How To Fake Being A Wine Connoisseur

It’s almost impossible to keep up with some cork dorks. At restaurants, house parties and winery tasting rooms, they always seem to know exactly what to say to show that they have superior wine knowledge, lording over all others. In a nano-second, you can be made to feel like you’re a knuckle-dragging neanderthal who sips out of the nearest stream.

It’s time to fight back. You too can swill and swirl like the biggest wine snobs around without having to go to some fancy wine seminar or sommelier. Fake it until you make it is the battle cry. Here’s how, with some sage advice from Todd McDonald, national director of fine wines & spirits at PMA Canada, one of the country’s top purveyors of all things grown-up and drinkable.

Where do you start with fooling a crowd?

To look like you know what you’re doing, hold a white piece of paper behind the glass while you are looking at it. This can help you better describe the colour – deep or light, ruby or black, etc. Look at the rim of the wine to assess it – a brown rim shows that there has been some aging, likely from time spent in barrels.

What’s the secret to perfecting an expert glass swirl?

Those that are right handed seem to swirl counterclockwise, while those that are left handed swirl clockwise. Swirling is the best way to make yourself look suave. Remember to smell the wine before you gulp it down. Many people miss this most important step.

Now, give us some comments sure to dazzle…

Pick simple wine varietals (i.e. type of grape) for a fun tasting. But be sure you know how to pronounce them. Nothing gives you away more than botching that. Like merlot is mer-low, not mer-lot.

For cabernet sauvignon, say this: “Mmmm. Blackberries, currants, other forest berries…”

For merlot, say this: “Jammy. Notes of strawberry and cherry…”

For pinot noir, say this: “A hint of barn yard… Red cherries, or perhaps black sweet fruit.”

For chardonnay, say this: “So crisp! I taste green apples, honey dew melon…”

For sauvignon blanc, say this: “Nice bright citrus notes with a hint of gooseberries…”

Let’s step it up a notch with some wine suggestions and the right buzz words to convey our imaginary vast knowledge

Here are some ones to try:

RED: Bodega Norton Cabernet Sauvignon from Argentina. Swirl, sip and thoughtfully comment: “Balanced, long finish, fresh acidity, youthful flavours…”

RED: Montecillo Crianza from Spain. Describe as: “Toasty character, rich chocolate cherry flavour, ripe fruit.”

WHITE: Saint Clair Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand. Taste and say: “Crisp, ripe gooseberry flavours, tropical fruit and a hint of grassiness.”

WHITE: Aliança Vinho Verde from Portugal. Good words to use: “Crisp, fresh, fruity, spritzy citrus finish.”

How can I stop faking knowing anything about wine and really learn?

Today, it is so easy to become knowledgeable about anything. Smart phones bring all the answers to you right away. The true way to get better at wine tasting is to practice. We have learned by sight what things should taste like. Remember, we taste best with our noses. It’s sense of smell that conveys flavours. Teach yourself to better recognize smells and you will become a better taster with everything you eat and drink.

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Michele Sponagle

Canadian journalist Michele Sponagle is a prolific creator of lifestyle editorial, from travel to style, from relationships to food trends. She has been there and done that in more than 60 countries — and still counting. She has contributed to most of Canada’s leading media outlets and racked up more than 10 National Magazine Award nominations and one win from the Travel Media Association of Canada for best family feature.

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