On Wine: I’ve Got a Crush on You

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The scene opens onto a table for two, set with white linens, candles and flowers. And what beverage completes the tableau? Is it beer, gin or chocolate milk? Of course not. It’s a bottle of wine, chosen with care for its rich history, star winemaker and embossed label.

The link between wine and romance has little to do with alcohol’s effect. Indeed, a few too many drinks can take the wind out of a skipper’s sails altogether. So how does wine get so much action? 

According to researchers at Imperial College London, sharing, say, a single-vineyard Pinot Noir is a romantic experience because the wine is made in a limited quantity and thus is an expensive show of commitment. Robert Seymour, a mathematics professor at ICL, cites “evolutionary logic” to explain why men burn money to impress females. Furthermore, according to the college’s researchers, wining (and dining) beats giving jewelry because the guy doesn’t have to lay out any dough unless the woman actually accepts the date.

I’m all for scientific inquiry, and I imagine studies like these give lab geeks a needed edge when it comes to competing to contribute to the gene pool. But the academics missed a few things that impress my girlfriends and me, like “wicked sense of humor” and “cleans bathroom.” Unlike jewelry and wine, we cannot buy these at Target.

Here’s a theory for those of us a little further along the evolutionary timeline: Enjoying wine is, at its core, a sensual experience. Sight, smell, touch and taste are relieved from everyday duties and unleashed into a new amusement park. Did you know that the pleasures of wine, food and sex are all processed in the same part of the brain? So while your neurons are cavorting on the wine playground, they’re warmed up for the games of love. “Oh hello!” they say. “We just happened to be in the neighborhood. . . . ”

Best wine to go with fine chocolate? Try Banyuls, a Grenache-based dessert wine from Languedoc-Roussillon that shows off your nibs to best advantage. Think of Banyuls as Port with a charming French accent. A half bottle runs around $20. Look for brands like Ey, Les Clos de Paulilles and Chapoutier.

The wine cellar and the boudoir have a lot in common:

• Few people really know what they are doing (and most
are afraid to ask).
• Even if you’re clueless, enthusiasm is the only prerequisite.
• Good company is not necessary but is preferable.

Elaine’s Picks of the Month

Five great wines to set the mood: 

2006 Chateau Ste. Michelle Riesling “Eroica,” Columbia Valley, Wash. ($22)

2004 Hugel Pinot Blanc Cuvée Les Amours, Alsace, France ($15)

2005 Jean-Louis Chave Cotes du Rhone “Mon Coeur,” France ($20)

2006 First Love Red, Barossa Valley, Australia ($14)

2005 Carol Shelton Zinfandel “Wild Thing,” Mendocino, Calif. ($28)

Wine Trivia Contest

>>  Celebrity playas from Bruce Willis to Diddy swear by the romance of filling a bathtub with a) California Cabernet; b) Champagne; c) New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc; d) New York Catawba Fizz.
E-mail your answer to wine@sacmag.com by Feb. 15. The winner will receive The Wine Wheel, which shows how to pair hundreds of foods and wines. Make sure to include your name, address and telephone number. The winner will be selected by random drawing from all the correct responses.

We’ve got a winner! In December, we asked: What is “glögg”? The correct answer: Glögg is the Scandinavian word for warm red wine mulled with baking spices and sugar. The winner, Hilary Schuler of Roseville, received a nine-bottle wine tote.