We’ve all been there. You’re bringing clients—or your boss—out to dinner and you desperately want to make the right impression. So to prepare for the big evening, you’ve carefully selected that new French-Asian fusion restaurant, triple-confirmed with the reservationist, and sent out a reminder e-mail to the invitees. Everything is going along perfectly until it’s time to order the wine. You might not know it, but what you drink says a lot about who you are.
As a sommelier, my goal is to make sure that the wine that people order pairs not only with the food but also with the person. Want to know what your taste buds can say about you? Read on.
What you order: Cabernet Sauvignon
- What it means: This is the conservative power-broker wine. Full-bodied with dark fruit such as black currants, plums, and blackberries, this wine goes well with your pricey black pantsuit and expense account. If you order a Cab, you’re here to do business.
- One to try: Concha y Toro Cabernet Sauvignon Pirque Terrunyo 2003 (Chile), around $28
What you order: Chardonnay
- What it means: Domestic Chardonnays are generally very full-bodied and have a higher alcohol content than other white wines. Chardonnays are also barrel-aged, which gives them an oaky wood flavor that overpowers most food and dominates the palate. If you’re a Chardonnay drinker, you like to be in control of any situation.
- One to try: Rosenblum Chardonnay Edna Valley Paragon Vineyard 2003 (Australia), around $19
What you order: Pinot Grigio
- What it means: Pinot Grigios (also known as pinot gris in France) generally have little in terms of body and character. Most of the Pinot Grigio in American restaurants is a distinctly commercial wine whose only redeeming quality is that it’ll get you drunk. When made well, it shows a lightly aromatic fruitiness and mineral notes. If you order a P.G., you give off the vibe that you like to play it safe—you know what works well and you stick to your guns (or grapes, in this matter). Hey, if I ain’t sober, why fix it?
- One to try: Alois Lageder Pinot Grigio 2005 (Italy), around $15
What you order: Pinot Noir
- What it means: Since Miles pooh-poohed merlot in the smash hit Sideways, Pinot Noir has enjoyed a resurgence in popularity. Somehow, though, this wine balances trendiness with a great deal of class. Think Jackie O in Paris Hilton’s clothes. A Pinot Noir in a fine-dining restaurant exudes sophistication. The Pinot Noir drinker is warm but has very high standards for quality—and is willing to pay for it.
- One to try: Ken Wright “Shea Vineyard” 2002 (Oregon), around $25
What you order: Sauvignon Blanc
- What it means: This wine is distinctly racy. It attracts more attention than if you were to show up at the office in your new lingerie. With mouth-watering acidity and tropical fruit flavors (think of a ripe kiwi and pineapple salad), these wines are for the outgoing types who like to make their presence known at any room, meeting, or table.
- One to try: Buitenverwachting Constantia Sauvignon Blanc 2004 (South Africa), around $15
What you order: Riesling
- What it means: With its bright acidity, pronounced minerality, and stone fruit flavors like white peaches and pears, sommeliers love Rieslings because they are some of the most food-friendly wines. From hot dogs to haute cuisine, we depend on Rieslings to make us look good. If you order a Riesling, it gives off the vibe that you are a dependable people person, someone who can relate to anyone and be counted on to seal the deal. These wines, like their drinkers, are often refreshing and unabashedly sweet, and (because of their lower alcohol levels and food pair-ability) can be enjoyed throughout the entire evening.
- One to try: Selbach-Oster Riesling Kabinett (Mosel, Germany) 2005, around $19
What you order: Gewürztraminer
- What it means: With its exotic, spicy aromas and lychee fruit character, this wine is anything but standard. If you’re partial to this wine, you’re a creative person who thinks outside the box. You are also willing to take risks and do business unconventionally. Extra impressive points if you can pronounce the grape: geh-VURTS-trah-meen-her.
- One to try: Zind-Humbrecht Gewürztraminer 2005 (Alsace, France), around $23
My suggestion is this: Try a wine you’ve never heard of from a place you couldn’t locate on a map. You just might find a side of yourself you like very much and never knew existed. And whatever you do, when you’re out with a boss, co-workers, or clients, make sure they drink as much or more than you. The one personality trait you don’t want to convey is “office lush.”
By Joseph Campanale of NicoleWilliams