The busy world we live in is making it harder and harder for couples to find things that bring them closer. People get home from a hard day at work and just want to decompress on their own, either burying themselves in their phones/laptops or zoning out in front of the TV. This kind of life far too often leads to relationship inertia in the intimacy department. Wine is the perfect antidote. Why? Three reasons.
First, drinking wine takes little time or effort. You have to buy a bottle, open it, pour it then drink it. TOGETHER. Voila.
Second, wine is fun. And I don’t mean fun as in drinking two bottles every night and getting rip-roaring drunk. I mean fun in that there are myriad grape varieties (varietals) and styles of wine to learn about and try. And most fun and intimate of all? Learning to pair wines you like with foods you like.
Finally, let’s face it, wine is inherently romantic. As the great Roman poet Ovid wrote:
“It warms the blood, adds luster to the eyes,
and wine and love have ever been allies.”
My easy 5 point plan
I’ll elaborate on all of these points with the following five-point plan for incorporating wine into your relationship in the easiest way possible! My only qualification for doing so is that I’ve been drinking and learning about wine for 25 years. And for the last 14 years, my wife and I have been drinking all kinds of wines with all kinds of foods and having a great time in the process. We have three little kids and life can be crazy, but wine has given us a fun thing to bond over.
[An obvious disclaimer: if you or your partner have a history of alcoholism or drug abuse, best not to do this.]
On to the plan.
1. Buy “Windows on the World Complete Wine Course” by Kevin Zraly
Windows on the World is known as the best book ever written for learning the basics of wine. I read it many moons ago and it gave me the foundation I needed for my wine education. The bulk of the book is devoted to learning about the different wine regions of the world and the grapes grown in each: Bordeaux, Burgundy, the Rhone Valley and Loire Valley in France; Tuscany, Lombardy, Piedmont, Veneto in Italy; Spain, Germany, Australia and, of course, California. And many others.
If this geographic/grape thing strikes you as odd, that was my reaction when I first read the book. I’d always thought a wine book would devote at least 80 percent to the specifics of tasting wine. Nope. That’s about five percent, if that. In fact, I can give you the barebones of tasting in nine words: look at it, swirl it, smell it, taste it. Learning about wine is mostly about getting to know the different grapes, where they grow best around the world and, most important, trying a bunch of different wines and discovering which ones you like and which you don’t like.
The book is easy to read and not long. You can get it on Amazon for twelve bucks.
2. Find a good wine shop
Next, Google “best wine shop near me.” Yes, most big grocery stores have decent wine selection these days, but in the beginning, it’s best to find a good wine shop with knowledgeable staff. These people love wine, which makes it both enjoyable and educational just yakking with them about their favorite subject.
And by the way, if you want to just get right to it and not take the time to read Windows on the World, you can start with this step.
3. Buy a few bottles
On a weekend day, go with your partner to the wine shop and buy a few bottles of different grapes. If you’re both inclined toward whites, try a chardonnay, sauvignon blanc and a grape you’ve never tried before. Possibly a dry German riesling, a Gruner veltliner from Austria or an Albarino from Spain.
FYI, I rarely, if ever, spend more than $10 on a white wine. My go-to white for the past few years has been Pontificis, which is a blend of three white grapes from Southern France — Viognier, Marsanne and Roussanne. It costs seven bucks and I love it. It’s available only at Trader Joe’s.
If you’re both into reds, try a Cabernet Sauvignon, a Pinot Noir and a Syrah. Cabernets can be hugely expensive, but you can get a decent bottle from Sonoma County or Washington State for as little as ten or twelve bucks. Plan to spend $15-ish on the Pinot Noir. The cheap pinot noirs ($7–12 range) are almost universally awful and do a disservice to this fantastic grape.
BTW, you don’t HAVE to buy ANY of the wines I just suggested. I’m just trying to give you a starting point if you don’t have any. The main thing is to just get your butt into the wine store and buy a few bottles that sound interesting and fun to you and your partner.
4. Buy a Vacuvin Wine Saver
You won’t finish every bottle you open in one night. The Vacuvin pumps the air out of the bottle, which can preserve the wine for several days.
A few years ago the Wall Street Journal tested several wine preserver systems, ranging in price from $10 to $400. They found that the Vacuvin, the $10 one, worked the best. It’s what I’ve used for years. You can find it on Amazon or most likely at your wine shop. Also, goes without saying, but buy a wine opener.
5. Pair wine with food
The adage goes that wine makes food taste better and food makes wine taste better. So true! Food and wine are meant to be consumed together. This is where you can really give your relationship an intimacy boost.
How? For starters, many couples are so busy that they don’t have the energy or the wherewithal to eat dinner together. The fun of pairing food and wine will give you the incentive to take the time to eat together…at least a couple nights a week.
Because all couples aren’t alike, I’ll break the wine-food advice into two groups.
First, this is for couples who are crazy busy and usually order take out:
-Chinese/Thai — Dry Riesling (Kabinett style)
-Pizza — Chianti from Tuscany (Sangiovese grape)
-Mexican (Taco Bell, etc.) — Dry riesling or sauvignon blanc
-Hamburgers (Wendy’s, etc.) — Grenache from Spain or France (great value)
How much to spend
A comment about cost: You shouldn’t have to spend more than $12 on any of these. Just ask your wine shop helper to get you something in this range. Again, you’re just starting out and getting the lay of the land with the various wine types. If you both end up LOVING a certain varietal (Cabernet? Pinot Noir? Riesling?), you can go crazy someday and splurge on a really nice bottle. That in itself would be a cool, intimate activity.
For couples who do some cooking at home, here are some basic dishes and wines:
-Pasta with red sauce — Chianti, Malbec (Argentinians have the best value)
-Baked Chicken — chardonnay
-Big salad, oil, and vinegar dressing — Gruner Veltliner, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay
And obviously, just Google other foods you both like and the wines they pair well with. There’s a ton of easy information online.
Finally, here are three ideas for weekends when you can really relax, not rush and enjoy the pairings:
1) Steak with cabernet sauvignon. This is the big daddy of wine and food pairings.
2) Oysters with muscadet or Champagne. This is another classic. If your grocery store doesn’t sell oysters, go to your local Whole Foods or other high-end grocer and they will. Get a dozen or half-dozen and some cocktail sauce. Have the oysters with the muscadet or Champagne as an appetizer before dinner.
3) Baked salmon and Pinot Noir. This is one most people don’t know about and is absolutely fantastic. (If you’re a single guy, interested in someone and you’re at the point where you feel comfortable inviting her over for dinner, DO THIS!)
It’s so easy. Go to your shop and ask your wine person for a decent bottle of Pinot Noir for $15–20 from the Central Coast of California, Santa Barbara County or Santa Maria, CA.
Then buy a pound of salmon at the grocery store (just get farm-raised; I could write a whole article on farm vs. fresh, etc., but that’s for another time.) At home, put your oven on 400. Get a basic baking dish and spread a little oil on it. Put the salmon in the baking dish. If you have soy sauce, spread a little over the salmon and rub it in. Put salt and pepper on the salmon. Put the salmon in the oven for 18–20 minutes.
Make a salad and some rice and you’re golden. If you’re too lazy to make rice (I am!), go to Trader Joe’s and buy it frozen. They come in packets of three and all you do is put one in the microwave for three minutes. The rice tastes great and comes in brown or jasmine variety.
Wine is fun. Drunk in moderation, it’s also healthy, with multiple studies showing it’s good for the heart and reduces the risks of some forms of cancer and other diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s (Ashley Sobel, Healthline.com, 8/27/19).
Most important, it’s a whole world you and your partner can experience together. Cheers.