How Will The Wine Make Me Feel?

Prior to working for Kermit Lynch, I worked in wine distribution and importing in Washington, D.C., France, and Santa Fe, N.M. Of all the colorful customers I’ve had over the years, I was most stumped by a seemingly disengaged wine buyer. Like many of my restaurant customers at the time, he was visibly jaded, incredibly elusive, and his taste buds proved far more reliable than his ability to show up for an appointment. Still, on Tuesday afternoons, I’d show up with my wine bag slung over my shoulder, hoping for a break.

As I pulled the first cork, I began to talk about the winemakers. He lifted his palm up to silence me. “Forget the story,” he interrupted, “How will the wine make me feel?” Hmm. I hadn’t ever been asked that one before. He explained, “When I drink rum, I feel giddy; when I drink tequila, I get crazy. There are certain wines that make me feel better than others.” I knew what he meant, but no one had ever had ever really spoken to me about wine’s effects with so much candor.

A few years later, I found myself in Lafayette Gourmet, the wine and food section of the Galleries Lafayette department store in Paris. I was searching for the buyer, Bruno Quenioux, a friend of a friend, who is also an activist in the organic and biodynamic wine movement. As I waited to speak with him, I browsed the aisles, admiring all of the wonderful selections. On one of the display tables, there was a selection of wines, each with its own category name. There were wines of friendship, wines to inspire philosophical debate, wines to inspire humor, wines of celebration, wines of seduction…and the list goes on. Ah-ha! I peppered him with questions about his category system, and it all made perfect sense: there is just the right wine for every occasion – it’s not just about the best pairings with food.  Bruno has become such an advocate for his system he’s opened up his own wine shop, Philo Vino, in the 5th arrondissement of Paris. I haven’t been, but I plan to go. Not only is thought being given to the occasion for drinking, but he’s even linked the categories to particular styles of wine. Though my first instinct is to give us all permission to drink what we like and to throw any rules out the window, Bruno’s idea honors the chemistry between the wine and the imbiber, all to finally address the question of how a certain wine will make you feel.

Bruno Quenioux of Philo Vino, Paris.

He told me that for state dinners at the Elysée Palace, for example, Burgundies are never served, because they would make the imbiber prone to moodiness and too much reflection. Instead Bordeaux is served to make everyone relax and enjoy themselves. If I had a chance to make the rules, I would have to insist on a wine that naturally promotes more conviviality—something like Beaujolais or Bandol!

All of us can probably recall a time when a certain wine made us feel a particular way. But is it the occasion, the wine, the people we share it with, or all of the above?

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  1. kai says:

    Love it – I often describe Mosel Rieslings as “sunshine in a bottle” and white Vinho Verde as cheer in a glass. Tempier Rose is pure wonder…

  2. Lori says:

    For sure! Ostertag’s wines make me very philosophical, Mas Champart St Chininan Rosé sends me into vacation mode, and Antoine Arena’s Patrimonio “Carco” Rouge makes me talkative.

    How about the rest of you? Any fun suggestions?

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