Alpana Singh is uniquely qualified to talk about wine, contemporary women and relationships. At age twenty-six she became the youngest woman to be inducted into the world’s most exclusive sommelier organization, the hundred-and-twenty-member Court of Master Sommeliers. She spent five years as sommelier at a world famous four star restaurant, Everest of Chicago. While there she closely observed the sometimes humorous, sometimes absurd, social interactions between men and woman at all stages of their relationships. Her mental journal of these “social observations” came in handy as she wrote her first book, Alpana Pours.
Alpana Pours reaches readers in playful language they will understand, and in a highly entertaining manner they will enjoy. Women want to know how to select wine when entertaining important clients, pair wine with food they and their partner are preparing together, choose the right wines for hostess gifts, bridal showers, a first meeting with a boyfriend’s parents and what wine to, or not to, order on a first date. Alpana Pours supplies tips on these and a myriad of other topics including “dating” and “dealing with guys.” The book’s gender riff on wine and lifestyle is unique and will definitely grab reader’s attention.
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About the Author
Read an Excerpt
About Being a Woman, Loving Wine and Having Great Relationships
By Alpana Singh, Robert Scarola, Julia Anderson-Miller
Chicago Review Press IncorporatedCopyright © 2006 Scarola & Singh, LLC
All rights reserved.
Sugar & Spice
* * *
WINE AND THE SEXES
Sugar & Spice
If you're wondering why I chose to write a wine/lifestyle book geared mostly for women, it's because during my years as a wine pro it was pretty clear that women relate to wine differently from men. This does not mean that there is a solid gender-based difference: women and men do in fact enjoy many of the same wines. And contrary to some notions, women are certainly interested in developing their palates and their ability to select good wine.
Women are Cheap ... No Way!
There are those in the wine industry who think we women are interested only in cheap, blackberry-flavored Merlot or wine's alcohol and carb content because we're more concerned about our waistlines than about good flavor. Granted, women are not as interested in the points or scores or the prestige of the product as men are. And that doesn't mean men are wrong to think that points and prestige are good reasons to enjoy wine. Women just use different tools to select wines. They are interested in what is immediately in the bottle, and they tend to drink wine for their own pleasure, without pretense or worrying about whether a vintage is less than desirable.
No Wine Snobs, Please!
There is a reason why the word "sommelier" brings up the image of a pompous, snooty male; why is it never the image of a pompous, snooty female? Could it be that women are less inclined to be wine snobs? Being a female in a male-dominated profession, I can't tell you how many times I've overheard men in full one-upmanship mode discussing wine allocations, points, prices and acquisitions. I think it's pretty safe to say that women are more emotionally connected to wine. I got into wine because it emotionally stirred me. For women, what matters most is the flavor of the wine and the story behind it and how wine can greatly enhance their social and private lives. There are of course a great many men who approach wine in a similar way, and I am hoping that they too will enjoy reading this book. But I have written on wine from a female perspective.
Wine Marketers Want Us Real Bad!
With The New York Times wine statistics mentioned above, it's no wonder that wine producers are scrambling to tap the female market. There's a new wine created particularly for women, a brand called White Lie. The vintner has gone to great marketing lengths to sell us on this concept, saying that White Lie is dry and light, with a lower alcohol content than other wines. It also has a series of stereotypical white lies stamped on the corks such as I'll be home by 7 and It's my natural color.I wonder why they decided to lower the alcohol, since I don't think it's the alcohol content in wine that turns women off. Hey, I like to booze it up just as much as the next guy. Even though I don't agree with the idea of creating a lower alcohol wine for women, I decided to try the White Lie Chardonnay and, in all honesty, it wasn't too bad. As I do with all wines, I had to remain open to the possibility that I could like it. None of us, including wine experts, should ever judge a wine before giving it a fair shot.
Wine is the New Cosmo
If you haven't noticed, female celebrities are getting more and more into wine. A while back, I saw a video with Beyoncé holding a big glass of red as she laments and jokes with her girlfriends about a relationship gone South. Not so long ago she would have been crying into a Cosmo. With all due respect to Sex and the City, Cosmos are now very last century. Women are drinking wine, not fussy cocktails like appletinis.
Significantly, this shift in young women's drinking habits seems to have caught the attention of the entrepreneur Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group, who has recently introduced a Shiraz and Chardonnay, with screw top caps and even in mini-bottles, under the brand name Virgin Vines. He apparently "gets wine" and knows who's drinking it.
We Haven't Come a Long Way, Baby, Quite Yet
While I'd like to be able to say that we're entering the golden age of women and wine, the truth of the matter is that, supportive stats or not, wine is still thought of as a male beverage. The stereotype that women don't know anything about wine hangs on for dear life. Unfortunately, women often buy into this inaccurate characterization. I repeatedly noticed during my sommelier days that women in the company of men seemed a little shocked when I asked them directly about their wine preferences. Some women, especially those in the early stages of a relationship, loved to pass the ego baton to the man and would say to me, "He knows what I like, talk to him about the wine." Those who have spent some relationship time together, and were more accustomed to joint decision-making, were much less shy about asserting their wine likes and dislikes.
When I was dating and the wine list was presented to my male companion, I tried to ignore this unfortunate faux pas. But this practice still goes on. To avoid this problem and open up the wine selection process, I believe both parties at a table should be given a wine list, so that couples can enjoy a few pleasant moments discussing wine. Of course, my fiancé lets me drive the wine choice — but I do discuss choices with him. Hey, do you tell the surgeon to sit there and look pretty while you do your own liver transplant? I think not!
I believe when a couple agree on a wine, both should be offered an initial taste. When, as a sommelier, I did this, women were often surprised. I responded to their reaction by saying, "Well, you're going to drink it, so I want to make sure you like it, too." Shouldn't everyone at the table like the wine?
Closing note to all servers and sommeliers: please include women in wine selection. Okay?
What Wine Can Do for You
There are many of us, and I used to be one, who have ill-conceived notions about what wines may be a good choice for ourselves, our friends, or significant others. We can start sorting things out and head in the right direction by getting to know what both men and women think about, or prefer in, wine.
Women's Perceptions, Preferences and Notions about Wine
My female guests usually loved to know a wine's backstory before they made a selection, and for good reason. Women usually don't have a specific idea of what wine they want. But they are interested when I can provide a wine's intriguing history. Women tend to relate emotionally and viscerally to wine and the tales behind it. To a lot of us, wine is about passion, desire, romance, history and beauty — all conveniently and deliciously located in a glass right in front of us.
While fantasies clearly have their proper place, a true wine backstory can be fascinating, even inspirational. For instance, when women were heavily leaning towards buttery whites, I'd mention a terrific California wine called Marimar Torres Don Miguel Chardonnay. They became interested in this wine when I told the fascinating story of Marimar Torres, the daughter of Don Miguel Torres, a well-known Spanish vintner. Marimar wanted to break with tradition and be the first woman in the family to learn about wine-making, but Dad wasn't having it. After a few choice words with her father, Marimar took off for the land of opportunity and studied wine-making in California. She ended up creating her own winery and named her Chardonnay Don Miguel after her father. With the relationship repaired, on his deathbed Don Miguel told Marimar, "Yours is the finest Chardonnay I have ever tasted." Who doesn't want to try a glass of wine with that kind of inspirational story attached to it?
Critics, Vintages & Points ... Not So Important to Us
Women don't get so wrapped up in what the critics think, in a wine's vintage or even in how many points The Wine Advocate's Robert Parker (considered by many to be the world's preeminent wine expert) may ascribe to a wine. But unfortunately, women sometimes allow themselves to be suckered into a wine choice because it is fashionable.
Flavor and Style
Women can actually be a little stubborn about their wine choices ... especially when they want a wine from a specific varietal, a wine made from 100% of one grape variety. Varietals you may be familiar with include Pinot Grigio, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc, to name a few. Women are more likely to drink Pinot Grigio or Chardonnay because they enjoy that particular grape's flavor. Style matters too: women would often perk up when I'd say a wine is buttery, oaky, light, dry or without a bite (a wine with low acidity).
When a wine is described as "dry," this sometimes means one thing to one person and something else entirely to another. "Dry" to some means oaky because they think that the oak is the dry flavor in the wine's finish or taste. To others, "dry" means the wine does not have obvious fruity flavors. When a wine professional says the wine is dry, he or she is referring to the fact that the wine has no residual sugar. It's important to clarify what it is you are looking for.
The descriptions "sweet" and "fruity" often confuse people too. Just because a wine is described as fruity doesn't mean it is sweet from residual sugar. I have seen guests shy away from a selection if I described it as fruity because they thought this meant the selection was sweet. Fruity refers to the fact that the wine has prominent fruit flavors such as tropical mangoes, juicy peaches, ripe Bing cherry flavors, etc. Wines that can taste fruity but are technically dry include Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Alsace Riesling, Zinfandel and Pinot Gris. This is especially true if the grapes are grown in a warm climate. "Sweet" means that the wine has some actual residual sugar. Wines that have residual sugar include Gewürztraminer, German Riesling, French Pinot Gris and Vouvray. You can tell the difference between sweet and fruity by dipping the tip of your tongue into the glass of wine. Sweetness is detected at the tip of your tongue, therefore if you perceive a sweet flavor, the wine is residual sugar sweet. If you can't, then it is dry and simply has outstanding fruity flavors. As an experiment, try doing this with a glass of California Chardonnay and German Riesling side by side.
Quickies ... Wine Varietals
As I said, varietal wine is usually made from 100% of one grape variety. California varietal wines qualify as a varietal even if made from as little as 75% of one grape variety.
The point to having a varietal is that you get a chance to enjoy a wine made with one dominant and delicious grape.
One of the world's best-known white wine grapes.
MOUTHFEEL: Dry — Off Dry, Medium — Full Bodied
TASTES LIKE: Ripe Apples, Pears, Tropical Fruits, Buttery and Oaky
TIP: Chardonnay is a key ingredient in Champagne
Crisp and vibrant white that is refreshing and easy to drink.
MOUTHFEEL: Dry, Light-Bodied
TASTES LIKE: Green Apples, Melon, Peaches and Lemon
TIP: Pinot Gris is the French synonym for Pinot Grigio
Food-versatile and generously flavored white.
MOUTHFEEL: Dry, Light-Bodied
TASTES LIKE: Grapefruit, Citrus, Melons and Figs
TIP: California vintner Robert Mondavi invented the term Fume Blanc as a synonym for Sauvignon Blanc
Lively, fruity and fragrant wine also known as Johannisberg and White Riesling.
MOUTHFEEL: Medium-Dry — Sweet, Light-Bodied
TASTES LIKE: Apples, Peaches, Honeysuckle, Flowers and Spice
Difficult to pronounce but deliciously fruity and exotically perfumed.
MOUTHFEEL: Medium Dry — Sweet, Medium — Full Bodied
TASTES LIKE: Rose Petals, Lychee Fruit, Ginger and Tropical Fruits
The most successful and popular of the top-quality red-wine grapes.
MOUTHFEEL: Dry, Full-Bodied
TASTES LIKE: Blackcurrant, Blackberries, Plums, Mint and Vanilla
TIP: Use a glass with a wide bowl to enhance the aroma
Easy to love, Merlot is rounder and softer than Cabernet Sauvignon.
MOUTHFEEL: Dry, Full-Bodied
TASTES LIKE: Black Plums, Blackberries, Chocolate and Black Cherries
TIP: Drink this wine. Don't believe what they say about it in the film Sideways
Exuberantly fruity and ripe, Zinfandel is America's Wine.
MOUTHFEEL: Dry — Off-Dry, Medium — Full- Bodied
TASTES LIKE: Raspberry Jam, Strawberry, Black Pepper and Baking Spice
TIP: The best Zinfandels are red, not white
One of the world's most elegant and sought-after wines.
MOUTHFEEL: Dry — Medium Dry, Light-Bodied
TASTES LIKE: Bing Cherries, Raspberries, Strawberries and Baking Spice
Light, fresh and fruity red wine.
MOUTHFEEL: Medium Dry, Light-Bodied
TASTES LIKE: Strawberry-Banana, Pear Drop and Raspberry
TIP: Gamay is best served chilled.
The Loving Language and Feel of Wine
We women are sensual creatures; this gives us an advantage in understanding wine because the language of wine is often very gender suggestive. Wine can be soft, velvety, smooth — so, who doesn't want a smooth guy? — regal, bold, sophisticated, an intelligent choice with a long finish! Women seem to love hearing these romantic Harlequinesque wine descriptions. So, when you are about to enjoy a great meal, realize you also become very susceptible to carnal suggestion. As you taste the wine, you will also feel the wine when the pairing with the meal is correct. This is chemistry at work ... good chemistry.
Wines Women Tend to Order
During my sommelier days, when dealing with a group of four women, I'd often think to myself, "Well, Alpana, time to start chilling the Pinot Grigio," and "Why even bother showing them a wine list?" This is because Pinot Grigio is the chic wine of the moment. PG's are very light, refreshing — carrying a water with a lemon slice flavor — and are eminently drinkable. Most importantly, PGs give you a decent buzz.
For the longest time, the hot wine with women was Chardonnay. With its butteriness and oakiness, Chardonnay is still very popular, enjoyed by women at happy hours throughout the land. Women have been influenced by clever Pinot Grigio marketing campaigns in women's magazines and on TV, and the result is that PG groupies have become part of what I call the Anything But Chardonnay, or A.B.C., movement.
Shiraz ... the Girls-Just-Like-Me Wine
When women between legal drinking age and thirty-five who have interesting jobs but who need a roommate to afford to live in a cool neighborhood — they wear Ann Taylor and, if they have a car, drive a Passat — when these women want a red wine, they go for Shiraz.
Not only is Shiraz a pretty decent little wine, it often comes in at a reasonable $7–$8 a glass, or $8–$10 a bottle retail. Like me, the many women who drink Shiraz may also be watching their budgets. Women are more likely than men to drink a glass every day, and this wine offers a great chance to keep a nicely rounded day-to-day wine in the house.
I like to describe Shiraz as "sunshine in a bottle." It can really brighten your day and offers very little resistance in the way of tannins or harshness. Its soft, silky, over-the-top fruitiness makes you think that you're cheating on a diet because Shiraz can deliver a mouth-feel reminiscent of boysenberry pie filling. So if you're not careful, it can also trigger a craving for a scoop of ice cream.
Bottles of Australian Shiraz often carry labels with appealing graphics of animals. Pictures of adorable animals on a very recognizable varietal at a price under $10 per bottle, can make just about anyone want to buy an armful of this fun wine. This popular and highly drinkable wine offers solid bang for your wine-buck and gives you a chance to enjoy a little bit of sweet fruit from Down Under any old time you like.
Men Think About Wine ... a Lot!
Men think about wine's structure, balance, chemistry, points, specific location and vintage. They seem less interested than many women in a wine that can spark an emotional response. I've noticed that male wine connoisseurs favor bolder, heavier wines full of tannins and girth; they are not intrigued by lighter wines that offer less heft and weight in the palate.
Excerpted from Alpana Pours by Alpana Singh, Robert Scarola, Julia Anderson-Miller. Copyright © 2006 Scarola & Singh, LLC. Excerpted by permission of Chicago Review Press Incorporated.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
ContentsIntroduction: Success With Wine, Success in Life,
Sugar and Spice: Wine and the Sexes,
You Are What You Drink: Pairing Wines and Personalities,
Pairings: Wine, Hooking Up and Dating,
Wining & Dining: Out or In,
Un-wine-ding: Relaxing With Wine; Tips on Buying It Too!,
Win-e People Over: At Parties, Showers, Weddings, Anniversaries ... and with Wine Gift-Giving,
All Things Wine: From Handling to Glasses to Gadgets to Clean-Up,
One More Pour,