Wine and the City – Little Black Dress Wines

The Little Black Dress or LBD – it’s a must-have item of clothing, that is suitable for almost any social occasion. But I can’t help thinking that the little black dress can also be applied to wine.

Most of us have our own go-to wine that can be pulled out and is guaranteed to please. But what makes a ‘little black dress’ wine? Or for men, a ‘trusty white tee’ wine? It generally seems to be from a big brand and does not venture far from shiraz and sauvignon blanc. It is safe.

I texted a friend the question. “My go to wine is Pepperjack Shiraz. I know it’s basic but you know it’ll be decent hahaha”. I could almost hear the octave rise in the last ‘ha’ as she tried to justify her answer. 

However those seventeen words were all the proof I needed. LBD wines are:
A) A label most people will recognise
B) A well known grape variety
C) Straight forward
D) Zero risk

We drink and dress to avoid offending people and being judged. However, what happens when that trusty white tee is covered in last night’s dinner or your little black dress is at the dry cleaners?

For me it’s a paradox, when my ‘go to’ pieces are in the wash or the ironing basket, my outfits become more eccentric. I discover there are colours other than black and leave the house channelling Anna Dello Russo (look her up). Homer Simpson sees the world a little differently. In 698 episodes his ‘trusty white tee’ is replaced only once by a sky blue, floral muumuu. Which brings me to question, are we limited by our comfort zone? 

In the world of wine, the parameters of comfort are usually set by personality – adventurous or conservative. My mother is a good example of the latter. A monogamous drinker, she is committed, and I mean committed, to sauvignon blanc. As a child I recall aromas of passionfruit and what I now know to be gooseberry filling the dining room. I was one of few in my year six class who knew how to pronounce Giesen. G-e, not G-i. 

Over time, my mother has broadened her comfort zone. It now stretches over the Tasman, covering both Marlborough and the Adelaide Hills. In comparison, I would consider myself on the adventurous side of the spectrum. A polygamous consumer, I have neither brand nor varietal loyalty. Like a female justifying a handbag or a pair of shoes, there is one to match every occasion.

So are dependable classics best or should you venture out of your comfort zone? Who better to test this on than my mother. The poor woman has been the subject of many experiments by my brother and I.

In theme with Sunday night’s Married at First Sight, I conducted my own experiment; three sauvignon blancs and, for that reality television drama, one pinot grigio. You can see it now. “Dinner party rocked by intruder”. Each wine is met blind, including Mum’s ‘Little Black Dress’ by Shaw + Smith.

Wine 1: 2020 Angove Organic Sauvignon Blanc 

“This is light and easy to drink but does not taste like sauvignon blanc”. It was clear my mother would not be seeing the wine for what it was, but rather how it compared to her little black dress “It’s a bit confused. Is this a semillon?”. Apparently she is more acute to my trickery than I give her credit for. However, I commend her palate. The combination of freshly squeezed lime and a lanolin mouthfeel could have easily been mistaken for semillon. After 25 years in the beauty industry, my mother is an advocate for organic skin care. However it appears her palate will not be following suit. 

Wine 2: 2020 Shaw + Smith Adelaide Hills Sauvignon Blanc 

E.L. James described 50 shades of grey although in the world of little black dresses there is only one shade of black. Mum raised her glass to the light and carefully examined it, like a jeweller evaluating a diamond “The clearer the wine – the nicer and more crisp it will be”. Not aware of any studies confirming nor denying her hypothesis, I didn’t argue. However it was a passing comment that caught my attention: “I could swim in this”. In an abstract way of thinking, this is exactly what one should feel from a great sauvignon blanc – a refreshing, sense of calm.

WIne 3: 2020 Devil’s Corner Pinot Grigio 

‘The intruder’ – Mum’s answers were a television producer’s dream “This is different to the others, it’s a bit more interesting”. Cut to the commercial ad break. Could this be the new little black dress? Ripe pear and candied pineapple aromas gave mum the impression of a higher alcohol that “hit her” (her words not mine). As a warning of what’s to come, the decibel count rises and my mother is replaced by what is known as a ‘wooo girl’. Urban dictionary sums it up nicely: “A wooo girl is a girl, or usually a group of girls, who hang out in bars and put their hands in the air and scream wooo whenever a song they like plays, a drink is served, or another friend enters the room”. Everybody knows one. In my case – the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

Wine 4: 2019 Giesen Pure Light Sauvignon Blanc 

A wine that is often in mum’s rotation, she is no stranger to Giesen. Unfamiliar to us both, though, is the idea of ‘light’ alcohol. A test for me as much for her. I admit, I hold reservations on the topic. The irony is, more often than not, I will select skim milk over full cream. Perhaps ‘full alcohol’ is my little black dress? So together, we raised our glass and cheered to good health, in this case 25% lower alcohol. A crisp, yet soft palate; there was a nostalgia to sherbet bomb lollies with flavours of pineapple and lime. Mum called it, and I held no objections – “I enjoy this the most”. 

Having answered my own question, I can confirm that we are limited by our comfort zone. Our fear of judgement prevents us from discovering something new. New will not always be better, nor should it replace your little black dress or trusty white tee. It is simply another option and a little bit of fun. 

Entertain this idea. The next time you make a beeline towards your LBD wine, select the bottle next to it. Or play a game of Russian Roulette and pull the trigger on something completely random. If 12 couples can do it on national television – what is holding you back going down the aisle?



4 Responses

    1. Thank you Harshal for your kind words. You are most welcome, there is nothing more entertaining than a wine experiment!

  1. I enjoyed this article a lot you know, this is pure joy to read you know, I laughed so much, the world of wine needs these more new voices like the one in this piece.

    1. I cannot thank you enough, exactly the effect I wanted the article to have. Laughter and wine are two of the world’s greatest pleasures!

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