ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

How to Look Like a Wine Connoisseur

Updated on October 2, 2011

Wandering down the wine aisle at the store, or staring at the multi-page wine list at a restaurant, it’s easy to be overwhelmed. Grapes, blends, locations, DO’s, vintage. What does it all MEAN?!?So many people have told me “oh, I don’t know anything about wine.” Well, as someone who worked briefly in the wine industry, I’ll tell you that most people don’t know much about it at all. And those that do (myself not included) have invested huge amounts of time and possibly money to find their way around a wine cellar. However, there are ways to “fake” that you actually know something, impress your friends, and maybe even not be so intimidated next time you are elected to pick the bottle.

I can't imagine knowing all of the bottles in this cellar!
I can't imagine knowing all of the bottles in this cellar!

Look, swirl, sniff, sip

Ah, the tasting ritual. Each step really does have a reason for being included, but only after you’ve “looked, swirled, sniffed and sipped” a thousand bottles, and perhaps even recorded your sense reactions to them, will the bottles start to be discernible.

Look. Look at the wine. Hold it over a white piece of paper or cloth. Is it transluscent? Does it look almost black with rich body? This step is probably the least important, but it might give you an idea of what you are about to experience.

Swirl. Try not to spill. You might want to practice with another substance first. This helps to bring out the wine’s bouquet.

Sniff. Stick your nose in the glass and take a big whiff. Now start spouting out words like cinnamom, black cherry, leather or mango to describe what your nose encountered.

Sip. This is the fun part. Take a small sip, let your taste buds play and the wine linger so you can really understand the full taste from beginning to the last lazy flavor.This is the point that if the wine is truly terrible (a “corked” wine) you can tell the waiter at a restaurant that you want something else. I don’t recommend doing this too much. Restaurant folks don’t appreciate patrons taking advantage of them - remember, they have power over your food.

Robot Woman Explains the Wine Tasting Process

Have a number of bouquet and taste describers on hand

Thisgoes along with the tasting ritual, but it’s good to know what the common descriptions are. A few tried and true terms are:

Oak, tannin, cherry, earthy, spicy, mango, leather.... and the list goes on

Use the word “varietal”

As in “this grape varietal is particularly earthy”. It’s grammatically wrong. It’s an adjective. But as they say “do as the Romans do”, and the winos do it....

Scoff at those who say corked wine is best

Instead, repeat after me: “stelvan closures are the wave of the future”. Stelvan closures are screw caps. But they eliminate the risk of cork taint, so it’s time to stop seeing screw caps as a mark of a cheap bottle!

Making wine from grapes
Making wine from grapes

Syrah and Shiraz are the same

Syrah is produced in France and the rest of Europe, Argentina, Chile, New Zealand, Uruguayand the US; Shiraz, in Australia, Canadaand South Africa. The difference? The name. The grape “varietal” is the same.There are other names for this grape as well, but these two are most common. The origin of the name split is unknown.

Champagne is a region in France

If you don’t know already, the French are very proud of their region, or “appellation” that produces a delicious sparkling wine.But so are the Spanish proud of their Cava, and Italians of their spumante….and the Germans, the Swiss, the South Africans, the Portuguese, the Americans, etc. Just don’t call it all champagne.

Don’t rinse out your wine glass with water before switching

Proper wine etiquette says that you ideally get a new glass when switching wines, but if there are no glasses available, don’t rinse your glass out with water. Find a towel or just let it drip dry. The water affects the taste of the wine more than a different “varietal”.

I think we have enough glasses here
I think we have enough glasses here

Ask for a Chilean wine

Recently, Chilean wines have won many awards. Show that you're on the cutting edge by ordering a bottle from Chile.

Hold wine glasses by the stem

Your hands warm the wine past its ideal temperature. For those of us who are a bit coordinationally-challenged, this is more important when it comes to white wines, since they are generally served colder.

An Alternative to Wine Glasses

My favorite wine glass, the juice glass
My favorite wine glass, the juice glass

What is a tannin?

Tannin. It’s a word you will hear over and over again in the wine world. But what exactly is it, and what does it mean for my wine?

Tannins are a family of compounds found in the skins, seeds and stems of grapes. They help to preserve the wine, as well as give body, structure and complexity of flavor to the wine. With a large amount of tannin, the result can be a “tannic wine”, which may make your tongue or back of your mouth pucker a bit. As wines age, the tannins “soften” and they are less harsh on the palate.Red wines tend to have more because they are often made with red or purple grapes, along with their skins and seeds.

Full of tannins!
Full of tannins!


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • KimmyKatt profile image

      KimmyKatt 4 years ago from Freedom, Wisconsin

      Sweet now my friend and I can look like real smart winos :) Thanx a bunch

    • Megan Coxe profile image

      Megan Coxe 6 years ago from somewhere between here and there

      Thanks! Yes, I think if you have drunken for a while, you learn some of these things by osmosis. But there are plenty of people who say "oh, I don't know anything about wine" when they really know just about as much as the rest of us (that is to say, most people don't know much).

    • Vinaya Ghimire profile image

      Vinaya Ghimire 6 years ago from Nepal

      Interesting. I have been drinking wine for at least 7years and I have followed some of your tips.

    • Megan Coxe profile image

      Megan Coxe 6 years ago from somewhere between here and there

      Thanks thranax, that was my point - even for people who don't drink wine or don't like it to not be intimidated by the pretention that sometimes surrounds wine culture.

    • thranax profile image

      Andrew 6 years ago from Rep Boston MA

      Yay now I get to look like a winer. (LOL maybe I should rephrase that.) You have lots of cool inside techniques I wouldnt have known (I dont really like wine.)