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Friday, May 27, 2011

10 Ways to Pretend You Know Something About Wine

Guess what?  You’ve been invited to dinner at a swanky restaurant and up until now, Olive Garden is the nicest place you’ve ever been (and the only time you've ever used cloth napkins)!  You sit down and a waiter puts bread on your very own plate with a miniature knife.  Another one pours you a nice sweaty glass of water while you glance at the armory of silverware in front of you.  The head of the table barks, “how about a nice Beaujolais, everyone?”  You’re thinking,bojuh-what?  Exactly.  That's when you realize you probably couldn’t tell the difference between a cheap wine cooler and a French Bordeaux.  Don’t worry.  Here are ten ways you can convincingly fake it!

The Whiff

Well, you’ve gotta start faking it somewhere, right?  Before you take your first sip, stick your schnauze in that glass and give a good whiff!  Do you smell that?  It doesn't really matter what you smell, just close your eyes and breathe it in.  Assuming you’re with someone, you can even use a cheap blanket statement like, “Oh, that’s good” or “Mmm, I can’t wait.”  For all you know, it just smells like any old glass of booze, but to most anyone else, you just hit half-legit.

The Cork

This one’s good, because you can instantly establish your pseudo-credibility. Let’s say you’re at a little bit nicer of a place.  You order an entire bottle of wine instead of just glasses for you and your date (smooth move!).  The waiter retrieves it and presents it, opens it, and sets the cork beside you.  What do you do?  Smell it?  Come on, you know you want to.  Well, don’t do it, even if your brain thinks, well, what else am I supposed to do with it?  The truth: smelling a cork tells you only one thing for certain.  That is, whether it has gone bad.  Instead, just pick it up and roll it around in your fingers.  If it’s almost all dry, you’re good to go.  Now, if you really want to sell it, you have a story to tell about how most people ignorantly smell
wine corks.

The Swirl

Wine is better swirled.  It releases aromas and aids the wine in breathing.  Well, this trick can sometimes be harder than it looks.  It’s just liquid in a funny shaped glass.  There’s no ice in your wine to stabilize it, so if you’ve never swirled, be careful.  You don’t want to stain the table cloth, or worse, your shirt.  I guarantee you will lose brownie points for that.  You know how in most sports, “it’s all in the wrist”?  Not with wine swirling.  This is more like “all in the elbow.”  Move most of your arm.  Save yourself some embarrassment (and dry cleaning), swirl like a pro, even if you’re faking it.

Good Year!

This phrase obviously gets tossed around a lot in wine circles.  “Oh!  A ’97.  Goodyear.  That’s a good year.”  Well, do you see that chart above?  It’s called a vintage chart.  I think only the elitists who write those charts know which years are prophetically better than others.  Today is your lucky day, because the fact that you now know that there even is such a list out there puts you a step ahead of practically anyone you’ll ever take on a date.  Period.  If you’re presented with a wine, just say, “Ooh, 2003 (or whatever), that’s a good year.”  Who’s going to question you?

Get A Grip

Believe it or not, there is an ongoing debate about whether or not it’s acceptable to hold a wine glass in a cupped hand, like a goblet.  Supposedly, if you hold your wine glass in a cupped hand, the residual heat from your hand and fingers will heat the wine inside beyond the ideal serving temperature.  Convincing evidence suggests otherwise, but then what would wine enthusiasts argue about?  No matter what side you’re on, it’s always acceptable to grab a glass by the stem.  So do it.  You won’t offend anyone.  Note: some modern wine glasses have no stems.  If you ever come across them, well, when in Rome…

The Beef on Red

Fact: red wine pairs well with beef.  That’s what they say, anyway.  For the most part, that’s true.  And surprisingly many people know this, even the extremely occasional wine drinkers.  Well in reality, red wine pairs well with the fat in red meat.  The idea is, you take a bite of meat and enjoy it.  Then you sip the red wine, which nicely cleanses your mouth and cuts through all that fat, so to speak.  Meat, wine.  Meat, wine.  That way, every hunk of that divine Porterhouse steak you paid a hundred bucks for tastes every bit as good as the first.  Yum!  Wanna pretend you know something about red wine, order the steak with it.  Wanna sound professional?  Tell your date why.

Show the White Some Love, Too

Fact: white wine pairs well with fish and chicken.  Correction: white wine goes with not-red-meat.  Remember, you’re just trying to pretend you know what to do, so just follow the rule.  And if you’re having trouble deciding between the Sauvignon Blanc and the Gewürztraminer Riesling, just close your eyes and point to one on the menu.  (Trust me, they’re both good.)  People also tend to love Pinot Grigio.  (I personally don’t understand the mass infatuation with it.  I think people just like to say “Pinot” because it sounds fancy and it has a silent “t.”)

Oaky Dokie

Ok, this goes back to smelling the wine.  Refer to The Whiff section of the article in case you’ve already forgotten.  Imagine a rich red cabernet sitting in front of you.  You want to feign competence and impress your guest.  Pick up the glass, maybe swirl it, and give it a good sniff.  You don’t want to use the cheap blanket statement like before.  You want some pizzazz!  Here’s a real winner: “Oaky.”  Yeah, like the tree.  Say the wine has kind of an oaky aroma.  Why?  Good red wine is aged in barrels.  Good wine barrels are crafted from oak.  White wine is a little trickier.  Just describe it as “fruity.”  (If you’re not comfortable with saying the word “fruity” for some reason, then say “citrusy.”)

The Candor on the Decanter

You might be thinking, “Decanter?  But I don’t know any witchcraft.”  Don’t worry, you don’t need to know any hexes for this one.  See that fat thing in the middle of the picture that looks like Barbara Eden would poof out of?  It’s called a decanter.  It’s a device used to expedite the breathing process of red wine.  I’ve worked in fine dining and only the snobbiest of wine snobs ask for their red wine to be decanted.  Depending on the level of snobbery you’re trying to convey, you can decide whether or not to request the decanter.  To a connoisseur, it makes the world of improvement in taste, but as a faker, you’d never know the difference.

Safe Pick

This last one is very important!  What happens when you unknowingly pick a wine that neither you nor your guest has the slightest taste for?  It doesn’t matterwhat else you do, if you don’t like it, it’s going to be a long night.  The solution: make a safe pick from the start.  First off, stay away from French reds.  They smell like sweaty gym socks…and that’s what they’re supposed to smell like!  Choose something like a meritage.  A meritage is a blend of grapes, so it’s not too overpowering in any way.  Like I said before, you could also go with just about anything “Pinot.”  Not only are pinots really popular right now (especially with the ladies), they’re pretty easy to stomach for anyone.

So there you have it, 10 easy ways to look pro without the know.  Now go, and roam confidently in the wine-o world!


Xay B. said...

Good work on this!

Anonymous said...

Hey! I read this close to a year ago! Crazy to find out that you wrote it! :D How clever.

Tara Tyler said...

thanks for the tips!
one question - does tne brand/price matter?
have a nice wknd

Cole Garrett said...

@ Tara Brand is really just personal preference. As far as price, I would say price is a pretty good indicator of quality up until around $100. Anything more expensive than that isn't noticeably better than wines close to $100.

Hope that helps! :)

Title Loans said...

Great advice to the novices of the world, like myself. My roommate's dad was in the wine business and said never spend above 8 dollars or below 20 on a bottle at the grocery store (aka nothing between 9 and 19 dollars) but I never knew that about the cork! Also, what does the letters in the chart mean next to the years?

Cole Garrett said...

@ Title Loans The letters go as follows:
C=Caution, may be too old
E=Early maturing, may be accessible
I=Irregular, even among the best wines
T=Still tannic, youthful, or slow to mature
R=Ready to drink
NT=Not yet sufficient tastings
NV=Not a vintage year

And the colors mean:
Purple=Among the finest
Red=Above average
Green=Below average
Black=Appalling (that's actually the official definition, lol)

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