Lately we’ve been on a Peanut Butter kick. We go through phases and admit this one has lasted longer than a single jar.
While enjoying the latest fix, we were also deep in prep for a few upcoming wine workshops. It was only a matter of time before our brains connected the two: Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwiches and wine have a few key things in common. As a result, how you take your PB&J can reveal a bunch about your wine preferences – and lead you to new discoveries!
Check it out:
Wine has three main components. We like to think of them as the “DNA” of wine (or TAF, if we're feeling cute): Tannin, Acidity + Fruit.
Tannin is the dry feeling a wine can leave on your tongue, sometimes lingering after you swallow. Some people call it the “furry” feeling. Others describe it as the bitter/dry element you can get from black tea – it kind of sticks to your tongue and leaves you a little thirsty or looking for a bite of food to cut the sensation. In your PB & J sandwich…yep, it’s the Peanut Butter.
Acidity is the mouthwatering element in a wine. It’s the brightening, mouth-puckering or thirst-quenching element, like a squeeze of lemon to your favorite salad, veggies or fish.
Fruit is, well, the fruit! Grapes, specifically, but flavor-wise can be a whole spectrum of diverse possibilities depending on the grapes that make up the wine itself. Some grapes may have more tropical fruit flavors, others more tree fruits, and still more can emulate stone fruits, or berries, or cherries…you get the drift.
With Peanut Butter the equivalent to Tannin… you are correct: Jelly does double-duty, delivering both Acidity and Fruit to balance the wine.
So how does this help you find new wines to try? Let’s look at a few examples:
1| The Protein Fein: “Lather up the PB with just a hint of Jelly”
Your wine persona: You tend to like drier, more structured wines. As a general rule, red and white wines from the Old World (aka Europe) are a good leaning, with Italy and Portugal great starting points for reds and French Muscadet and Portuguese Vinho Verde safe bets for whites.
2| The Jam: “An extra spoonful of jelly makes the peanut butter go down…”
Your wine persona: You tend to prefer wines that are either more mouthwatering (aka higher in acidity) and/or more fruit forward.
Note: “Fruit Forward” does not necessarily mean sweet. It means wines that high-five with their fruit foot forward, like biting into a ripe, juicy plum rather than into a bland, mealy one. Do you prefer wines that are plump with fruit (fruit forward) or wines with a subtler fruit element?
One approach to finding wines that dial up the mouthwatering effect is to seek out wines from cooler climates. This could be in the Alto Adige of Italy (think Alps) or high-altitude New World locales like Argentina (think Andes). If it’s the toothsome fruit you’re after, grapes like Zinfandel, Syrah/Shiraz, and Spanish Monastrell are a good start for reds while Torrontes, Chenin Blanc and Rhone Valley white blends are delicious white wine diversions.
3| The Purist: “I’ll take my PB&J sandwich evenly applied and distributed. Not too much PB and not too much J.”
Your wine persona: You tend towards wines that offer the best of both worlds – which means there’s even more room to play as you seek out wine styles that strike a middle ground. Two main approaches will get you there. You can ask for either of these:
- Old World wines with softer edges or bolder fruit. Red wine styles like Rioja, Cotes du Rhone rouge, and also lesser-known but equally delicious German Dornfelder, or Austrian Zweigelt will get you there.
- New World wines with a bit more earthy nuance. Here ask for red wines like Cabernet Franc from the Finger Lakes or Chile, older/aged Australian Shiraz blends, South African Cabernet Sauvignon, or Willamette Valley Pinot Noir.
Hold up. Do you prefer your PB&J separately like some other folks we know? The same principles apply. For PB soloists, see above for “The Protein Fein” recommendations. Digging the J on its own? See “The Jam”.
The PB&J analogy is a great go-to barometer that can get you started and put you in a safe position to broaden your horizons and welcome new grapes or places into your world. But bear in mind, a grape’s propensity to be more tannic (Cabernet Sauvignon, Nebbiolo), or higher in acidity (Riesling, Pinot Noir), or more fruit-forward (Zinfandel, Gewürztraminer) is due to its actual DNA, mother nature and the grower who further nurtures it along. Typically, winemakers take what nature delivers and use tools in the winery to dial things to their ultimate preference – just as you build your own PB&J to order. Ask the Sommelier on duty or the Wine Director at your favorite shop for help using the PB&J preference analogy.
Insider Tip: The common wine descriptor words bolded + italicized above will help you further describe what you’re after.
Want more ideas? Wine Folly has developed a great resource that helps gauge grapes by their “DNA”. But really, tasting is believing. Go for it!