Have you ever been at a wine tasting with friends and all are raving about a particular wine? One swirls the glass, takes a long lingering sniff, then brings their lips to the rim, sips and swirls the wine and declares! This is truly a wine worthy of the gods above! You emulate your friend’s almost spiritual ritual and as soon as this supposedly magical elixir floods across your tongue, you are wishing that the spit bucket was readily at hand. Not wanting to be “outed” about your apparent lack of wine knowledge and appreciation, you politely swallow and hope that no one notices how difficult it was for you. Next, you attempt to disguise your disgust with a subtle, polite nod of approval – all the while dreaming of having that ‘klippie’ and coke in hand. You feel, yet again, another failure on your part to enjoy a wine that all your friends rave is superb! What’s wrong with you?!!!
Your next disastrous wine experience rears its ugly head while dining out. The sommelier comes to the table and suggests a wine that you are assured is the classically correct and perfect pairing for the entrée you have chosen. Of course, you concede to the sommelier’s “expert and informed” lead. Once again, you feel like the person set up on a blind date where all have determined that this is the soul mate you’ve been waiting for and instead you encounter the “date from hell!” You would prefer to have a sweet drink with that tender, juicy cut of beef tenderloin. Clandestinely, at home, you’ve had great personal pairing experiences with sweet tasting sodas and cocktails served with all sorts of foods. But this is FOOD and WINE PAIRING, a whole different ballgame you’ve been told. You’ll do anything not to elicit the arched eyebrows and eye-rolling of the sommelier as they sigh and half-heartedly say “As you wish”.
You’ve had enough, wine is not for you! You’re tired, frustrated and conclude that you are cursed with an “unrefined palate”. But perhaps, if you just keep trying (as your friends encourage you to do) you will eventually train your palate to appreciate these wines that they deem are sure to please. Yet, in all honesty, you wish this quest to become a wine aficionado to be over with…finished…kaput!!!
But wait, there is hope! There’s a proverbial knight errant riding to the rescue – Master of Wine and Chef Tim Hanni. After over 35 years in the food and wine industry, with close to 20 years of this time devoted to researching consumer wine preferences, Hanni has unlocked the mystery behind why so many consumers have such varied and at times unpleasant experiences with wine. Hanni, together with Dr. Virginia Utermohlen, (Associate Professor in the Division of Nutritional Sciences at Cornell University and a renowned expert in the physiology of taste and smell) have discovered through their exhaustive research, “that a combination of physiological factors that determine your general level of sensory sensitivity and psychological factors that affect your preferences over time – learning, life experiences combined with cultural, social and peer elements of fashion and propriety – define and determine your place in one of four distinct taste profiles that Hanni has named Vinotypes. These 4 categories are as follows: Sweet – Hypersensitive – Sensitive – Tolerant.
If you’ve experienced the aforementioned scenarios, you most likely fall into the Sweet Vinotype category. According to Hanni and Utermohlen’s research, you possess the most taste buds of any Vinotypes and experience the most sensitivity when it comes to food and drink. Some signatures of the Sweet Vinotype are as follows: In all likelihood, you were a picky eater as a child. Any foods that evoked sour and/or bitter flavors were in your experience almost painful to eat. You couldn’t understand how your loving mother could morph into your tormentor at mealtime as she ordered you to eat those fresh tomatoes on the salad and declared you’d love the lemon juice she squeezed over the fish. Asparagus or broccoli appearing on your plate would find you begging to leave the table hungry, promising to get right to your homework and willing to give up your favorite TV shows for the week!
Today, although you have found yourself slightly more willingly to try different foods, you still reach instinctively for the salt and season your food unconsciously before eating. You crave salty as well as sweet foods. Foods that exhibit salty or sweet tastes are your go-to comfort foods. Why should this desire for sweet tastes and the pleasure they provide not apply as well to the wines you drink? Your “oenophile” friends just can’t understand why you don’t find those big bold reds – from California to the Cape – brandishing their high alcohol and bright gripping tannins wines to die for! Of course they don’t, for they most likely are of the Tolerant tribe of Vinotypes. Research shows they possess the least of amount of taste buds. So to them this wine, that you would describe as torturous to drink, is experienced by them as lush, fruit-forward in flavor with the high alcohol imparting an almost “sweet” taste and the tannins barely “registering on their palate’s Richter scale” so to speak.
In his ground-breaking inaugural book, Why You Like The Wines You Like, Hanni is on an avowed quest to change the way the world thinks about wine. By identifying your Vinotype and using Hanni’s consumer-friendly approach, anyone (from aspiring wine lover to “aficionado” to those whose past experiences with wine has left them “in disgust”) can discover wines that are a perfect fit – wines that are tailored-made for you! Coupled with Hanni’s simple, straightforward techniques of how to utilize tried and true methods of flavor balancing in foods, you will enjoy the wines you love with the foods you love.
Over the next few posts, we will explore Tim Hanni’s paradigm shift in how wines should be enjoyed and evaluated by consumers from the acolyte to the expert. Together we’ll explore the genesis behind Hanni’s mantra “Match the wine to the diner, not the dinner”. To embark upon this quest to discover wines that you love and that will kindle a love affair with wine, travel to www.myvinotype.com. Take the easy and entertaining test to discover your Vinotype. While online have fun exploring Hanni’s illustrative website to learn more about the research behind his innovative concepts and approach to enhancing your personal enjoyment of wine.
Closing in on a decade of wine study and a certified sommelier for nearly 8 years, I have found Tim Hanni to have addressed and answered many of the questions and concerns I have about our present day approaches to the evaluation, education and enjoyment of wine. So often there has been, as Hanni alludes, a one size fits all approach. For far too long, the existing parameters of evaluating wine quality and enjoyment have reigned with little basis in fact or reality. Hanni’s contention is that the system is flawed and it’s time for a new approach in the appreciation of wine. Hanni’s book, Why You Like The Wines You Like, is a must-read for the consumer who wants to fully enjoy wine to the wine industry professional looking to provide invaluable service to their customers.
On my next post, with knowledge of your vinotype in hand along with some of Hanni’s insights to its meaning and applications, I will showcase ways in which you can utilize your Vinotype profile. You will discover ways to enhance your wine and food experience, whether it is dining at home or out and about on the town. I’ll also share some entertaining food and wine tasting party ideas guaranteed to please especially during the upcoming cold winter months.
Why You Like The Wines You Like –Changing the way the world thinks about wine by Tim Hanni MW. Available from Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk
Susan M. Cashin is a transplant from Texas to the Robertson Wine Valley. She and her husband reside on a smallholding in the Klaasvoogds area. Susan is a free-lance journalist specializing in the area of wine and food, a certified Sommelier (International Sommelier Guild) and a certified Master Gardener. She is an avid fan and supporter of the wines of S. Africa, especially those in the Robertson wine region.
It is the wines produced here on family-owned farms and estates (many of which have been in the same family for generations) along with farmer-owned co-operatives, that she believes contribute to the region’s unique “sense of place”. Her mission is to help de-mystify wine enjoyment for the consumer, increase the knowledge and sales of the region’s wines in the local, national and international markets; and thus help to create a solid economic base upon which this region can preserve and protect its heritage of family-owned farms and its singular stamp of originality. One that is sadly disappearing worldwide, in today’s increasingly homogenized wine experiences – from taste to tourism.
More about Tim Hanni…