A perfect pairing: wine and sex

Wine and food lovers have long made an art of pairing food and wine, and although there is just as long a history of the interplay between wine and sex, you don’t hear much about what varietals go with different sexual settings. Does a merlot go better on a first date? For rough sex, should you pull out the cabernet?

One only has to travel back as far as Greek mythology, to learn that Dionysus, also known by his Roman name Bacchus, the God of the grape harvest and fertility, was also the God of ritual madness and divine ecstasy. He discovered the culture of the vine and the mode of extracting the precious juice. Dionysus wandered the world, accompanied by the Maenads, wild women under his ecstatic spell, drunk with wine and freed from self-consciousness.

Of course, alcohol lowers inhibitions and helps some people get in the mood for sex. But is there something different about wine? Is there a unique sort of high that lends itself to romance, intimacy and sensuality?

As a sex educator living in Northern California’s wine country, I decided to do some research on the subject.

I first traveled to Healdsburg in Sonoma County where I had the pleasure of meeting with Scott Lindstrom-Dake, who owns Thumbprint Cellars with his wife Erica. They have created what they call a stimulus package. It includes four wines– arousal, three some, four play, and climax.

I asked Scott how he came up with the sexy names for his wines.
He attributed it to a rebellious response to his new found monogamy when he and his wife first got together, not to mention a bit of marketing genius. Three some was the first he came up with. The label reads “Three bold varietals seduce each other in an orgy of aromas & flavors. Ripe blackberry, bold allspice, toasty oak & dripping blueberry compote evoke playful passion. Pair with one or two friends, with or without food. Clothing optional! According to Scott, people were attracted to the label and the wine because it plays into their fantasies. “They think, ˜Hey I could have a threesome¦’

Then there’s thumbprint cellars’ 2008 four play, where “Naughty oak textures are spanked with a firm handful of tannins to subdue a premature climax. Sounds naughty and nice.

Scott says he wants to create something people can relate to. I asked if customers ever took the names literally. “It does get a little bit provocative sometimes. We’ve had to do a bit of training with our staff, to handle potential situations¦ but most people are not going to approach with a proposition because of these wine bottles¦ Although one time we had an event going on and I was out mingling with the guests and two couples approached me. One of the guys looks at me with these big eyes and grin, and he says ˜are you a part of the lifestyle?’ I was a bit shocked.

But Scott didn’t let it show. Instead he let them down easily, explaining that he was in a very happy and monogamous marriage and living vicariously through his wines.

I asked about Scott’s personal use of his wines for romance and sex. He said, “Sometimes a subtle hint to get in the right mood is needed¦ a creative way to nudge. I’ll open up a bottle of Arousal, maybe give her a little wink and ask how her day has been and let her know I’ll wash the dishes tonight. Now that’s what I call foreplay.

Scott spoke lovingly of his wife. “My wife is my true soul mate. She pulled out of me a bit of honesty. He explained that intimacy is the key to lovemaking. “The lead up is as important as the finish. Something any good wine connoisseur knows.

But is there any real science behind pairing wine and sex? A few years back, a team of Italian doctors researched the possible connection between wine consumption and levels of sexual desire in women. The findings were published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine in 2009. The researchers concluded that levels of sexual desire were higher in women who were moderate drinkers of red wine than in their counterparts who preferred other alcoholic drinks, or who didn’t drink at all.

They proposed a possible theory that antioxidants in red wine may improve sexual functioning by widening the blood vessels and increasing blood flow to key areas of the body. The researchers stated, “While this finding needs to be interpreted with some caution, it nevertheless suggests a potential relationship between red wine consumption and better sexuality.”

Scott was generous enough to give me my very own stimulus package to take home. I initially indulged in Arousal, went on quickly to four play. Meanwhile, I’m saving three some for the right party, and will then surely be ready to uncork my climax.

I received a tip that in Napa Valley one could find a wine called Seduction at O’Brien Estate Winery. I made a date to meet with owner Bart O’Brien to find out just how seductive his wines might be.

I was greeted by Richard, expert at hosting guests, pouring wine, and apparently other things as well. I told him that I had come to talk to his boss about pairing wine and sex. “I’m a master at that, he replied confidently, “I’m single. He grinned, pouring me a 2010 oak chardonnay.

While I waited for Bart, Richard put me to work. He was busy with guests inside and he couldn’t tend to the three attractive young men who were seated outside indulging their palates. He escorted me to their picnic table and suggested I get their expert opinion on the subject of wine and sex as a means of keeping them entertained. As Richard suspected, Yohan from Denmark, and Jay and Greg from Australia had plenty to say on the subject, including the suggestion of pairing a pinot noir with some fun on the kitchen table.

Meanwhile, Richard had just escorted two more young men to join our little party when Bart showed up and I was whisked away to a more private picnic table. Bart, quite the gentleman, insisted I sit where I could enjoy the view of the sun shining on the rolling hills in the distance and the bright yellow mustard flower dancing amongst the grape vines.

Bart told me the reason he and his wife Barb came to Napa valley was romance. Their third date was in Napa Valley and it was then that Barb told him her dream was to own land here someday. Lucky for her, she had found an entrepreneur in Bart and after several years of marriage he helped make her dream come true.
I soon learned that Bart and Barb had more than just seduction on their minds. They have developed a romantic portfolio of wines- Fascination, Attraction, Flirtation, Romance of the Heart, Seduction, Passion of the Soul, Devotion, and Reflection, that describe a developing courtship that leads to marriage and a lifetime together.

According to Bart, quite the romantic and, like Scott, a man with a keen eye for marketing, the “goal is to touch your heart before the wine touches your lips. Each bottle has poetry he and Barb have written about each stage of the relationship. Bart says that people are looking for an emotional state change and that wine is the best alcoholic beverage to share during an emotional relationship. “Wine is a drink of exploration\’no two bottles are ever exactly alike¦as you’re exploring it, you’re doing the same thing with the person, exploring¦

Bart said quicker is not always better. He says it’s important to enjoy the phases of the courtship ritual. He described the elegance of opening the corked bottle for a special romantic occasion and he took me on a romantic journey by describing each bottle of wine. He began by reciting the poetry from Fascination\'”Suddenly, I am touched by your presence, Swiftly, I awaken to you¦ Then he moved on to Attraction\'”When our eyes met my heart said hello, are you the one for whom I long? Are you?

But before I could answer, he was on to more romantic musings. He wants his winery to be a special place for couples. “I use wine to open their hearts, once they have their hearts open, you can talk to them about romance, about philosophy¦

We moved on to Romance of the heart. Bart believes in having romantic feelings for someone before you have sex with them. According to him, if there’s someone you’re really interested in, you want “to penetrate their mind and penetrate their body, he paused and smiled, adding “from the male point of view¦ Or perhaps the point of view of whoever’s wearing the strap on that night, but I wasn’t about to interrupt. I could tell he was just getting to the juicy part.

The next stage is Seduction, “I’ll give you a hint\’it’s horizontal he grinned. And then he got personal. He told me how he and his wife moved in together two weeks after they met, but didn’t have sex for three weeks. “I deliberately wanted to postpone it until we were to the point we couldn’t stand it. According to Bart, “Sex can either be a transactional experience or it can be the greatest emotional experience you’ve ever had.

He then began philosophizing about Passion of the soul. He said “at this point now you’re in love mentally, emotionally and physically. I asked him to elaborate on the physical bit. He indulged me. “As long as you have sex, you should have good sex, you should have imaginative sex, that perhaps stretches your pre conceived limits of what people should be doing, because it’s fun, it’s erotic, and as long as you’re going to have an orgasm why not have a powerful orgasm?

He told me he is a Good Vibrations customer. “I believe in the idea of enhancing your sex life with tools. It’s like anything else, you can either use a screwdriver manually or use an electric screwdriver, depends how much screwing you have to do.

Although I thoroughly enjoyed my intellectually stimulating conversations with both Scott and Bart, I still wasn’t sure what varietals to pair with fellatio, frottage or even simple fondling. So I posed the question to my friend Everett, a man experienced in things both sexual and viticultural.

“Ravenswood vintners blend if you expect it to be bad or they are young. And what if you expect it to be good? “Bella vista pinot. And then a nice German ice wine like a gewürztraminer for post sex refreshment. What about make up sex? I asked. “I like something with a bite. I like zinfandels and malbecs. Post make up sex wine cannot be subtle.

For phone sex Everett suggests a chardonnay. “Not my favorite but nondescript, light and easy on the palate. And for rough sex? “I like port. It’s unexpectedly sweet, intense…. thick and fruity and visceral. The taste lingers on the tongue….kind of like bad boy (or girl) sex…

And Everett’s final piece of advice–“wait for the second date to break out the good stuff.

Remi Newman

Remi Newman, MA, earned her master’s degree in sexuality education from NYU and has over ten years of experience creating and facilitating sexuality education workshops in both English and Spanish. As a new mom, she created “Having the talk before they can talk” a workshop for new and expectant parents to help them feel confident as the primary sexuality educators for their kids. Originally from the streets of Philadelphia, she now lives in Northern California with her husband, son, sister and one of her best friends. Find her online at Healthy Sex For Life.

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