By Salongo Wendland
Pairing wine with cheese, dessert, or dinner? This isn’t for you. We’re pairing wine with experiences in honor of National Wine Day, because finding the perfect wine to pair with a bath is just as important as finding a wine to pair with that smoked gouda.
Wine is a beautiful experience all its own. Opening the bottle is an act of ceremony in itself: running the tiny blade around the rim of the bottle, finding the center of the cork with the screw and cranking it down, then pulling out the cork with a pop. The first scent of the wine wafting from the bottle: cool and crisp, fruity and floral, leathery and deep; then the pour into the glass, light dancing through the liquid. Breathing in the aroma, which might just be my favorite part of the whole thing. Then, tasting the tart savor, good to the last drop.
Obviously, I totally hate wine.
But honestly, the one part of the wine experience I don’t enjoy is the pretension that can accompany the whole affair. Wine is meant to be enjoyed. And you don’t need recommendations on which Châteauneuf-du-Pape pairs best with your Époisses as much as you need some sensible recommendations for wine to pair with the experiences we have while enjoying it. Here are some common and uncommon varietals to try next time you’re up for it.
Watching TGIT/Hallmark channel by yourself: Grenache
It’s been another long Thursday at work, and I still have to get through Friday before the weekend. The kiddo’s finally in bed, the laundry is in heaps on the couch, and I’m feeling overwhelmed. Time for an emotional drama and a cathartic cry—and nothing pairs better with Kleenex and PJs than a bold wine. Grenache is just the ticket. This full-bodied, dark, fruit-forward wine is rich enough to enjoy from the opening scene through the tears all the way to the stuffed and sniffly nose.
- Shatter Grenache ($$: over $20); cherry, berry, oak
- Bodegas Ateca Atteca Old Vines Garnacha ($: under $20); blackberry, chocolate
Taking a bath: Chardonnay
It’s hard to carve out any alone time when you’re working, raising a family, and trying to keep your house from garnering biohazard warnings. When you do manage to get a few minutes for alone-time, nothing feels as good as a piping hot bath in salty water to loosen those stress-cramped muscles. Light a candle, turn on some music, and open up a chilled Chardonnay. Not only will the cold wine refresh you while you soak in the heat, but a Chardonnay is interesting enough on the palate that it doesn’t need an accompaniment. Chardonnays can have notes of oak, butter, vanilla, and pears or tropical fruit. They’re just different enough to keep your palate occupied while your mind wanders and you sink into that lovely bubble bath.
- Rombauer Chardonnay ($$); oak, butter, cream brûlée
- Bonterra Organic Chardonnay ($); pineapple, citrus
Girls’ night at your place: White blend
Let’s face it, when you get together with the girls, the only thing flowing faster than the wine is the rate of conversation as you all catch up on each other’s lives and laugh your heads off the entire time. It’s a good idea to grab a couple different wines; get something nicer to start, then something inexpensive but still palatable for the point in the night when you’re group-Tindering on someone’s phone and painting each other’s nails various shades of glitter. White blends take a few different white varietals and blend them together into a whole that’s greater than a sum of its parts—kind of like your girlfriends. They tend to be flavorful and well-balanced. I think they’re great for girls’ night—they’re not overbearing, they’re just easy-drinking and delicious.
- Conundrum white blend ($$); apple, peach, vanilla
- Evolution white blend ($); tropical fruit, cream, oak
- Big House White box ($$ but 3L size); tropical fruit, peach, citrus
Going to a dinner party: Cabernet Sauvignon
Every now and then we have to be adults and socialize outside of our own homes. I’ve seen countless people standing in front of the wine aisle on their way to a friend’s for dinner, a confused expression on their faces as they waffle between price tags and varietals, unsure of what to do. A few things to remember about picking out a wine for someone else: if it’s a good wine, it’s a good wine. Price doesn’t necessarily denote quality, although it’s tougher to find a great wine under $15.
Everybody loves a Cab. Cabernets are the most popular varietal for good reason—they’re robust, stand up to almost any dinner pairing, and have that trademark tannic bite at the end that we associate with all things winey. They’re a people-pleaser, just like me, and it’s why I bring along a Cab more often than not when I’m headed out of the house.
- Decoy Cabernet Sauvignon ($$); blackberry, currant, mineral
- Avalon Cabernet Sauvignon ($); blackberry, blueberry, sweeter
- Primus Cabernet Sauvignon ($); plum, cassis, berry
Here’s hoping you can treat yourself to one of these wines (and one of these experiences) soon!