No other kind of alcohol fits better with food than wine. And if you like wine but don’t especially know much about it, the best way to shape your palette is to heed the advice of pairing pros and match different bottles with specific meals — or so we thought.
Rather than sip a cabernet sauvignon because it works well with a big hunk of red meat, the better method for determining what wines you’ll like is to forget food pairings and focus on your personality, say Michigan State scientists in a new International Journal of Wine Business Research study.
In the experiment, college students filled out a survey listing their food and beverage preferences and consumption habits, then tasted 12 unique combinations of food and wine, first separately and then together, before rating the pairs.
What happened? Scientists were able to accurately predict which combos would be most and least liked based on the students’ preferences as indicated in the surveys. For example, if people said that they liked to drink instant coffee, they were more likely to respond favorably to Syrah; if they hated spicy foods, they weren’t super into white Zinfandel.
As the researchers intended, the results seem to mesh with the “Vinotype” theory, proposed by Master of Wine Tim Hanni. Hanni suggests that every drinker is one of four “Vinotypes,” which is determined partly by your personality, genetics and environment. Knowing your Vinotype can help you “narrow down the overwhelming number of wine choices you may encounter in stores, online, or on restaurant wine lists,” according to myVinotype, which offers an assessment to determine your type.
There are four Vinotypes, starting with sweet, which means you like delicate styles, lower-alcohol wines and reds that are “especially rich and smooth for your highly sensitive sensory perception.” The second is Hypersensitive, which means that since you’re at the “top end of the scale in terms of your sensory sensitivity,” you’re either super picky and tend to stick to your favorites, or super adventurous and will try all kinds of new wines. There’s Sensitive, signaling you dig rich, smooth wines that aren’t too oaky or tannic. And then Tolerant, which suggests you crave intense, flavorful wines like Chardonnay and Viognier, but loathe the “wimpy,“ sweet stuff.
Beyond predicting your taste preferences, your Vinotype supposedly offers a glimpse into your personality, too. According to the assessment, if you’re a Sweet, for example, you’re picky about the texture of, uh, linens, and if you’re a Sensitive, you were “probably an easy birth for your mother.” Yes, it can get weird.
It’s simple, quick, and free to figure out your own Vinotype. Just answer a few questions based on how much you love, hate, or want a few things, and boom. For example, I indicated that I enjoyed exploring new wines and excellent Scotches or Cognacs from around the world, hated sweet wines and wanted complex wines, while supposedly enjoying red wines with chocolate, and bottles rated 90 to 100 points.
Within seconds, I discovered that I’m a Tolerant; Per the assessment, I like rich, intensely flavored whites and full-bodied reds, which is pretty accurate. I also found out my wife often complains when I turn the TV up too loud and crank the thermostat to the coldest setting, which is frighteningly accurate. You crazy for this one, Tim Hanni.
Take the assessment and see where you fall. If it checks out, time to stock up your wine cabinet. We asked Courtney Olson, the Wine Director of COI in San Francisco, to hand-pick a few killer bottles based on each Vinotype.
While you can’t go wrong with a German Riesling or Moscato d’Asti, Olson recommends Bugey-Cerdon by Renardat Fache. “It’s a low-alcohol, lightly sweet Rosé with candied red berry fruit and a touch of sweet herbs,” she says. “Dynamic, refreshing, and dangerously delicious.”
You’ll enjoy a wide range of styles, from dry and understated to rich and powerful. Try Egly-Ouriet’s Blanc de Noirs, which “manages to combine finesse and power expertly,” says Olson. Another option: “The single-vineyard Les Crayeres is a 70-year-old vine cuvée of Pinot Noir that’s bright, lifted, and long on the palate.”
Like Sweets, Hypersensitives look for smooth, delicate styles that hint at sweetness through their fruity character, like a Chardonnay with a touch of residual sugar, says Olson. “I love to suggest one of Sancerre’s leading farmers, Domaine Vacheron,” she says. “Their single-vineyard Sauvignon Blancs have layers of complexity that unfold in the glass over time, offering notes of crisp pear, stonefruit, wildflowers, and smoky minerality.”
For Tolerants, the bigger and bolder the wine, the better. California Cabernet, Barolo and Brunello di Montalcino are all slam dunks, Olson says. “Another knockout from southern France would be the godfather of Cháteauneuf-du-Pape: Henri Bonneau and his mythic bottling, Réserve de Célestins,” she says. “It’s concentrated, powerful and immense, and has extraordinary ripeness and complexity.”