Back when I attended high school in suburban Michigan, there were just two sexual orientation options available—gay or straight—and no one even mentioned gender beyond strictly male or female. It’s not that other possibilities didn’t exist, or that everyone neatly fit into those categories; people just didn’t talk about it. Now, we have a plethora of terms to describe sexual identity, sexual orientation and gender. Understanding all the terminology may not be easy for those of us who grew up with gay/straight/male/female as the only possibilities, but hey, learning stuff is fun. And so is being respectful to humans of all flavors and varieties.
Whether you identify as gay, lesbian, trans, gender fluid, queer, or some combination—there’s a wine pairing out there for your sexual/gender identity/orientation. Let’s drink the LGBTQ+ rainbow, baby!
L is for Lesbian
Are you a female who is sexually or romantically attracted to other women? Why not celebrate with a bottle of the Remy Wines 2019 Jubilee Dolcetto, a black-cherry-kissed selection from self-described lesbian winemaker Remy Drabkin? Drabkin’s winery in Oregon’s Willamette Valley specializes in Italian-style wines, along with out-and-proud events like “Lez Be Smart: Brunch, Wine and Gay Trivia.”
G is for Gay
Although it can also be applied other genders, “gay” usually refers to men who are attracted to other men. If that’s your jam, reach of a bottle of Mercury Wine 2018 Freddie Cuvée. This Rhone-style red blend, made by winemaker-who-just-happens-to-be-gay Brad Beard in Sonoma County’s Alexander Valley, features ripe cherry flavors and a label image of the loveable winery pup, Freddie Mercury.
B is for Bisexual
Just as some folks are attracted to people of more than one gender, many winemakers don’t like to limit themselves to just one grape for their vinous creations. As proof, I offer the 2018 Rainbow Cuvee from Iron Horse Vineyards in California’s Russian River Valley. Created as a tribute to diversity, this bubbly beauty is a blend of two equally attractive grapes: Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
T is for Transgender
If your gender identity is different from the sex you were assigned at birth, I can’t think of a better wine than Chrysalis Vineyards 2020 Barrel Select Norton. This Virginia winery, founded by trans woman Jeni McCloud in 1997, was fittingly named for the caterpillar’s transformation into a beautiful butterfly. McCloud’s winery specializes in Norton, a native American grape that was first cultivated in Virginia.
Q is for Queer
The LGBTQ+ community has reclaimed this once-derogatory term—“Dude, are you queer or something?!” —and now deploys it as a positive way to describe people who prefer not to adopt terms such as lesbian or gay. For many years, the word Merlot also had a negative connotation, thanks to the movie "Sideways," in which main character Miles famously declared: “I am not drinking any fucking Merlot!” Thankfully, the wine has seen a renaissance in California in recent years and the M-word is no longer taboo among wine lovers. Remind your badass queer self why with a glass of 2020 Défier Carbonic Merlot from J. Brix Wines. This is a fresh, modern twist on California Merlot—an unfined and unfiltered homage to Cru Beaujolais—made in an egg-shaped concrete tank from whole cluster Santa Ynez Valley fruit.
For a person who identifies as fluid (also known as gender fluid), gender identity is something that can change over time. This is also true for wine. Not only is it fluid in the sense of its liquid form, wine evolves as the years go by. For reds, their tannins may soften and the wines can develop new flavors, while white wines become darker in color and gain concentration. To experience fluidity that’s as fascinating as your own, seek out library selections from long-established producers like Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars. Many offer both current vintages and older versions from decades past, so you can taste and compare them side by side.
Whether you feel like you are a mix of genders or that you have no gender at all, nonbinary identification calls for a label-defying wine like pétillant naturel. Also known to wine hipsters as “pet-nat,” this naturally bubbly creation isn’t a typical sparkling wine, nor is it a still wine. Unlike Champagne, pet-nat can be made from just about any grape variety, and it goes into the bottle before its primary fermentation is complete. The result can be unpredictable—from a tad sweet to cloudy and tangy—and that’s all part of the fun. Try one of the many organic pet-nats from pét project in Washington state and leave your wine preconceptions at the door.
People who identify as pansexual may experience sexual or romantic attraction to any person, regardless of their gender or sexual orientation. Basically, the rule is: No rules. If that rings a bell for you, pour yourself a glass of something wonderfully unconventional, like the 2021 Electric Ladyland from California’s Tessier. This skin-contact white is made from five grapes that don’t normally play together, including Albariño, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Riesling and even Pinot Noir rosé. The result is anything but traditional, from its golden yellow color to its notes of pineapples and peaches. Don’t judge, just drink.
CYA Disclaimer: There are many variations of the terms above, and some of them overlap. As a human of the cisgender, heterosexual variety, I don't claim to be an expert on the nuances—though I do know a thing or two about wine. For more on these and other identifiers and orientations, see this helpful glossary.