‘Educated the expensive way; he knows his Claret from his Beaujolais,’ crooned Blur’s Damon Albarn in the hit song “Charmless Man” a couple of decades ago.
Being able to differentiate between the two is a basic requirement if you’re going to convince a prospective client, new boss or even girlfriend-in-waiting that you’re something of a connoisseur when it comes to the merits of matured grape juice.
If the title of wine expert is something that you aspire to, then here’s how you can convince people that you know your New World from your Solar System in three simple steps.
1. Know Your Wines
There are almost 200 different varieties of wines, so it’s almost impossible to know them all. Start with the basics; for example, the more popular red wine varieties include pinot noir, shiraz, cabernet sauvignon and Merlot, and the more popular whites include sauvignon blanc and chardonnay. Then there’s rosé, sparkling wine and fortified wine.
If you’re ever handed a multiple-page menu with a never-ending list of wines, don’t get lost in it, as you will end up very confused. It’s definitely not the best situation to be in if you happen to be on a date and out to impress. Look for the grape variety you want to drink and then pick one you know or, alternatively, select something within your price bracket and hope to be pleasantly surprised.
2. Learn the Right Pronunciation
A mispronunciation of a popular wine will easily separate you from the experts.
Begin with the more popular but difficult-to-pronounce ones. For example, Chianti is pronounced as “key-ahn-tee” and Gewürztraminer is pronounced as “guh-vurtz-tra-mean-er”. Another one is Gruner Veltliner or, rather, “groo-ner felt-lai-ner”.
Once you get more familiar with these wines you can always abbreviate. For example, Gewürztraminer can be “guh-vurtz” and Gruner Veltliner can be “GV”. Word of warning though: if you find yourself in a situation that requires you to sound like a wine aficionado, order wines with pronunciations you are familiar with. If not, don’t let a lack of linguistic skills stop you from exploring and enjoying a good bottle as the best learning is always done with glass in hand.
3. Use the Right Vocabulary
The next step is having a few terms up your sleeve to describe what you like or don’t like about a wine. There are many words that you can use to blend into the oenophilic crowd.
There are technical, wine-specific terms such as “body”, which describes the concentration and overall feel of a wine in your mouth, and “nose”, which simply refers to the smell or aroma of the wine. There are also plenty of descriptive terms; for example, to describe a wine as “crisp” would mean that it’s fresh and bright.
Another common word in the complex world of wine language is fruity. A “fruity” wine is one that has pronounced and distinct flavours of the grapes and aromas that may come off as sweet.
Understanding wine can be intimidating at first, but delving into it can open up a whole new world. Wine is more than a drink, it’s a lifestyle. Pick up a book on wine, attend tasting classes or ask a sommelier the next time you’re at a nice restaurant. Cheers.