Along with cars and boats, wine is yet another inanimate object that is often anthropomorphized, meaning it is ascribed human characteristics.
The wine world, still old-school and traditional in some of its thinking, defines “masculine” wine as “wines with firmness, power and strength" and “feminine” wines as having “smoothness, roundness, gentleness, finesse, elegance and delicacy”. These terms are meant to be a reflection of style and not commentary on any one being better than the other. Wines are often described as “masculine” if they have more body, alcohol, tannin, and intense flavors.
While there are always exceptions, “masculine” wines tend to include Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Tempranillo, and Barolo. These grapes (Nebbiolo grape for Barolo) all have thick skins and produce full-bodied wines with intense flavors and high alcohol levels. They all take well to oak, and generally improve with barrel and bottle aging. These wines often need food (think steak!) to help balance and smooth their intense tannins.
If you are looking for a masculine wine for Dad for Father’s Day, here are a few suggestions:
Cabernet Sauvignon is one of the most widely planted grapes in the world. Cabernet Sauvignon has intense black currant and blackberry flavors and often has cedar and tobacco flavors from oak aging. The current trend of using bourbon barrels to age Cabernets adds even more intense oak flavors to the wine from the heavy char that is applied to the barrels. Look for Cabernets from regions like Napa Valley in California, Columbia Valley and Red Mountain in Washington, and wines from the Medoc region of Bordeaux.
Syrah often has flavors and aromas of black pepper, and a meaty flavor sometimes described as “bacon fat." Look for ones out of the northern Rhone Valley in France or from warmer regions of Australia (Barossa Valley, McLaren Vale).
Tempranillo is the driving force behind many red wines out of Spain. Tempranillo is often aged in new oak, so in addition to red fruit and earthy aromas, these wines will have distinct notes of leather and tobacco. Master of Wine Jancis Robinson describes Tempranillo as having characteristics of “something definitively masculine” and having aromas that you might fine in a “stereotypical gentleman's dressing room." Look for Riojas with Crianza, Reserva or Gran Reserva designations or Crianzas from Ribera del Duero.
Barolo is often referred to as the “King of Wine” with typical aromas of tar and dried roses. Don’t let the floral aromas fool you! This is a bold wine that requires at least 3 years of aging before it can be released in order to allow time for the tannins to soften a bit. Even upon release, the tannins are so high that it is often recommended to let the wine bottle age for several more years before drinking.