It takes neither wine geek nor fashion queen to figure out that champagne is the classic match for black tie and ball gowns. But then, like a string of pearls, champagne goes with everything. What do you don while sipping a glass of Cabernet? And what do you drink when attired in your best club kid vinyl? The wine of the late seventies was Chablis. The mode of dress, denim and flannel. In the eighties we turned to California Chardonnay and those scrawny little iridescent ties. Halfway through the nineties, the rage is plastic and Merlot. Are these fashion faux pas? Should the fashion police be called? Enquiring minds want to know. Behind-the-seams and behind-the-stems, a definitive guide to the properly bedecked body when lofting stemware is long overdue.
The Definitive Guide to Wine Apparel
Plastic & Rubber: This is clothing at its most high-tech. You find yourself wearing black vinyl shorts, green rubberized PVC boots and a see-through orange jacket vaguely reminiscent of the notebook cover your mother bought you for 7th grade. You have rings on your fingers and bells on your toes, not to mention rubber O-rings on your wrists and elsewhere.
This is not a time to go for classic vintages. This is not a time for elegance and delicacy. You want bold, up-front, high-tech winemaking at its best. You’re also on a budget ’cause that outfit cost you three weeks of paychecks. Think screwtop. Think White Zinfandel. Pack a handful of those airline-size bottles in your clutch or Scooby- Doo lunchbox and you’ll make club kid of the week. Make sure to take along a couple of those bendy straws.
Metal: This is a tough one. Metal can be subtle or bold. Silver or gold. A mere medallion attached to a cap or an entire steel mesh sleeveless T. It can be whisper quiet and heavy or jangle when you walk. Most importantly, metal makes a statement that can’t be ignored. And that’s your key to a wine match. You don’t do what’s usual. You’re on the cutting edge of fashion and you’re ready for the cutting edge of wine. This is the moment for the hottest trends around. With white metal – California Viognier. Even in wine circles this sizzling style is hush-hush. There’s just so little to go around. Snap some up! Decked in gold, brass, bronze and copper? Cash in on the red-hot button – Washington State Merlot. You couldn’t be any trendier if you wore iron body armor.
Leather: Okay, let’s face it. Leather has been, is, and probably always will be part of our community. Except, of course, for those who feel it should be left attached to the body of its original owner. We’re not talking about a belt, shoes, or even a tasteful and oh-so trendy faux motorcycle jacket. This is for those of you who deck yourselves in pants, chaps, vests, jackets, boots, and, yes, even hoods. After all, even in a dungeon one needs to stop for refreshment now and then. You love the smell of old leather and you like it a little rough. Grab for Rhone and Rioja red. Big, earthy, leathery wines, full of fruit, spice and power. Forget the corkscrew. Knock the top off and drink it straight from the bottle.
Denim: Farmers may have worn blue jeans first, but we made ’em an industry. Not only did we take the classic LEVI and turn it into a fashion trend, but we insisted on eighty-two different styles and every color of the rainbow. From shiny new to stonewashed, rough-and- ready to soft and brushed, denim is our most ubiquitous fabric. Pants, shirts, jackets. There’s a good chance you don’t know anyone who doesn’t have at least one piece of clothing made from it. Denim virtually begs for the most widely known grape variety out there. Chardonnay. You can’t miss. Whether it’s a tight, lean styled Chablis with your form-fit zipped boot jeans, a polished, elegant white Burgundy with your brushed cotton jacket, or a bold, buttery California Chard with your button-fly baggies, no other wine fits your lifestyle so well.
Suede, Corduroy & Velvet: Not that they’re all the same thing, but each has that soft, full-bodied, sensual element to them. My high school graduation picture shows me wearing an orange shirt and a dark tan corduroy jacket. I think I’ve destroyed all the copies. But these fabrics have their place. Blue suede shoes, black corduroy pants and a violet, velvet smoking jacket (no shirt or an open white ruffled pirate shirt, of course) call for hedonism in a wine. No wine is as sexy, as sensual, as carnal as Pinot Noir. The paramount red grape of Burgundy draws you in with its earthy manner only to envelope you in its soft embrace. From South Africa there is smoke and heat and passion emanating from each bottle. And from the Pacific Northwest of the good old U.S. of A., a wine as bright, energetic and enthusiastic as a roll in the hay.
Silk: While we’re steaming up the mirrors here… this is another fabric that is pure ardor. From nightwear to boxer shorts, from suit and tie, to a simple, softly draped shirt, silk calls for a soft, caressing elegance. Silk may be the most misunderstood fabric. Your dry cleaner doesn’t know how to clean it. People make fun of you when you wear it. But oh, it feels so good. It’s time to introduce yourself to the most misunderstood wine of all time. Famed wine writer Jancis Robinson said of it, “Unbeatable quality; indisputably aristocratic. Ludicrously unfashionable.” That could describe silk, but no, she was referring to Riesling. Not the vaguely sweet stuff the Germans flooded our markets with over the last few decades, but the good stuff they kept for themselves. Serve a bottle of a dry, top quality wine from the Rhein or Mosel, and then let your silk dressing-gowned companions tell you they don’t like Riesling.
Wool: There’s nothing quite like a warm woolen sweater, perhaps pink angora, or a tailor-made suit, preferably not mohair. Wool is the archetype, from the preppie look to dress-up to spending a weekend in the country – playing polo or some such… A classic calls for a classic. Bordeaux will always be correct with wool. Rich, luxurious, full- bodied and age-worthy. Just like you.
Last, but not least, the electric blue iridescent tie, three-quarters of an inch wide, that we all still secretly have in our closets. Possibly, just possibly, a wine spritzer. But my recollection is that in truth, it wasn’t wine, but the Alabama Slammers that my friend Michael used to make that went best. See you in the wine bars.
|White Zinfandel||It may actually be an oxymoron to have a favorite White Zinfandel, and I must admit, I don't. I recomend grabbing whatever's closest to the cash register, you don't have time to waste worrying about brand names.|
|California Viognier||The two top of the line choices in my tongue's eyes are Preston Vineyards and Alban Vineyards.|
|Washington State Merlot||First place honors go to Canoe Ridge Vineyards, with a close runner-up status to Hogue Cellars.|
|Rhône red||From the northern Rhône, Michel Ogier Côte Rôtie or Robert Michel Cornas. From the southern Rhône, Père Anselme Gigondas or J. Vidal-Fleury Vacqueyras.|
|Rioja red||Go for the Bodegas La Rioja Alta Viña Ardanza Réserva or Bodegas Montecillo Viña Monty Gran Reserva.|
|Chardonnay||This is much too wide a category for any flat out top choices, but within each of my recommended styles, here goes a shot at it... Chablis - R. Vocoret "Les Clos" Grand Cru.|
|White Burgundy||Darnat "Clos Richemont" Meursault Premier Cru. California - Mayacamas or Kistler.|
|Pinot Noir||Again, too much going on in this category, but... Burgundy - Baron de la Charrière Maranges or Santenay. South Africa - Hamilton-Russell. Pacific Northwest USA - Benton Lane or Domaine Drouhin from Oregon, Acacia or Mahoney Estate from California.|
|Riesling||Look for the producers K. Neckerauer or Weingut Lingenfelder. Unless of course, you really want to search out Freiherr zu Knyphausen Erbacher Michelmark?|
|Bordeaux||On a budget? Look for Château Simard, Château Meyney, or Château Bourgneuf. Willing to put out a couple more bucks? Château Kirwan or Château Cos d'Estournel.|
Dan Perlman is a chef and sommelier. In 1994 he won the tri-annual competition for Best Sommelier in the Northeastern United States from the Sommelier Society of America.
Q San Francisco magazine premiered in late 1995 as a ultra-slick, ultra-hip gay lifestyle magazine targeted primarily for the San Francisco community. It was launched by my friends Don Tuthill and Robert Adams, respectively the publisher and editor-in-chief, who had owned and run Genre magazine for several years prior. They asked me to come along as the food and wine geek, umm, editor, for this venture as well. In order to devote their time to Passport magazine, their newest venture, they ceased publication of QSF in early 2003.