Let’s get this out of the way: if you swipe right primarily for hook-ups, you don’t need these wine suggestions. You’re going to meet at a bar, have a couple drinks, and do the deed. More likely you’ll find “best wines to ghost or get ghosted by” useful (and if you need that, you let us know, we got you).
If you’ve gotten serious about dating, though, and you’ve got a little bit of information from that Tinder, Bumble, or Crown profile and a few DMs to go on, we’ve got your back. (NOTE: Prices mentioned are roughly what you’ll find in stores. Expect bottles to be about double that in restaurants)
For Endless First Dates
First dates suck. Not just because they’re awkward, but because you have to slog through so many of them — which can ultimately get pretty pricey. And, again, awkward. You want something that is affordable and has broad appeal, but isn’t so mainstream it’s boring (sorry, Cupcake).
Consider Geyser Peak out of California: The 2016 Pinot Grigio ($9) avoids the blandness trap that many “Pinot Grees” fall into. It’s medium-bodied, with a bright citrus character and a clean, grassy finish. Pair with grilled shrimp or honey-drizzled cheeses.
No way you want any stressors here. Keep the foods simple, prepare in advance, try and maintain some semblance of creative, and by all means, bring a screw cap-topped wine. There’s nothing worse than forgetting a corkscrew or having the cork break halfway down the bottle with no options for extracting it. (You don’t want to show that you’re willing to drink straight from the bottle until the third date.) If you still have doubts about screw caps, rest assured that many high-quality options exist.
New Zealand is an excellent go-to as something like 90 percent of their wines are closed with screw caps. You could also make a virtual visit to Austria with Weingut Loimer Lois Grüner Veltliner ($17). Fresh apple and citrus aromatics, and good acidity and minerality makes this a great picnic choice, whether paired with cheeses, asparagus, or Buffalo wings.
Pro Tip: German and Austrian labels are a pain to read. Fred Loimer is the winemaker. “Lois” (rhymes with “choice”) is the wine’s name, inspired by a local village.
Courting the Eco-Friendly
Their profile is all about environmental responsibility, they haven’t used a plastic straw in three years, and even Whole Foods isn’t dedicated enough for them. If you’re still on board, it’s best not to rock the boat with wines of questionable origin. Certified organic wines these days are every bit as good as “regular” wines, just with fewer pesticides in the soil. Europe is a good bet, as their certification process is stricter and many vineyards are de facto organic (even if not certified) thanks to centuries-old farming practices. Some countries don’t even allow water-wasting irrigation.
Valle Reale Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, out of central Italy ($16), employs organic grapes out of two vineyards (Popoli and Capestrano) and encourages a 10-day spontaneous fermentation, helping create a rich, medium-bodied mouthfeel. Great with eggplant parmesan, mushrooms and pasta, and other meat-free dishes.
For the Adventurer
Your date has hiked Vietnam and loves discovering the latest hidden taqueria. Even if they’re not particularly wine savvy, it’s likely they’ll be more impressed with a outside-the-box selection.
Protea wines ($20) which come out of South Africa, are a good place to start. The Chenin Blanc is fruity, yet crisp, and pairs nicely with spicy Indian or Chinese dishes. The Dry Rosé tastes of tropical fruit and a faint earthiness, and is ideal at summer festivals and concerts. Bonus: Thanks to an innovative reusable cork, this is also an excellent picnic wine (see above).
Ditching the Friend Zone
A friend of mine tells the story of scouring the dating sites after a particularly tragic breakup. She found a guy with shared interests. Each spent half their year in Brooklyn, half in Southeast Asia, but they were on opposite sides of the world at the time. They kept up a friendly “pen pal” relationship for several months, and finally got the chance to meet for a day. That turned into 40, that turned into four years. It can happen—hang in there.
Borne of Fire ($20) is a contemporary Cabernet Sauvignon out of the rugged countryside of southeastern Washington State (a new wine region dubbed “The Burn”), from Ste. Michelle Wine Estates winemaker Juan Muñoz-Oca. It’s full-bodied, but driven by rich fruit notes rather than big tannins. This wine is easy to drink and easy to return to, sort of like how sometimes “that special person” really is sitting right next to you the whole time, just like in a cheesy 80s film.
Fine. Most dates last one (or two) glorious nights. If things are looking good, switch to a bottle with a bit more clout than your average $9 red. Cloudy Bay is a popular, representative label out of New Zealand and while the Kiwi country is generally associated with Sauvignon Blanc, it’s also got a well-developed cool weather Pinot Noir culture.
Cloudy Bay Pinot Noir ($25) is described by the brand as “intriguing and seductive.” That’s you, right? Or, at least that’s what you wrote on your Tinder bio? On the wine, you’ll find lush notes of black cherry and dark plum with soft, slightly spicy tannins and a complex finish. Sounds just about right, we think.
The Winery Tour
Some of the best dates take place at wineries, breweries, and distilleries: there’s a shared experience to keep you busy, time to chat, and (thankfully) there’s booze. Wineries in every state now offer tours and tastings, but if you happen to be in Northern California, check out Benziger Family Winery in Sonoma. The vibe is relaxed and the space is beautiful. Plus, you can flex your eco-friendliness with a tour of the winery’s biodynamic farming practices.
Prep for the visit with a bottle of Benziger Family Sauvignon Blanc North Coast ($12). The crisp citrus-and-floral white pairs nicely with sharp cheeses and fruits.
Pro Tip: The very cool Jack London (White Fang) house/state park is nearby. Good for easy hikes and a bit of California history. Also, if you decide you want to hit up more wineries, you’re in the right place. Here are some more picks for Sonoma.
Perhaps you’ve reached a significant anniversary, swapped keys, or (surprise!) actually committed. It’s time to celebrate. Clos du Val is a 40-Year-Old Napa Valley winery in the famous Stags Leap District that recently went through an upgrade and makeover to once again produce estate wines. They offer a number of classic selections perfect for celebrating milestones.
Clos du Val Estate Pinot Noir ($40) is an exquisitely deep ruby red wine with bold aromatics (strawberry and red cherry come through) with a long, silky finish. The 2015 is tasty now, but will continue to age well. Clos du Val Three Graces Red Blend ($175), a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc is a bold, tannic classic California Cab, but with notes of cedar, grass and mint accentuating black fruit, cigar and chocolate. This will age well, in case that milestone is still several years off. Banking on getting there? Buy two bottles. One for now, one for then. Even if it doesn’t work out, you’ll still have a nice bottle of wine to keep you company.
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