Wines to Pair with Hentai Tags

vareity-of-wines

“Wines to pair with hentai tags” was a thing I said in service of a one-off, “just two things” mashup, but then I kept thinking about it sincerely. Drinking wine and frenzied hentai browsing are an almost daily part of my routine. Doing them together sounds like a very lush evening. #selfcare

Wine and hentai may not be alike in widespread legitimacy, but they both have extremely dedicated and enthusiastic communities that participate on a spectrum from casual dabbling to encyclopedic knowledge. There’s nothing inherently more ridiculous about pairing wines to tags than pairing wine with literary genres or movies. That is: ultimately it’s an interesting exercise in investigating why we like what we like, but what we decide is always going to be a individual mix of nature, socialization, habit, and that mysterious X that makes our tastes ours.

Chardonnay – Loli

Everyone knows Chardonnay! It’s the most widespread and popular white varietal. It’s so well-known that it seems old school, and it peaked in popularity in the 80s. The few times I’ve brushed elbows with big deal Wine People, the treasures of their collection usually included a Chardonnay from the 80s or 90s. Even if it doesn’t seem exciting now, it’s still ubiquitous. The parallels to lolicon are striking. I’m not going to use this space for my takes on whether loli is good or bad or condemnable. It’s not my thing, but neither is Chardonnay. Lolicon, however you feel about it, is tied to some pretty important ideas not only in hentai, but in otaku and geek culture at large. Hell, the word otaku as we use it was first used in a 1983 editorial in the lolicon magazine Manga Burikko. The slang “lemon,” most familiar to us now as a fanfic designation, probably comes from the 1984 hentai OVA Cream Lemon. Manga Burikko’s competitor, by the way, was a magazine called Lemon People. The more you know.

Even if you have no compulsion to go anywhere near loli hentai, it’s everywhere. It’s one of the most popular tags, usually clocking in at 2nd or 3rd on doujin sites. Like the classic white wine, its influence may have faded, but it’s still very much around. And even if it’s declassé to cop to liking Chardonnay/loli, enthusiasts know what they like, and that they can always find it when they need it.

Rosé – Vanilla

When I’m buying a Cabernet or a Montepulciano, for instance, I do tend to read the descriptions and at least pretend to care about tasting notes. When I’m buying rosé, honestly I just get the prettiest label and bonus points if it’s a screw top and under fifteen dollars. It’s all about easy access, refreshment, and realizing that you’ve accidentally finished the whole bottle by yourself. What? Vanilla may be your favorite tag, and more power to you. If it’s not, it’s at least a safe and convenient lily pad to land on when you can’t decide where to go next, or you’re just too damn tired to interrogate yourself about what you’re in the mood for. When it’s great, like rosé is for me, it’s a breezy, pleasant experience but not something that haunts me or formatively changes what I think of as good hentai/wine. When it’s disappointing, it’s usually in an unremarkable and inoffensive way that likewise doesn’t leave a scar – and it still got me buzzed.

Prosecco – Happy sex

The happy sex tag does nothing for me. It’s a blandly perfect white guy celebrity who is by all accounts charming, nice, and beloved, but whose shiny hotness is so neat and regular that my brain fails to process his face. There’s probably nothing wrong with him, and there’s nothing wrong with Prosecco. It’s affordable, it’s bubbly, and brings with it the vibe of a summer party on a glimmering evening. But I guess when it comes to hentai that’s the problem. What’s most interesting about sex, the stuff that really claws its way into your brain, often isn’t happiness, or beauty in the obvious and accepted ways. Frequently our sexual selves are not the selves that cool down on an idyllic summer night with a glass of prosecco and every hair in place, but the undone selves who give into sweat and exhaustion and eat popsicles in our underwear. Happy sex is a peach bellini. I would rather re-read the peach fucking scene from Call My by Your Name.

I don’t begrudge the idea of happiness, and I am happy to have good sex and happy when my friends have good sex, but I suppose my friction with it as a type of content is that there’s an emotional state right there on the tin, and I don’t like being told what to feel. I want to be challenged and disarmed when I’m turned on. That’s hard to do with happy sex, because the artists and writers have the burden of making me invested in this happiness that has already announced itself. Basic hot guys may still be hot, but I’d rather have to look longer and more carefully at someone, sinking into them to find out why they’re attractive.

That said, happy sex is something that can really work in the context of well-executed parody works. And I love an Aperol Spritz. If you mix the Aperol of a good pairing with the Prosecco of happy sex, that’s a fine cocktail.

Cabernet – Schoolgirl uniform

Cabernet is “the king of grapes.” It’s a tricky decision to think about what tag is the cab of the hentai world, because it’s right there beside Chardonnay as the Kind Everyone Knows. Spiritually, it feels right that it would be the schoolgirl uniform, the king of fetishized apparel. It’s recognizable, it’s bold, it’s always There and Itself. You have to be careful with cabernet food pairings because the wine can easily overpower the meal, and I feel similarly about seifuku. They’re good, and they can accomplish a lot on their own, but they don’t work with everything. Some popular tags – nakadashi, ahegao, etc. – are so versatile that even if they aren’t like, on your google alerts, they can show up seamlessly in stories with wildly different content and balance nicely. A cab is a wine you pick because you want to drink a cab, and you plan your meal around it. You can’t just buy some light fish – let’s say for this exercise the fish is a miko – and then expect your driest, darkest cab to pair well with it. Sometimes it will not only overshadow the other content, but outright clash with it! But once you’ve figured how cabs/seifuku shine best, you have plenty of diversity under that umbrella. Cabernet is relatively robust and dry, but some go down easy and some fuck you up and stain your teeth for hours. Think of it as the difference between an everyday school life chapter and a forced gangbang, if that helps.

Malbec – Monster Girl

I’ve always been a big red wine drinker, but until around 2010-11, most people I knew were not into Malbecs. They exploded in popularity seemingly out of nowhere, at least in my unsophisticated corner of South Carolina. That zeitgeist has passed, and Malbecs are now an accessible choice at most shops and restaurants. Lamias, sphinxes, centaurs, and the rest of the fantastical menagerie of monster girls is largely made of up ancient creatures, but monster girls as an inescapable trend in anime and manga has only just started to die down. They’ve long been around in hentai, but their popularity in the wider otaku world certainly helped bolster the tag. It looks like the genre’s bubble is bursting, but like the bold, dark, and satisfyingly earthy Malbec, monster girls are full of complexities and possibilities that keep them in rotation in our fantasies even when they aren’t the current big thing.

Chianti – Big Breasts

Last summer, trend-watchers starting hollering about how “breasts are back!” Wait – have breasts ever been out of style? Well, yes and no. Breasts are always there, we take them for granted. In the social order of breast/ass/leg people, breasts are the most basic and obvious. You can talk about Anime Titty without really revealing much about your sexual self. Breasts are so there we forget they are, is what I’m getting at. And they’re usually the most popular tag. If it ain’t broke, etc. Chianti is the Italian red people who don’t know Italian reds, or even wine, know about. It’s not just a wine, it’s a piece of culture, because you probably at least know the Hannibal line.

Chiantis are nice. They aren’t my first choice, but I’d never turn one down, because it’s usually an overall easy drinking experience. They used to come in bottles with straw basket-wrapped bottoms, which seems like the packaging equivalent of a busty milkmaid or what your grandfather would call a nice figure. You can still find those out-of-time rustic Chianti bottles, but for the most part their labels are as varied and modern as any varietal. It’s a classic wine that’s persisted and outlived its connotations of simplicity and peasant sensibilities. They pair well with a wide selection of food, they’re versatile, and their place in wine culture is long cemented. No matter what fashion trends come and go, breasts and the people who love them are a home base, a constant, and they’re going to dominate the tags regardless of what’s happening around them.

Orange Wine – NTR

Well, actually, it’s not orange.

The pedants would be right in this case. Orange wine is ~ actually ~ just white wine, but it’s made without removing the skins of the grapes as is the norm. White wine made like red wine is the easy way to explain it. The technical term is skin-contact (heh) wine. It’s a very old process, but “orange wine” can still be difficult to find in shops. If it’s available, the selection is usually limited. The result is, in my experience, a wine that’s refreshing but sharp and tangy. It’s compulsively drinkable but definitely hard to categorize. The taste is a disconcerting good that you don’t quite know why you’re enjoying, and it may leave you slightly on edge. Something made by a method that breaks normal rules, is an acquired taste, and about which people love to argue semantics? Sounds like a certain notorious acronym…

Pinot Noir – Nakadashi

Unlike Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir is light bodied, gentle, and easy to pair with a wide spectrum of cuisine. It’s also the well known red varietal that seems to be the most highly prized and sought after. An expensive Pinot Noir gets reaaaaally expensive. Its grapes of origin are god damned ancient, lending it a rich history and resulting in a huge variety of expression not only between regions, but with even small changes in growing conditions. Acclaimed, primitive, but fragile – doing the work to get it can be hard, but when you get it, you can do a lot with it.

There are only so many places to come, and the usual spots all have their charms, but due to things including but not limited to our stupid biological urges and our love of risk, the Big Ticket is always going to be nakadashi. I could write a separate, probably very long essay exclusively on this tag. Like Pinot Noir, it’s not that it’s always the loudest and boldest thing happening in a story. You can pair it with most other tags successfully. It certainly can be the star of a chapter, but it’s also a workhorse of a supporting role. Nakadashi can be anything from a footnote to something that elevates a story in critical ways: added romance, danger, or life changing consequences.

Another reason Pinot Noir is so valuable is because the process of making it is so difficult and finicky. Its grapes are incredibly sensitive to conditions, and the difference in time for a successful harvest can come down to a harrowingly small window. It’s not always a safe day.

Port – Futanari

**Only speaking for myself here** but uh, futa can be very good, and if most people searched their heart of hearts I think they would admit they could fuck with a futa on occasion. But it’s intense, and maybe uncontrollable intensity is part of what makes it a powerful tag. If I read or watch some futa when those moods strike it’s satisfying but also…a lot. Anyway, port is the sweetest of the fortified wines, tipping into cloyingly so. You have to appreciate it fully and in moderation. It’ll also knock you out with an alcohol content of ~19%. Sometimes there can be too much of a good thing.

Sherry – Armpit licking

Sherry: the other fortified wine. I think it’s a little harder to pin down and a little harder to find than port. It’s rare to find a “sherry person” but they exist. Maybe they just don’t talk about it much, and they know where to find the goods and enjoy them in peace. Types of sherry differ wildly, from heady and sweet cream to the dry and salty fino. I’ve long suspected that armpit people are actually extremely chill and secure in their desire. Like sherry, an armpit is something to be savored, but the mood can vary. They can be a part of languorous romance or make a cameo in the heat of a frantic, sweaty moment. Either way, they’re out there waiting if you want to discover them, and you’ll be in good company.

***

I’ve found whenever there are lists online, a lot of the responses are “where’s X?” I don’t know. Whatever overtook me while writing this only lasted so long. This is by no means every major tag or even everything I like. I don’t know what chikan is. Probably merlot, because I don’t want it but will get drunk off of it anyway.

 

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