This year I’m in charge of picking the wines for Christmas dinner. But how do I make 30 of my favourite (French) family members happy with the same bottle of wine?
According to Jennifer Aaker, a Stanford University social psychologist who has the brilliant task of studying happiness and how it works, if you’re chasing happiness, you’re chasing a moving target.
Happiness shifts radically, if predictably, with age. It doesn’t mean the same thing when you are 20 as it does when you have a bit more ‘bottle age’.
So, let’s have a bit of fun and pick some wines for Christmas that could correspond to Aaker’s different ‘ages’ of happiness.
- Discovery: late teens
Think back to your late teens. Remember how it was to feel different? This is the period when happiness was all about experimentation, belonging and excitement.
So, we need an exciting wine to experiment and have a bit of fun with. How about Château Ksara Reserve du Couvent, from the beautiful region of the Bekaa Valley, in Lebanon? For those who need to belong, this rather classic blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Shiraz won the Bronze medal at the International Wine Challenge 2015.
- Pursuit: the 20s
By our mid-twenties, our definition of happiness changes. Most of us have figured out what we want out of life, but we have yet to prove to the world (and to ourselves) that we were right about our choices.
‘Happiness is experienced when we feel successful and capable, especially when validated in the eyes of others,’ says Aaker.
So let’s go for a recognized grape variety, but one yet to be a superstar, just to prove we’re right about its quality. Couly-Dutheil is an established estate in Saumur (Loire Valley, France) that produces an aromatic dry Chenin Blanc. This wine is very far indeed from the all-too-common dull versions of Chenin; it expresses all that’s great about this grape.
3. Balance: the 30s
As we move deeper into our 30s, the meaning of happiness shifts again. Aaker explains that ‘Happiness becomes more associated with balance,’ as we focus on our families, and the health and energy levels of our ‘soon to be called senior bodies’. (Hopefully not too soon.)
At any rate, our new state of wisdom teaches us that sometimes, we need to let go of the illusion of control. It’s something that Julian Forwood and Bernice Ong understood when founding their Ministry of Clouds estate in Australia. ‘Ministry’ symbolises everything that we can control and change by our actions, while ‘Clouds’ is, well…for all the rest. Their 2013 McLaren Vale Shiraz is the perfect example of a balanced wine: elegant, yet powerful, fruity and judiciously spicy.
4. Meaning: the 40s
As we move into our 40s, ‘happiness becomes connected to a growing sense of meaning that comes with raising a family, a sense of spirituality and community, and a realization of the impact we can have in the world,’ according to Aaker’s research. So we need a wine with a strong story, a sense of ethos and values. Let’s go for an organic wine, from a tiny estate in South Burgundy, and make it sparkle, just because it’s Christmas. Benjamin Dananchet produces liquid moments of happiness with his Domaine des Gandines Cremant de Bourgogne. I’d call this 100% Chardonnay a Champagne Mini Me if it wasn’t for my Burgundian pride.
5. Savouring: the 50s
In the final stage, ‘happiness is tied to feeling content and connected, where we appreciate what we’ve achieved and what we have. This feeling of gratefulness only grows into our 50s and 60s, when happiness becomes increasingly associated with feeling calm, lucky, and blessed,’ reports Aaker.
We need a wine that has had a bit of a rest and time to think; one that has developed and improved over the years. The Perica Oro Reserva Especial 2006 from Rioja is a beautiful 100% Tempranillo that is just opening up now, giving the ‘lucky and blessed’ drinkers rich aromas from its long ageing process.
Happy Christmas Everyone!
All wines available from 155 Clerkenwell.
Follow Pauline on Twitter @labelsandgrapes for wine tips, and contribute your own under the #bottledstories hashtag.