a farming community, offers endless tasting (and drinking) opportunities, a breathtaking picnic site around every bend, and great food.  I made it my goal while living in Napa to taste as much wine as possible (I know, shameful). And I did.  

At first I wasn’t sure I learned anything living along the Silverado Trail, a hot bed for glorious estate vineyards and quaint tasting rooms, alike.  What do I really taste in this wine? It surely is not what the winemaker perceives.  Deep black cherry and toasted walnut? Nope, sorry. No can do.

But it turns out, I did learn a thing or two. If not about the intricate nuances of sensory perception as it applies to wine, but about how wine is grown, crafted, and most importantly, what I like to drink.   I am now convicted in my varietal preferences (love a good Zinfandel), my dislikes (overly dry wines), and my sipping style. You’ve got one, too (keep reading).

A well-known research scientist Howard Moskowitz surveyed wine drinkers back in 2002 and determined that for the most part, all of us fall into four wine-induced categories.  Classics, Imaginers, Elaborates and No Frills.   

Classic drinkers are, to no surprise, those who like their wine traditional. Bring out the Bordeaux blends, the German Riesling and pop the Champagne with its small bubbles and smooth flavors.   Imaginers though, like I was over the past five months, are extreme explorers.  No bottle too obscure, no blend too bizarre. Seek and find. Taste, enjoy, repeat (or not). I imagine many Imaginers have committed to a bottle or two they didn’t like and never bought again. But it’s not about the finish line, it’s about the journey.

This brings us to the Elaborates. And the name is a slight misnomer. These are not the extravagant collectors popping open the twenty-year-old Cabernet Sauvignon just for fun.  Well, they could be, but Elaborates, as defined by Moskowitz, are those folks at the dinner party lingering over their first glass like a foodie in the produce section of Whole Foods. Swirling, sniffing, chatting, tasting, swirling, tasting, wondering, sniffing, so on and so forth.  Even more so than the Imaginers, who are out for a new experience, the Elaborates will savor one single glass until they have slurped all the possible nuances out of it. Only then do they feel safe getting on with their lives. This may or may not happen in a timely fashion.

Finally, we have the No Frills drinkers. A.K.A, my father. Give the Captain Morgan lover a Sonoma Valley Cabernet and he’s happy. “Which one is this?” “It’s the B.R. Cohn one, Dad. The one you like.” The reply is something to the effect of, “Oh. Okay, good.” And off he goes, not necessarily sniffing or swirling, but enjoying. I envy the No Frills folks. They don’t put too much stock in their time with wine.  If it’s good, it’s good. No grapes about it.

So with the holidays upon us, I invite you to swirl, sniff and slurp with your friends.  Set out bottles for each wine style (don't reveal which is which until the end), and drink deep for the meaning of your likes and dislikes. Or just enjoy nice wine in the presence of good company.  After all, Father knows best.

“Find Your Wine Style” Soirée (scroll to the bottom when you get there)

-Christina Bailey, One Tasty Place

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