A knowledge of fine wines is a hallmark of sophistication. Whether entertaining discriminating guests or enjoying an upscale business luncheon or dinner, a wine faux pas can have disastrous effects on one’s social standing or professional advancement. Here are some basics that will help you avoid blowing yourself up as you tiptoe through the minefield that is the vineyard of wine.
Cork or screwtop? Many self-proclaimed wine experts claim that good wines come only in bottles that are stopped with a cork, rather than a screwtop. This narrow-minded viewpoint is based on the petty snobbery of social climbers who look down their noses at men who prefer to partake of the grape as they sit on park benches or lounge in bus stations. Screwtops enable the harried hostess to avoid the embarrassment of grunting like a sow delivering a litter of pigs as she tries to pull the cork out of a bottle that she holds between her legs.
Cheap vs. expensive. Some people who would like to learn more about wine are deterred by the cost. A six-pack of Jax or Dixie beer can be had for less than $5 at your local Piggly-Wiggly, while many bottles of expensive wine cost that much per sip! What is a person on a budget to do? Here’s a tip from Ken Hopkins, spokesman for the American Association of Brewers. “Take your favorite beer and pour it into a bottle from which the wine has been removed–chardonnays and Alsatian empties are excellent for this purpose. If one of your guests says that your ‘wine’ tastes like beer, ask how she knows what beer tastes like if she’s such a wine expert.”
How to read a wine label. The label on a bottle of wine contains a great deal of information that can help you make an educated selection. Unfortunately, much of it is in foreign languages with strange punctuation marks. Here are a few terms that every knowledgeable wine drinker should have at his or her tongutip:
Gewurtztraminer: Open other end.
Vin du pays: 5 cent deposit.
Appellation controlee: Consumption of alcohol while operating heavy machinery may cause pregnancy.
In order to avoid buying a wine that is inappropriate for the entree you will be serving, choose a label that matches your floral centerpiece. After two glasses, no one can taste the wine anyway.
Bolder is better. Some oenophiles strive to develop a sensitive palate that can detect subtle “overtones” and “finishes”, but they are missing out on wine’s principal source of satisfaction–the buzz you get when you drink a lot of it! For the ultimate wine experience, stick to fortified “bum” wines such as Mad Dog 20-20, Thunderbird and Night Train. They deliver a high degree of satisfaction at a low, low cost.
Wine talk. In order to truly enjoy your newly-developed wine expertise, you must be able to talk about it in a way that impresses others. “A hint of vanilla, an overtone of left-footed sweatsocks, and a hearty but temperate finish that recalls the pre-electric Bob Dylan,” is one bravura stroke by a well-known critic in this month’s Wine Snob magazine. In order to pull off this sort of verbal gymnastics, place a pocket dictionary in a Cuisinart or other food processor and use the “cole slaw” setting. Stuff the confetti-like scraps in your pocket, and pull them out as needed when stuck for a noun or adjective at your next wine tasting!
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