There are two popular wine-related beliefs making the rounds these days, both of which deserve to be put to rest because they are nothing more than pure and unadulterated nonsense. The first of these would have us believe that men are better qualified to taste wine than women, and the second that some wines are more appropriate for men and others for women.
At least since the 1950s, it has been well demonstrated that the ability to taste wines (or for that matter any other food or beverage) is determined almost entirely by the number of taste buds on the tongues and the density of scent receptors in the nostrils. Thirty years passed with no major research into the question of taste, but starting in the mid-1990s, largely because major food producers were interested in determining to whom they should direct their advertising campaigns, interest in the subject revived in Europe and North America – and several major research studies were undertaken. At Cornell University, Johns Hopkins University and the University of Grenoble, biologists came up with two sets of findings. The first, that had been more or less known by people in the food and wine industry for a hundred or more years, was that people fall into three broad categories – non-tasters, normal tasters and super-tasters; that is to say, people with limited ability, normal ability and extra-ordinary ability to discern the flavors and aromas in foods and beverages.
What amazed the researchers (who were mostly males) and the wine-tasting public (especially the male chauvinists among that group) was the second finding: nearly 80 percent of super-tasters are women and not men. Simply stated, women have a genetic proclivity toward having a greater number of taste buds and a greater concentration of scent receptors. That makes them better qualified than the majority of men to taste wines. It is thus far more than mere coincidence that those women who write about food and wine rank very high indeed among the most highly respected people who write about such things in order to make their living.
As to wines that are “appropriate” for women, all I can do is chuckle quietly. While it is true that some wines are described as “masculine” and others as “feminine,” even a quick glance at that terminology shows that the descriptors used are taken from misguided beliefs and stereotypes about what men and women are supposed to be like. Wines that are said to be masculine, for example, are described in terms of being aggressive, muscular, deep, flinty, strong, forward, coarse, and even vulgar. Those said to be feminine are soft, gentle, subtle, sensual, caressing, warm, and even “sexy.”
On one hand these terms (except perhaps the last) can honestly be used when describing wines. On the other hand, however, stating that men tend to favor wines described as masculine and women those that are feminine is an obvious error. Many recent market analyses in France and the United States have shown that women and men have precisely the same partiality to deep, young and aggressive wines than they do to soft, subtle and caressing white wines.
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Following, as promised in last month’s column, are reviews of quality wines from Italy and France, none of which will set us back a small fortune and all of which are thoroughly enjoyable under the right circumstances. Keep in mind that these wines, all of which are readily available at better wine shops and online wine sites in the greater metropolitan New York area, are all meant to be consumed now or in the next year or so.
Sara Bee, Moscato, Puglia, n.v.: A rich and lively aperitif or dessert wine. Light golden straw in color, generously frizzante, showing pear, apple and dried apricot fruits on a lightly honeyed and spicy background. Medium-bodied with generous sweetness in fine balance with lively acidity. Served lightly chilled and do not be the least bit embarrassed to do as the Italians do by adding an ice cube or two to your glass. $6. Score: 88.
Bartenura, Chianti, Ovadia Estates, Tuscany, 2009: Ruby to garnet in color, medium-bodied with soft tannins and an appealing berry-black-cherry personality. Not complex but easy to drink. Drink now. $14. Score: 85.
Bartenura, Pinot Grigio, Veneto, 2010: Golden straw in color, light- to medium-bodied and nicely dry. On the nose and palate, citrus, green apples and notes of tropical fruits. Clean, fresh and refreshing. A pleasant quaffer. Drink now. $11. Score: 85.
Borgo Reale, Maturo, Puglia, 2009: A medium-bodied blend of 55 percent Primitivo and 45 percent Negromaro grapes, dark garnet in color with gently caressing tannins and a spicy and red fruit nose. Opens in the glass to reveal red and black berries, cassis and earthy minerals, those followed by notes of licorice. Drink now. Score: 85.
Borgo Reale, Pinot Grigio, Puglia, 2010: A virtual twin to the 2009 release. Light golden straw, light- to medium-bodied, with citrus, mango and papaya fruits highlighted by good acidity. A good quaffer. Drink now. $12. Score: 85.
S’forno, Cabernet Sauvignon, Veneto, 2007: Medium-dark royal purple, medium-bodied with somewhat chunky tannins and showing a basic blackberry and black cherry personality. One- dimensional, but an acceptable entry-level red. Drink now. $16. Score: 85.
Capçanes, Peraj Petita, Montsant, Catalunya, 2008: Garnet toward royal purple, medium- to full-bodied, with gently gripping tannins and spicy wood needing a bit of time to settle in. On the nose and palate blackberries, currants, freshly cut herbs and notes of earthy minerals, all leading to a long, chocolate rich finish. Drink now-2014. $19. Score: 90.
Elvi, Ness, Ribera del Jucar, 2008: Very nice indeed. A blend of Tempranilo, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Bobal grapes showing medium- to full-bodied with gently caressing tannins and generous aromas and flavors of blackcurrants, blackberries and figs. Drink now. $15. Score: 87.
Elvi, Classico, Ribera del Jucar, 2008: A blend of 88 percent Tempranillo and 12 percent Merlot, showing garnet-red toward royal purple, medium-bodied, softly tannic and very gently oaked. On the nose and palate blackberries, plums, wild berries and earth minerals. Drink now. $12. Score: 85.
En Fuego, Tempranillo, Spain, 2009: Medium-bodied, with soft, gently gripping tannins and opening in the glass to reveal a cherry-berry personality, the fruits overlaid with notes of freshly picked mushrooms. Drink now. $10. Score: 85.
Ramón Cardova, Rioja, 2009: A straightforward Rioja, made from Tempranillo grapes, showing dark ruby toward garnet, medium-bodied, with soft tannins and generous acidity. Opens in the glass to show aromas and flavors of cherries and red and black berries. Drink now. $20. Score: 84.
Real Imperial, Chardonnay do Cariñena, Cariñena 2009: Not to be embarrassed if you have never heard of the winegrowing region of Cariñena, for, despite being one of the oldest wine-producing regions in Europe, this is a sub-area of the region of Aragón in Northern Spain – and the wines are not well known outside of Spain. A not complex but very pleasant little Chardonnay, showing medium-bodied, with pear, melon and citrus flavors. A pleasant quaffer. Drink now. $13. Score: 85.
Senorio de Aldaz, Cabernet Sauvignon-Tempranillo, Navarra, Spain, 2009: Medium-bodied, gently tannic blend of equally parts of Tempranillo and Cabernet Sauvignon. On the nose and palate blackberries, blueberries and spring flowers and from mid-palate on a note of black licorice. Drink now. $11. Score: 85.
Sentieri Ebraici, Spumante Brut, Gioia, 2008: With a strawberry, raspberry and mineral character, a fresh, pleasant and fruity sparkling wine. Drink now. $10. Score: 85.
S’forno, Monastrell Dulce, Spain, 2005: A sweet red made entirely from late-harvested Monastrell grapes. Dark ruby toward garnet, medium-bodied, showing flavors and aromas of raspberries, figs and honeycomb, and, on the long finish, notes of apricot pits. Good acidity here but primarily for those who enjoy their reds on the generously sweet side. Drink now. $9. Score: 84.
Terrenal, Cabernet Sauvignon, Carinena, Spain, 2010: Ruby toward garnet, medium-bodied, with soft tannins, a not-at-all complex wine but one that makes for easy quaffing. Aromas and flavors of crushed blackberries and cassis are matched nicely by hints of freshly cut herbs and green olives. Drink now. $8. Score: 84.
Daniel Rogov is a premier kosher wine critic and the author of two annual books, “Rogov’s Guide to Israeli Wines” and “Rogov’s Guide to Kosher Wines.” He can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, and his books can be ordered at www.danielrogov.com.