I recently contributed to a book in which I had to describe my most memorable wine of 2010 and the brief included suggesting a celebrity or personality to best represent the wine. This turned out to be the most difficult part of the exercise.
This has always struck me as a useful bit of shorthand to express a wine's character and style but, in practice, it's much more tricky than you'd expect. I remember the first time I heard a wine described in this way. It was a ripe, voluptuous, rather unsubtle Californian Chardonnay that was compared to Dolly Parton. Ingenious, I thought, and far more expressive than a string of pretentious-sounding adjectives that didn't mean much to most people.
When I came to make my recent comparison, it was incredibly challenging. The main problem was that the wine in question is not the most immediately appealing wine, but unfolds with layer upon layer of haunting complexity, leaving you deeply satisfied. I ended up with a shortlist of possible candidates that included actors, writers, musicians and a certain Portuguese football manager. They are all desirable men (I am a heterosexual woman – happily married, mind) and generally quite mature (reflecting the character of the wine) and none of them set out to please in a mainstream, superficial way. Some of them are quite edgy, even having psychological problems. I'm sure this all reveals too much about me and my personal tastes!
The flip side of this is the idea of coming up with a wine that represents a particular person. We're big Arsenal fans so, for example, let's take Arsène Wenger. He is mature, cerebral and uncompromising and physically quite streamlined. I can imagine a top-notch Grand Cru Chablis with bottle age and discrete oak.
On a populist level there is, of course, George Clooney. Beautifully packaged and enjoyable in so many ways, he brings to mind great quality Champagne. Krug Grande Cuvée would fit the bill perfectly – insanely glamorous, but with surprising depth and complexity. Better than Nespresso any day.
Postscript (February 2011)
The book has now been published and fellow contributors include Steven Spurrier, Simon Woods, Tom Cannavan and Richard Hemming. I won't tell you here what was my most memorable bottle of 2010 – you need to buy the book to find out for yourself but, as a teaser, the celebrity I compared it to was Alan Rickman...
Every Wine Tells A Story: a collection of the Most Memorable Bottles of 2010 to Warm the Wine Lover's Soul, as told by 29 International Wine Experts by Tara Devon O'Leary.