How To Fake Being A Wine Snob

How To Fake Being A Wine Snob

Trueism: The best way to come across as somebody who knows wine — snobbism optional, is to actually know something. But assuming you aren't intent on becoming a Master Sommelier there are a few things that can be done to speed up the process. Books, for example. Pre-eminent among them is Kevin Zraly's Windows on the World Wine Course, now in its 25th anniversary edition. Read it, then get out and taste.

Or just start cold turkey at the regular wine tastings at retail outlets such as Saglimbeni Fine Wine and Bergheim Cellars. Twin Liquors actually has classrooms at some locations for more structured explorations such as Spanish 101.

But here's my favorite, quasi-educational ploy: sit yourself down in front of a bartender at a restaurant with a good wine list and start drinking your way through the wines-by-the-glass selection. Once a sense of what you like develops, ask to be pointed in the direction of similar wines, maybe from a different region. I like dealing with actual people, but there are of course apps for that. Plonk says things like "if you liked X then you might also like Y."

But let's say you really do want to fake it. Here, in no particular order, are some attitudes and tips that will either impress or piss-off your friends.

The red-with-meat, white-with-fish dictum: While generally true, the Wine Snob will want to feign indifference. Declare, correctly, that you'd prefer a red wine with that grilled salmon. Pinot Noir from, say, New Zealand, is always a good bet — as is Beaujolais from the Village level or above. Same goes for meat where dry Riesling (more points for choosing Austria, New York or Washington) can often be called into play — maybe not for a grilled steak but certainly for chicken, veal, rabbit, rare roast beef or most cured meats. When in doubt, rosé. And always bubbles.

Wine temperature: Conventional wisdom has it that reds are served at "room temperature" and whites chilled. Not so fast. Texas temp is not what the rule-makers had in mind, and most reds will benefit from a little chilling. The inverse goes for whites. Only light-bodied wines with little complexity (memorize that word) should be served straight out of the refrigerator or ice bucket. Asking the server to leave the bottle out of the ice — at least for a while — can score points. Its bouquet (another snob word) will develop as will your prestige.

Decanting: While it's true that decanting is helpful with old wines that might have "thrown" a little sediment, it's also useful in other situations — especially in the taming of young reds. Pouring them into a decanter with appropriate glugging flourish wakes up a recalcitrant wine, often turning it into something more ready for primetime. Besides, decanters look cool, and they allow for learned observations on color and clarity. Hints of ruby, for example ...

Sending Back Wine: This is a high-stakes snob gamble, but it's sometimes fully warranted. The subtler effects of "corkiness," the defect coming from a flawed cork, are often difficult to assess — maybe just a damping down of character. But learn to detect the aromas of old gym socks if you aren't already intimate with them: this is a sure sign of a flawed wine. Should you detect vinegary aromas, you might casually mention "a whiff of volatile acidity." Calling it "VA" is even snobbier yet.

Wines from obscure regions: Nothing says snob more than flaunting an unfamiliar wine region. So for starters, let's go Greek. Most people are still living back in the resin-bomb retsina age, so big points for knowing that there is way more out there. Practice saying "I think an Assyrtiko (ass-SEEHR-tee –koh) from Santorini would be perfect with the marinated shrimp." It's a crisp, full-bodied white that would actually work, by the way.

Negociant: Knowing the French term for wine merchant/importer gets you instant snob points, but it's also useful in that certain negociants are very good at assembling and selecting wines from diverse producers. Look for Kermit Lynch, Neal Rosenthal, Terry Theise and Jorge Ordóñez among others. These names don't guarantee winners, but they will get you closer than you deserve.

Bonus tip: If presented a cork, ignore it. None of us can afford the aged wines that sniffing one implies.

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