February 21, 2008


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His & hers bottles
Pinot gris: strong enough for a man…
By Tim Protzman letters@hippopress.com

In the olden days (last week and before) oenologists used to consider wines in terms of gender.

Burgundy was female and Bordeaux was male. And a Margaux was a little of both. Those terms have faded and been replaced by more egalitarian thought, just as “Alderman” and “Chairman” have been supplanted by “Alderwoman” and Chairperson.” But some sexism in wine remains. Just as in real life.

Donna the longshorewoman may be female, but she’s just as strong and brawny as her male counterparts or she wouldn’t hold the job. Perhaps we’ve moved beyond stereotypes in people. Come to think of it maybe humans have outgrown the masculine/feminine labels and can now fathom the idea that everyone is a mix of the masculine/feminine to some degree. Curt is one example. He snowmobiles, yet he’s terrified of spiders, nearly swooning at the sight of them. Glori’s aunt raises prize Candy Apple Grandiflora roses, but she chews tobacco. So maybe here in post-gender-labeling America, it’s no longer people who are masculine or feminine, but the traits themselves? It’s all very French. They give all their nouns a gender. Vin (wine) is masculine and so is cognac. But school (ecole) and cat (chat) are feminine.

My curiosity about wine and gender started last week. I saw this show called Cashmere Mafia about four high-powered executive women. I didn’t flip past it because Lucy Liu was on it. At the end of the show, the four women shared a bottle of chardonnay, traditionally a feminine wine, but it shouldn’t be because most have oak and get lots and lots of sun on their little green skins. Then on this show with Sally Field, who was having dinner with Danny Glover, they shared a bottle of unidentified South African wine. I’m sure it was a pinotage, a cross between pinot noir and cinsault, which is supposed to be masculine but has more female trait qualities.

So what makes a wine perfect for a gathering of airline pilots or firefighters? Or for a gathering of guys?

• Cafaro Cabernet Sauvignon ($15.99 half bottle). Cabernets aren’t masculine? Not this one, especially in the 375 ml format bottle. It’s doll-sized for a tea party. The wine is silky with a light rosewater bouquet, not the heavy incense laden aroma of bold, mature cabernets that come on like an over-cologned used car dealer. Great gift for most women, and men who bake.
• Clos Pegase Carneros Chardonnay ($20.99). Shy? Demure? Not this wine. It’s thin and spunky like a 119-pound-weight class wrestler who, while small, can still lift a commercial washing machine over his head. Strong citrus backbone, tart but pleasant finish. Good gift for men and women, especially women who play sports other than tennis.
• Martin & Weyrich Central Coast Pinot Grigio ($12.99). While usually a drink for thirtysomething women, this is hearty with some testosterone flavor notes. Deeply fruity with a sweet streak and a minerally, herbaceous finish. This wine’s perfect for after cutting the grass and makes a nice present for the lady who owns a nail gun and is not afraid to use it.
New Zealand (The metro-sexual version of Australia).
• Seresin Estate Leah Vineyards Pinot Noir ($29.99). Usually pinots are automatically female, but this one has the tannic backbone of a sexed-up male Tasmanian Devil. Nice fruit with the typical ammonia bouquet of a pinot that belies the slight sweetness that a French or Californian pinot would never have. Nice wine, though, once you get past the contradictions. Great for anyone who’s ever worn an article of clothing usually seen on the opposite sex.
South Africa (it’s just like France except the wild animals, not the people, are sometime rude).
• Charles Back Fairview Goat Roti ($18.99). There’s a billy goat on the label so this wine’s got to be male, right? Not this sulky little steamer. Drinking this wine reminds me of those old WWII pin-up pictures of Rita Hayworth. Try its little brother, Goats do Roam, $8.99. For people of all genders who collect things and occasionally spit on the sidewalk.
Australia (Calm, friendly and laid back, just like its symbol, the koala, until you piss them off and get 20 lbs. of eucalyptus-breathed fury coming at you. Take a look at their claws, mate!)
• Penfolds Bin 28 Kalimna Shiraz ($23.99) From the rough and tumble comes a gentle, elegant wine. Fruity, spicy with hints of sun-drenched days and dry earth. Everything said male, male, male until the first sip. Not a fashion model but a sparkling girl next door type. Great for people who drink tea, male or female.
France (It’s like Massachusetts, except they drive better and have lower taxes. Note: All Champagne is feminine with the exception of Pol Roger and Krug. ):
• Chateaux Larose Trintaudon Haut Medoc ($13.99) A steal for a taste of Bordeaux that won’t leave you nauseated. Dry, pointed with tightly closed fruit and an uncanny ability to pair with chocolate. Violets, raisins and newly mown hay greet the nose. Perfect gift for older people who like to talk about their ailments. Delicious, but has no sense of humor.

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