There’s no denying that wine can be daunting. There’s so much to know and interpret as you swish, stare, and gargle. Is it full-bodied? What do the legs mean? And wherever are people getting hints of apricot from? Without training, it’s easy to make mistakes. Whether you’ve got an important work dinner coming up, you’re courting a wine connoisseur, or you simply want to be the wine guy/girl in your group, we’ve got the tips to get you sounding like a wine expert in no time.
Speak the wine expert language
Wine crowds, like the French, use their language to set themselves apart from the duds. To sip like the best of them, you need to know the key phrases, and use them liberally. Learning the correct pronunciation of a few key wines is a great move, too.
Dry: It’s not sour, it’s dry. If a wine tastes like you’re sipping on a lemon, it’s bone dry. This is due to the low, or non-existent sugar levels in the wine.
Fruit forward: Is the wine sweet and fruity, even reminiscent of grape juice? It’s fruit forward.
Savoury: Some wines carry a surprisingly savoury taste. You may think, am I a fancy vampire sipping blood out of a cup? No, the wine is just savoury.
Light-bodied – medium-bodied – full-bodied: Does the wine sit lightly in your mouth like a refreshing chilled tea? Then it’s light-bodied. Does the wine fill your mouth with its richness in flavour and texture? It’s full-bodied. Does it fall somewhere in-between? It’s medium-bodied. It’s not an exact science, pick your camp and stick to it.
Breathe: always stress that the wine needs to breathe.
Vintage: ‘the year’ is for beginners. Instead, talk about it’s vintage.
Hold the glass like a wine expert
Yes, there is a right and a wrong way to hold a wine glass, and the doors of ‘winedom’ may close if you fuddle it up. The general rule of thumb is, hold all stemmed wine glasses at the stem to avoid warming the wine, fingerprints, and gasps of indignation. Winefolly has a great guide if you’re still a little unsure about how to hold a glass.
Stare into its soul
Treat your wine like it’s a Renoir. There’s lots to be known about a wine from how it looks, so don’t make the blunder of putting the glass straight to your lips. The key things you are looking for are:
Colour: No, we don’t mean whether it’s a red or white (but if you’re unsure, this is the time to find out). Darker wines tend to be richer and bolder (think full-bodied), while paler wines will likely be lighter (think light-bodied). A good indication of an old wine is if, when held up to a light, you notice a gradient in colour from the deep-red center of the wine to a more orange-red at the edges.
Legs: When swishing your wine, have you ever noticed that some wines stick to the glass for longer than others? As it runs down the glass it creates legs, through an alcohol evaporation process, which is called the Gibbs-Marangoni Effect. If you want to keep your company we suggest you don’t repeat the name. Maybe read the room. What you should know about the legs, however, is that many and longer legs means a higher alcohol content, fewer legs means a lower alcohol count.
Don’t take it too seriously
When it comes down to it, wine is great no matter how it is enjoyed. If you cup the glass, or call it Kardonnay, don’t despair. Wine tasting is a fraughtful artform that many experts claim is junk science in the first place, so if you can’t tell if it’s medium or full-bodied, or you just don’t care to aerate your wine before drinking it, you do you.
If you’re clean out of wine but you’d like to try out your new skills, don’t worry. Tipple delivers.