Look, we enjoy wine as much as the next person, and it’s highly likely that there are a lot of reds, whites, sparkling and champagne glasses (and bottles) in our foreseeable future. But our knowledge usually extends to “Mmm, tastes good” and “Yes, I WOULD like a refill.”
We’ve all had that terrifying experience at a bottle shop, struggling to find the perfect wine and barely being able to pronounce the names on the labels. And we’ve DEFINITELY panicked when the fancy waiter asks for our selection. All of a sudden “You choose” is the safest answer or a tentative “Um, the… Sav?”
When a date starts referring to viscosity, tannic and legs of their chosen glass, it’s all we can do to nod, smile and not let our eyes glaze over with fear as they ask our opinion. That’s when you know it’s time to duck to the bathroom.
But worry no more! We’ve got all the tips and tricks to fool the best of the best.
Hold the glass properly
You can learn to pronounce the name and even fumble through your wine choice but if you hold the glass incorrectly all your hard work will be for nothing. No matter what the wine, hold the glass by the stem instead of gripping the bowl. And for heaven’s sake, NO ice!
Pair it with the right food
Just when you thought it was safe to pair whites with white meat and reds with red meat, you find out that’s not always the case. When it comes to food, wines with natural acidity are great to pair with heavy or spicy foods. Tannic reds (we’ll go over this later, chill) are no good with spicy food. And you should always go for a wine as sweet as (or sweeter than) the dessert you’re pairing it with.
Pretend you know what you’re talking about
Just like any sub-culture, the foodie world of wine has its own jargon. If you hear “vintage”, it means the year the grapes were harvested. “Dry” means not sweet, and “tannic” refers to astringency. And the rest can be quickly Googled under the table.
Find the S Factor
When you’re at a wine tasting, there are certain behaviours seasoned professionals will look downright odd. Just remember the five S’s: SEE the wine, SWIRL the wine to enhance the wine’s flavour, SMELL the wine to see what aromas you can pick up, SIP the wine to check your assumptions and taste the overall flavours more fully as you swish it around, and finally SPIT the wine out.
Or you can drink it, if you’re worried about letting something so delicious go to waste. But if you’re in for a long day of wine tasting, you might get a little drunk.
Know the subtle differences
If you’re staring at Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio on a menu, you might not think there’s a huge difference. There’s really not a huge difference in the names, either, since “gris” is grey in French and “grigio” is grey in Italian. That confusing fact aside, let’s talk flavours. The Italians pick their grapes much earlier than the French, and the longer you leave grapes on the vine, the sweeter they get. So in this instance a Pinot Grigio will be much dryer. Pinot Gris, while still a dry white wine, will have a much fruitier flavour to it.
Know your geography
Australia has many unique and regionally distinct wine regions with 420,000 acres of vineyards planted throughout the country. South Australia’s Barossa Valley is the largest growing region is Australia and is known for old vine Shiraz and rich Riesling, while Victoria’s Yarra Valley has a cool climate perfect for Pinot Noir. Queensland’s upcoming Granite Belt region is known for its unique growing and ripening conditions. The combination of granite terroir (the environmental conditions that impact the growth of grapes, FYI), cool climate and high altitude all helps to create delicious flavours of Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Merlot.
Don’t get over-confident
If you don’t want to blow your cover, don’t order something you can’t pronounce. Pointing at the menu to order and nodding mutely is a dead giveaway as well. Either stick to something you know you can pronounce or wait for someone else to say it first. If you’re willing to venture out, here are the wine names people will usually mess up:
Sauvignon Blanc should be pronounced “saw-vee-nyon blohnk “ not “sav”.
Semillon should be pronounced “seh-mee-yhon”.
Pinot Noir should be pronounced “pee-noh nwahr”.
You’re welcome. Now go forth and fake it ’til you make it.