- Oenophile. These are the experts on wine who study the process, principles, and making of wine. They buy very expensive bottles of rare wines, and can taste the difference between a '63 Beaujolais and a '64. Stay away from them.
- Wine snob. This could be you! Read on....
What You Need To Know
Not much. But you have to look good. Here's what to do.
Open the wine properly. This means you should use an opener: avoid buying wines with bottle caps, and don't bust the neck of the bottle on a counter and swig from the broken glass. Use one of those butterfly openers or, if you want to look really good, use one of those weird openers that looks like an over-sized AC power adapter prong.
Let the wine breathe. This means you let the bottle stand out in the open air, where the flies can walk all over it, asbestos particles can trickle into it from the ceiling, or passing sneeze droplets can drift right in. Breathing improves the taste of the wine.
Pour the wine into a wine glass. Let it splash against the sides of the glass helpfully. The Czar does recommend a wine glass: paper or styrofoam cups fail to cut it; for one thing, they don't sound as cheerful when you throw the empty into a fireplace. Or is that what you do with champagne flutes? We don't have a fireplace, so the Czar is not sure what he would do.
Hold the glass by the stem. Don't drink out of it by holding the bowl of the glass: it puts fingerprints all over the wine, and then you have to wash it. If you keep fingerprints off the glass, you can rinse it out and put it right back in the cupboard.
Swish the wine around in the glass. This makes all the crud that fell into the breathing wine bottle as well as the gunk left in the unwashed glass sink to the bottom. Check it out: most people will never notice.
Sniff the wine. This helps you determine the quality of the wine, especially indicative through its aroma (or bouquet). More importantly, it tips you off as to whether there's really even wine in the glass. With the guys in the Castle, you have to double-check this stuff, the merry pranksters.
Take a fast swallow. This essentially scalds the throat so badly that anything you drink after this tastes good.
Take a slow swallow. This helps you figure out whether you even want to finish the glass, or in fact even want to drink straight out of the bottle.
Don't spit the wine. Many wine tasters spit the wine after swishing it in their mouths. Don't do this... you'll never get hammered that way.
Where To Be A Wine Snob
There are two places you can be a wine snob: either at home, or in public (such as a restaurant).
This is the best place to practice your skills at snobbery. If you make mistakes, waiters won't snicker at you. Plus, you can discover what you really like. Some advice? Sure!
Get a wine rack. Don't invest in one of those wall-sized racks, because you'll go broke trying to fill it. If you can afford to fill it, e-mail us. we want to come over and help you empty it. Get just a small one that holds a dozen or so bottles.
Buy a few good bottles to fill it. Although these are for show, you do want to have good wine in case friends call you on it. We recommend you get some basic wines: 2 Merlots, 1 Beaujolais, a Chardonnay (but get a good one, not that watery muck they serve on airplanes), a weird wine (some strange thing that no one knows much about, you'll never drink, but that you can make up any mythical story about in terms of quality), and one Zinfandel (this is the one your visiting friends will want).
Don't drink your collection. Sure that sounds strange, but you must resist the temptation. We've made this mistake hundreds of times.
Don't get expensive wines. You'll always drink them on dumb occasions that seemed inexplicably worthwhile at the time. It's cheaper to impress a date by claiming your $7.99 bottle is $125... as opposed to buying a $125 bottle that's now sour.
Choose wines with neat names, like Barton & Guestier, Vendange, or something in a black bottle. Don't get common wines like Blue Nun, Franzia, or wines from people who make other stuff, like Christian Brothers. Or Wham-O.
So this guy in the restaurant comes over and offers you a wine list. He's probably just a waiter or in some classier places, the manager. But don't call him that! He's now called the sommelier (and pronounce it "sum-el-yay" or his feelings will get really hurt).
Look at the wine list knowingly; if you can pull it off, feign disdain over their actual lack of quality wines (remember, you're faking it). Glance over, and decide how much you can afford. Once you know this, double that amount and decide what and which.
What To Order
Red with meat, and white with fish, right? Forget that... get whatever you like. If the sommelier raises and eyebrow, comment to your date or companions that "it has a quality that surprisingly makes a compliment to whatever it is we may order."
For now, you're picking flavor:
- Amontillado: A form of sherry that you drink while sealing friends into walls. Its even in a book somewhere.
- Beaujolais: An excellent red wine for sharing with friends. You laugh, sure, but it's fun. Don't drink it by yourself. Unless no one is looking.
- Burgundy: A very red wine that stains carpets easily if it spills. And if you're a real drinker, this is a serious consideration.
- Cabernet Sauvignon: A red wine with the best name to pronounce in public, but a tad pedestrian. Definitely better to order on an airplane than the only other choice of weak Chardonnay, although it will make you cough up solid objects a little.
- Chardonnay: A crisp white wine best consumed very chilled. Okay, but a wee bit sour. Do not swig this wine... many of them burn.
- Merlot: An excellent drinking wine, but drink it lukewarm. Do not chill this wine, or people will mark you as a fraud immediately. Recent Merlots are all very good, although older ones are so dry they will suck the spit right out of your tongue.
- Pinot Noir: Another red wine; flavorfulyou can drink it or cook with it. Or like the Czar, you can drink it right out the frying pan as it cooks. (Hint: In this case, use a straw.)
- Port: This is a wine that tastes like grape juice mixed with grain alcohol. If you like going blind at college parties, it's a wine for you. The Volgi drinks lots of it.
- Rosé: A blend of red and white that takes on the worst qualities of both.
- Sherry: Not really a wine wine, but something you can pour into stir fry.
- Tawny: A type of port or sherry. Quit bugging us about this stuff: this is supposed to be about wine.
- Zinfandels: Wines so good and tasty that snobs will never drink them in public. But at home, alone, you can pop it right out of the bottle like a cooler.
Which To Order:
- Argentinian: The sulfites in these can strip paint.
- Australian: Most chic! And you can get seriously plowed off one bottle.
- California: You might as well. It's cheaper, tasty, and there's never been a bad year or off batch. And it's what you'd order anyway.
- Canadian: There are some?
- Chilean: Might be all right, but we can never work up enough nerve to try it.
- French: All pretty good, but there are hundreds with tricky names and you can't be sure; you should fake it. Stare at the most expensive ones and look grim. Mutter strange comments like "Overrated," or "Hasn't been good in three years," or "Too fragrant for this palate." Then order a California wine.
- German: Scary! With scary names! German wines are exactly why beer is so popular in Germany.
- Irish: Get a nice, fortified, wild Irish rose.
- Italian: Like Spanish wines, best drunk out of a goatskin. In a restaurant, out of a glass? Thats a thought.
- Portuguese: More sherry again.
- New York: Get a nice ripple.
Drinking The Deal
All right, you've picked a wine. Don't worry about which year it is: they never put that on the wine list for a good reason. If you want to stun a date, tell the sommelier "if you have it, bring a '92, '93, or a '94" since that's all they have anyway.
He'll say "very good," knowing that you know nothing about wines, but also knowing you've picked the only wine they have left.
When he returns about six hours later, tired and worn out from running to the liquor store, he'll open the bottle and will hand you the cork. Pretend to sniff it, but actually look to see if the cork is crumbly and may have dropped pieces of itself into the bottle when the slob opened it.
Hand it back. He should pour a couple ounces into your glass. Do the whole sniff, swirl and swig thing mentioned above. If you don't violently heave up on the spot, the wine probably isn't "corked" (which means the wine reacted with the cork and turned into something similar to Windex... with Ammonia D). Nod and say "this will do." That's his clue to go out back and smoke a cigarette.
Be sure to tip him before he leaves! The Czar is never clear on how much to tip a sommelier, so we usually dont. On bad days, we kick a chair aside and tell him to sit down and grab a glass. He'll be happy to smoke there, too.
So this is pretty much all there is to doing the deed. But there are some trendy things to say about wine.
Qualities Of Snobby Wines
- Body: How dark or light it appears when you hold it up to the light. Heavy bodied wines are really dark, while light bodied wines are very translucent. Just say "decent body" if you aren't sure. If you're with an attractive dinner companion, say "nice body," and then add "the wine, I mean," as you wink.
- Bouquet: How the wine smells. If it smells like flowers, you say "flowery." If it smells fruity, you say "fruity." If it smells like wine, you say "excellent."
- Palate: This is defined as "hard" or "soft," so you know we're really talking about its kick. A wine that is hard on the palate essentially screws your eyes up.
- Residual Sugar: What the wine does to your mouth. "Dry" is a nice way of saying it's so sour that you'll get cottonmouth, like when the Stooges put alum into the punch. "Semi-dry" wines mean you'll lick the roof of your mouth a lot. "Sweet" means you won't really be able to stop drinking it, although you'll hate it the whole time.