Have you ever sat at a dinner party while one of the guests expertly dissects the wine? Have you been confused by the amount of detail that goes into the description? Don’t know your Chardonnay from your Pinot Noir but still want to impress those around you? Here’s our quick guide to blagging it and sounding a like a true wine connoisseur.
Is Everyone Faking?
Well, maybe not everyone, but certainly the odds of a wine expert sitting down at your table are probably not great. Chances are the person who's telling you about the body and aroma of the Bordeaux on the table are blagging themselves. You can’t take that risk, however, so the first key to blagging it is keeping your mouth shut. That might sound counter-intuitive but this is one occasion where less is definitely more. Knowing nods and the odd comment here and there can make you seem like you know what you’re talking about. The more you say, however, the more likely you’re going to trip over your words, forget what you were talking about and reveal yourself as a novice.
Know Your Basics
There’s an old adage that a little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing. In the case of wine tasting, it’s absolutely essential. The key here is to at least know the basic terminology, including:
- Acidity: This is the tartness of the wine and pretty easy to judge when you take a mouthful.
- Blend: Most wines aren’t made from just one grape but a blend of, for example, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Malbec.
- Body: That’s how heavy a wine is – a strong red for example is ‘full bodied’. Other wines are much lighter on the palate.
- Finish: This is the aftertaste when you have taken a drink of wine, the flavour that lingers on the tongue.
- Oaked: This is a wine fermented in oak barrels, a process which can add certain flavours like vanilla and caramel.
- Vintage: Essentially, the year the grape was grown and made into wine. You can add ‘non-vintage’ to your wine lexicon too, a wine that is made from grapes produced across more than one year.
Sniff and Swirl
Actions speak louder than words. Always pick up your wine and look at it against the light first. Changes in colour are often important. Aged white wines tend to become darker over time and reds can turn slightly brown or orange. The aroma (bouquet) of a wine is important to connoisseurs. You may have seen them swirling the wine in their glass and then sticking their nose into it. This can seem a little pretentious so be careful when and how long you do it for. It does have a practical basis. Swirling the wine in the glass gets more oxygen into it and releases the aromas. It will also improve the flavour.
Describing a Wine
This is simpler than you think. There are three main categories to consider: Acidity, sweetness and tannin. We all know about the first two and they’re easy to discern, even for an amateur. Tannin is something associated with wines like Cabernet Sauvignon and contributes to the dryness you can sense when it’s present in high amounts. Red wines generally have stronger tannins than your average white.
Learn About Wine
Blagging is all well and good but if you really want to impress and not risk being found out, learning about wines is probably the best route. Attending tastings, finding a decent wine supplier and reading up on the facts will quickly get you to the stage where you can banter vintages with the best of them. The other option, of course, is to just plead ignorance and let the wine fakes and connoisseurs at the table get on with their thing.