I’ve recently taken up wine tasting as a hobby. And like any hobby from scrapbooking to spelunking, this one is consuming a great deal of my time and money. In fact, I’m enjoying it so much it’s starting to get in the way of my wine drinking.
Wine drinking is something I’ve taken much pride in since 2007 – the year I made it my New Year’s resolution to acquire a taste for expired grape juice. I graduated quickly from MD 20/20 to Franzia to Two Buck Chuck, and within a year my go-to happy hour sip was a stem of red. I ordered wine in breweries, I brought wine to tail gates, I challenged pub owners to find that random bottle of cab in the back room. I fancied myself an expert, a connoisseur – a bona fide wine drinker.
And so I went merrily drinking along for years. Then one day, the illusion was shattered by a friend who subtly suggested that preferring an eight-dollar bottle of Ménage a Trois to Franzia does not a wine snob make <insert dramatic life-altering pause here>.
With silent indignation, I knew I had to take action. I agreed to venture to Santa Barbara in an effort to up my snob quotient with my very first swish-and-spit session. On that fateful trip I learned two very important things about myself. First, I like buttery Chardonnays and second, I am mad-crazy-in-love with wine tasting.
One Napa weekend, a trip through Italy, two wine clubs and countless tasting room visits later, I still only hold amateur wine-snob status; but I’ve learned a few things. Here are my Wine Snobbery 101 tips should you prefer to bypass the embarrassing Franzia years and really look the part at your next tasting:
1) Remain poised. This is neither pub crawl nor mini-pink-spoon-sampling at Baskin Robbins. Well maybe it is, but don’t behave like it.
2) Brush up on the lingo. “Notes of black cherry” is snobby, “bright and fruit forward” is snobbier, and “earthy and expressive with a long finish” is snobbiest. “This tastes like Christmas” is not any of those things.
3) Swirl, sniff, repeat. Even dogs know it’s proper etiquette to do a little sniff test first. Two good inhales should fool ‘em.
4) Eat before you taste. The crackers on the table are not akin to peanuts at a bar.
5) Pour something out once in awhile. There are roughly three ounces of cuvée between wine snob and bachelorette party entourage.
6) Talk about wine. By day’s end you should have discussed the name of the wine bar you plan to open, to which country you’ll move to start a vineyard, and the good old days when silly, naïve you thought Ménage a Trois was good wine.
7) Inquire about the Port. Sommeliers get absolutely giddy over their Port, Riesling, and other sweet wines. Your interest might even secure you an extra pour.
8) Tasting the sweet wines does not make you a sissy. It just makes you a snob. And if anyone tries to offer you a Hershey Kiss to accompany that Port turn your nose right up at them. You brought your own dark chocolate truffles.
9) No rinsing! All your work will be for naught if you dare pour water in that wine glass.
10) Join the club. But play the field first. The best advice I ever received was never join a wine club at your first or last winery of the day – you’re either too eager or too tipsy.
While one day I aspire to become that full-fledged wine snob that partakes in only library wines and demands a new glass with each pour, I’m not sure I’m ready for all the spitting. So for now, I’ll maintain my amateur status – just in case they bring wine tasting to the Olympics.
Are you a current or aspiring wine snob? Additional tips welcome!