Let’s talk for a moment about the concept of synergy. The phenomenon of two strangers coming into contact at a cocktail party is not altogether different from a person and a new glass of wine finding themselves sharing the same place setting at dinner. The result may or may not be exciting, spontaneous, surprising or enjoyable. In fact, some encounters can be downright boring, annoying or even infuriating. Like the people we choose to surround ourselves with, we want to have a certain synergy with our wine, a chemistry that makes us feel something, anything, hopefully positive, that improves the quality of our life at that moment.

Not surprisingly, like people, different styles of wine have certain personalities. To get the most out of our experience, it’s best to find those types of personalities that mesh with our own. We should also remember that there is no objective definition for a “good wine” any more than there is for a “good friend”. It all depends on what we like, and sometimes it depends on what kind of mood we’re in. Do you have a different friend you call when you’re sad, when you want an adventure, or when you need a sounding board? If you can relate to the idea that you’re looking for the personality of a wine as it relates to your own, then you’re well on your way to finding a lifetime full of laughter, joy and tears with those bottles that fit your identityl.

The first step is to be able to articulate your tastes. Right now you can probably note your preference for loud people, quiet people, intellectuals, outdoorsy types, redheads, blonds, brunettes, tall people, or short people. You have a frame of reference to define your taste in friends and lovers. Now you are going to do the same thing with wine.

Creating a Frame of Reference for Reds

1. Fun Fruit

These reds have a lot of fruit flavor, and do well whether you have them with food or not. Many of them are bolder, new world wines from South America, The United States and Australia. Typically more medium-bodied wines, they lack the tannin that seems to suck all of the water out of your tongue as you drink it (like you’re drinking tea). Instead, they go down easily, and if well-balanced like Chilean Merlot, are quite enjoyable to drink. These wines are like the friend who is easy to be with no matter the occasion.

Fruit Flavors: Blackberry, Blueberry, Plum, Blackcurrant

Wine Types to Look for: Merlot (from Chile or California), Tempranillo, Malbec (from Argentina), Zinfandel (from California).

2. Elegant Reds

The personalities of these wines typically reflect the unique, silky texture of the Pinot Noir grape. Because Pinot Noir is a more delicate grape, growing a good crop is a bit more difficult than for other varieties. Only a handful of regions throughout the world have climate suitable to the task, among them Burgundy in France, and Oregon. A good Pinot Noir or Burgundy is amazingly complex, delicate and silky, not unlike a trusted and cultured friend whose wisdom you can always depend on and whose new layers never cease to amaze you.

Fruit Flavors: Strawberry, Raspberry, Cherry

Wine Types to Look for: Burgundy (France), Pinot Noir (Oregon, the Carneros and Santa Barbara regions of California, and New Zealand).

3. Sexy and Rich

Australian Shiraz defines the wine you would most likely want to serve to one of your Victoria’s Secret super model friends or pair off with James Bond. Shiraz (or Syrah as it’s originally known in France) is a full-bodied wine that often has hints of spice. It pairs well with Indian food, barbeques and also stands well on its own. An Australian Shiraz is typically bolder and richer than its earthier tasting French Cote Du Rhone counterpart. Wines in this personality group are like the date you wouldn’t mind showing up with at a party to show off to all of your friends.

Fruit Flavors: Berries with hints of pepper and chocolate

Wine Types to Look for: Shiraz (Australia), Cote Du Rhone (Rhone Valley of France), Carmenere (Chile), Malbec (Argentina).

4. It’s Italian

It’s something of a testament to the culture that arguably has the longest running history with wine that its wines are so distinct, you almost always know that they’re Italian from the first sip. Italy is the largest exporter, producer and consumer of wine in the world, so it’s no surprise that the Italians know how to assert their individuality. Their wines are marked by an earthy, sour character that pairs wonderfully with food, something that is detectable via the wide variety of wine grapes grown throughout the country. These wines are wonderfully unique from one another. You could spend a lifetime just getting to know the grapes and vineyards of Italy and their respective characters. They are the friends that never seem to get old (or intimidated!) at a family style dinner ala Stanley Tucci’s The Big Night.

Fruit Flavors: Sweet-sour Cherry, Plum, Herby/Earthy Tang

Wine Types to Look for: Barbera, Sangiovese, Chianti, Barolo

Naturally, there are quite a few other red wine personalities, and even within this group there are wines that embody more of a character from another group than what they are traditionally known for. All things considered, these four personality styles are enough to get started on the road to finding the right synergy with wine, and as your relationship grows with each style over the years you will inevitably find out where your true friends really are.