Looking to impress your friends on a night out? These three simple steps will make everyone believe you’re a wine connoisseur, and fool even the sommeliers
Your night out is going well. Your guests are suitably impressed with your restaurant choice, and you are currently in the midst of proving that you are a truly classy individual. You are halfway through a witty anecdote when the waiter comes over to take your drinks orders.
Now – of course – you are going to order wine, but the moment you mention the word, the waiter informs you that he is going to fetch the sommelier. A moment of panic: you know very little about fine wines, but you can’t afford to ruin your image in front of everyone. What do you do?
Well don’t panic, because appearing knowledgeable about wines does not require much effort on your part. All it takes is a few simple tricks to give the impression that you know your Shiraz from your Sauvignon Blanc. By following these steps, you will be well on your way to convincing everyone into thinking you’re a wine expert.
You need to be asking the right questions. Before doing anything else, remember that sommeliers are the wine equivalent of head chefs in a restaurant – it’s a title that comes from years of experience and a great deal of knowledge. Their job is to inform you about wines, not the other way around. Trying to point out flavours and aromas in a wine will likely end up with you being corrected and subsequently embarrassed.
Instead you should be asking about which wines would pair with the food you are planning on ordering. Sommeliers often design the restaurant’s wine menu with complementary food pairings in mind, so ask them for their recommendations. Allowing them to decide not only makes you seem refined but also virtually guarantees that you will have the perfect drink with your meal.
This is the most important step. Once your wine has been brought to the table, do not drink it immediately. Instead you can request for a small amount to be poured into your glass, and then do what is known professionally as ‘nosing’ the wine.
To nose a wine simply means to smell it. You’ll want to swill the wine around several times before giving it a few short, sharp sniffs. Make sure you put your nose into the glass, but be careful not to get any wine on your nose – this is why you only request a small amount first.
Sommeliers will often comment about the bouquet and the aroma, both of which refer to the smells found in the wine. These can be complex combinations though, so instead of commenting on either you should look for any smells that tell you the wine is defective. If it smells musty, like a cupboard under the stairs or a wet newspaper, then the wine is ‘corked’ – in other words, a chemical in the cork has affected the taste of the wine. If so, then refuse the bottle – never drink corked wine, because although it is not dangerous it will often ruin the experience. At the very least it will raise some eyebrows if you do.
You have chosen your wine, you have nosed it, but there is still one more step: tasting. When tasting the wine do not just swallow it, instead roll it around your tongue and mouth for a little while. If you can identify any prominent flavours then remember them, but make sure you are certain that you have identified them correctly.
At this point you can make some comments about certain aspects of the wine. Keep your comments broad to avoid being corrected, and use some of the following terms to show your expertise:
- Aftertaste / finish – the flavours left after the wine is swallowed
- Body – describes the texture of the wine. Light-bodied wines are watery, full-bodied wines are rich and lingering, and medium-bodied wines are anything in between.
- Rich – when a wine is pleasantly sweet call it rich. This is much more complimentary than simply calling it sweet.
- Fresh – used to describe wine that is attractively acidic
- Length – long wines persist on the tongue for a while, whereas short wines are short bursts of flavour. Often used to describe the finish of a wine.
- Powerful – used to describe more alcoholic wines, usually as a compliment.
Remember not to overdo it, you want to come across as casual. Dropping a specialist term or two can make all the difference in the impression you give, but only if you use it correctly.
Now enjoy your wine and bask in the admiration of your guests!