Thursday, November 8, 2012

First Date Wine That Can Equal SEX!

One of the most difficult parts of the dating world for me when dealing with a first date scenario is not the actual asking the other out, or deciding what to do, but when a meal is part of the equation (and when is it not on the first go around on the dating table) and deciding what wine to have to truly impress. I want to make a lasting impression in every aspect of this first meeting and generally try to not let something so small as the wine backtrack me. But what to choose?

The choice of the wine is the hardest part of all of the first date meal scenarios. Do I choose red or white? Do I throw in a rose wine? How expensive do I go? $10? $50? $100? And when I walk into the liquor store (if the dinner is at home), do I trust a recommendation or do I choose on my own knowledge? If I’m at a restaurant, do I trust the sommelier or do I again go with my gut? My goal here, if you remember, is to make sure there is a second date and the right bottle makes all the difference. So where to begin? 

Most people are firm believers that the “right” wine must be paired with the “right” food. I believe in a different philosophy; A good wine goes with anything, it’s all about the moment. The food helps but isn’t truly important. 

Let’s start with a dinner at home example, shall we? What do I go with? I personally like to be different. I don’t just want to pour a Chardonnay or Cabernet Sauvignon. I want something that my potential partner may have never had. But I have to make sure I don’t seem like I’m cheaping out. Basically, no brand name wines (if you can think of a brand of wine, don’t buy it) and no trendy grapes (ie: Malbec or Montepulciano) because people associate both with a certain price point (inexpensive). Instead I like to pick something relatively unknown to my dinner partner and allowing me to use the history of the wine as an ice breaker if the conversation goes dull. I always need to have a backup, just in case. 

If I am going for a white, I will generally either go for a white Rioja from the Rioja region of Spain (made from a grape called viura) or an Italian grape called Falanghina from the Campania region of Italy. The white Rioja is a little more full bodied (similar to Chardonnay without the oaky mess some can have) while the Falaghina is more citrusy and floral and acidic (more akin to Sauvignon Blanc but not as grassy or as acidic). When the situation calls going for a red wine, I prefer to go to Italy and get a cannanou (grenache) from the island of Sardinia. This is more full bodied and tannic style of a wine. For a lighter/medium bodied wine, I love to get a Bourgogne (red Burgundy aka Pinot Noir), which is much more elegant and a layered. I like to do a little research on the wine if I want to and have small bullet points about the wines that I can drop slowly throughout the dinner. 

These wines generally will all retail under the $20 mark allowing me to save but be creative and impressive. If you are looking to save money here, ask yourself if $20 is worth the price of coitus? If you want to be cheap about the end game, go to the local bar and find a partner at 3am and enjoy your penicillin. Otherwise, open your wallet and pull out an Andrew Jackson and have an amazing evening and some amazing wine. 

Now what happens when our first rendezvous is out at a restaurant? Well, this requires a bit more thought and finesse. The first and most important rule here is don’t cheap out!  Never go for the cheapest bottle on the menu. If the restaurant’s sommelier is worth their salt, they will sprinkle in treats at the $40-$50 range. 

If I am going for whites, for a litter white, I will search out a Cheverny from the Loire Valley region of France, which is made from Sauvignon Blanc. For a more full bodied white, I will search out a Godello from the Galicia region of Spain as this wine is very similar to chardonnay but has a very unique and intriguing character. When searching out a red, I love going back to France and Spain. For my more medium bodied reds, I almost always go for a Chinon (100% cabernet franc) from the Loire Valley of France while with more full bodied reds, I head to Verona, Italy for a Valpolicella (which is a blend of three indigenous grapes) and very similar to the monster wine Amarone, without the price tag. 

To make sure I am not caught off guard or come off underprepared, I try to research the restaurant and get a copy of their wine list. This allows me to try and figure out a few possible wines that might work for the mood because, as you remember my personal motto, the wine must match the mood, not the food. All this requires about 10 minutes of work, max!

While all of the previous information is helpfully, please remember that this is not scripture. This is not meant to be taken as the end all, be all. This is one man’s opinion based on experience and track record. Substitutions are always allowed but the premise should always be the same; affordable but off the beaten track wines that allow you to make this dinner hopefully end with a wonderful breakfast. That is the goal here, right? There is a reason that Bacchus, the god of wine, is also the god of ritual madness and ecstasy.  All these things tend to go hand and hand. He might even be the god of safety words, but that’s another story, for another writer, for another day. In the meantime, when you meet that “dinner guest” of yours, make sure you don’t come off boring and dull in your wine choice, otherwise you will be going home alone. 

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