Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Holiday Table: The annual wine-pairing dilemma.

September 25, 2012

Time once again to peruse the inane and predictable holiday wine and food pairing articles. Conventional wisdom recommends using some sort of formula to pair a selection of wines to complement a menu that might include everything from Aunt Edna’s green beans to friend Jerry’s tofu turkey. Napa-Valley based Master of Wine Tim Hanni, an internationally renowned guru on the subject of wine with food and professionally trained chef,  suggests that instead of offering wines based on what’s on the table, hosts at upcoming holiday meals should choose wines based on who is gathering around it.  

Hanni has distilled years of experience and research into a seemingly revolutionary approach to wine drinking, based on a simple premise: people really do perceive things differently, and they should be able to discover and enjoy the wines they prefer, including sweet wines, without apology. Conversely, those who prefer intense red wines will need no coaxing to savor a glass of their favorite wine style.. Hanni dismisses the conventional rules of “matching” wine and food as simple metaphors combined with the overly vivid imagination of the wine experts. “You do need to know that the sweetness in a lot of the food will make whatever wine you are drinking more intense, acidic and tannic, and that a little squeeze of lemon or lime with a tiny bit of salt on the food will restore the balance of whatever wine you choose, “ says Hanni.
According to Hanni, wine drinkers fall into four categories, or Vinotypes. Derived from both physiological and psychological elements in an individual’s make-up, the four basic Vinotypes range from people who naturally prefer sweet wines to those who relish the bigger, more robust (tannic?) wines — and what tastes delicious to one person may easily leave another grimacing with distaste.  You remember this from your childhood dinner table. Discover your Vinotype, and that of your guests, Hanni says, and, “you will learn how to consistently find the wines you will love the most and how to get the most pleasure from wine on your terms.”

Hanni  was a pioneer in the art of food and wine pairings at Napa Valley's Beringer Winery in the 1980s. His experiences there sent him on a three-decade investigation of why people like what they like. “I’d create what I thought were magical pairings,” Hanni said. “And while some people loved them, others could hardly tolerate them. I went from thinking, ‘What’s wrong with you?’ to ‘What’s going on here?'” Hanni began work with. Virginia Utermohlen, M.D., from Cornell University, who shared a deep interest in the subject. Based on their research, Hanni said, “it’s clear that the range and intensity of sensations we experience varies, often dramatically, from one person to the next; and these individual difference play an important role in determining individual wine preferences. Some people have as few as 500 taste buds while others have over 11,000; this greatly influences our personal wine preferences - not good or bad, just different.”

A series of questions Hanni has developed — How do you take your coffee? What do you think of artificial sweeteners?— are guideposts that help people identify their Vinotype: Sweet, Hypersensitive, Sensitive or Tolerant. At one end of the spectrum are the Sweet Vinotypes, people who experience a sensory overload from stimuli: light, sound, taste and smell. In wines they who crave sweetness to mask what they perceive as intolerable bitterness. These are  people who started drinking wine with white zinfandel and ones fueling the explosive popularity of Moscato. They are also the ones who have often been made to feel apologetic about their tastes. “They and their well-meaning friends suffer from the collective delusion that, as their palate mature they will be able to appreciate what’s perceived as more sophisticated wines, the big reds, the over-oaked chardonnays,” Hanni says. “But it’s not true. If a person likes White Zinfandel or Moscato with their steak, turkey or seafood, that’s what they should have.”

At the other end of the taste spectrum are the Tolerant Vinotypes. “Tolerant Vinotypes don’t understand what all of the fuss is about with more sensitive Vinotypes – those wimps!” Hanni explains. They take their coffee black and the most likely to enjoy Scotch. “Big, red wines are their favorites and damn the torpedoes, Hanni says. “Intensity is the name of the game and the bigger the better.” The Tolerant Vinotypes are the ones who want the thermostat set colder and the volume on the TV turned up while the Sweet and Hypersensitive demand the opposite.

In between these two extremes lie the types Hanni terms Hypersensitive and Sensitive Vinotypes. Hypersensitive Vinotypes are quite sensitive to all sorts of things and, like the Sweet Vinotypes, they have many pet peeves, he says. They are often artistic and adamant that they know what they like. “Hypersensitive Vinotypes are very similar in sensitivity to the Sweet Vinotypes but  tend to prefer dry, or just off-dry, wines on an everyday basis.,” he says. “Their favorite wines tend to be more delicate and very, very smooth while also being lower in alcohol. They may even like intense red wines but not with a lot of oak or heavy tannins smooth and rich.www.timhanni.com

 “The Hypersensitive Vinotype is a bit more likely to ‘talk dry and drink sweet’ looking for those wines that have a slight bit of residual sugar,” he adds.

The Sensitive Vinotype is the most flexible of wine drinkers. “Sensitive Vinotypes go with the flow,” Hanni says. “Maybe they take their coffee with cream or a touch of sweetness at one point in the day, but they’ll enjoy black coffee if the wind is right. They are open to trying new things, and variety is truly the spice of their lives.” Sensitive Vinotypes love a wide range of mostly dry white and red wines, along with ros├ęs and sparkling wines, Hanni says. “They are among the most adventurous wine lovers and open to all sorts of flavors and wine styles from delicate to robust.” They do have more limitations on bitterness and tannins than Tolerant Vinotypes, Hanni notes. “They are not typically looking for the oaky monsters but really impeccably balanced, smooth and the word ‘complex’ is usually important as a wine description."

"Discovering people’s Vinotype helps explain a lot of things people disagree on in life, from the temperature in the room, to the use of cilantro in a recipe, to the volume of the television, to the sheets that you sleep on,” Hanni says.

“People should be able to like what they like, and this includes sweet wines,” he concludes, and offering wines matched to the different Vinotypes who all come together at holiday dining table just might be your own holiday gift to wine lovers.   

To discover your more about the research and philosophies visit Hanni’s website,  www.timhanni.com. To find out your Vinotype go to www.myvinotype.com.

Here is a list of Holiday Wine Recommendations for the Vintoypes at your table or party. These wines were Platinum or Gold award winners at the Consumer Wine Awards at Lodi, a unique evaluation event where hundreds of everyday consumers, are grouped into Vinotype panels to taste and recommend their favorites from hundreds of wine entered into the competition.

Sweet Vinotypes are usually found sipping their favorite White Zinfandel or Moscato so try one of these:
  • Hagafen Cellars Riesling, Napa Valley $24 
  • Woodbridge by Robert Mondavi  Muscat, California  $12.00

Hypersensitive Vinotype

Pinot Grigio or silky Pinot Noir are very often the wine of choice and the will love one of the following:
·         flipflop wines Sauvignon Blanc, Left Coast, ,Chile $7.00
·         Loredona Pinot Grigio, Monterey, California $10.99
·         Rutherford Vintners Pinot Noir, Napa Valley, California $12.99 

Sensitive Vinotype

If you are limited on number of wines to serve the good news is that the Sensitive Vinotype will probably like whatever you select for the Hypersensitive or Tolerant but these will be specially loved:
  • Picket Fence Chardonnay 2009 Russian River Valley, California16.99
  •  LuLu B., Malbec, Chile $7.00
  • Cupcake Vineyards, Red Velvet, Zinfandel, Merlot Blend $13.99
Tolerant Vinotype

Big, bold and intense (and you know who it is that will love these) is the ticket and here are some that will rock their world :

  • Cycles Gladiator, Cabernet Sauvignon, Lodi, California $12.00
  • Klinker Brick Winery Syrah Farrah, Lodi, California $20.00