How to Fake Like You Know About Wine

Friday, 18 January, 2013
Sarah Bray, Flavourwire
Ever wonder what you’re supposed to look for when a server pours wine into your glass? Or had a mild panic attack when a clerk in a wine shop asks you what you’re looking for?
Even if you know next to zero about wine, you still need to be able to order a glass. In honor of the man behind one of television’s most impressive wine collections — White Collar‘s delightfully highbrow con artist Neal Caffrey — check out our guide to faking your way through your next dinner date, from a few wine words to know to connoisseur-worthy deals. And if you’re talking to a wine snob at your next cocktail party, you may even be able to teach ‘em a thing or two.

Wine Terms to Know
If you want to sound like you know wine, it’s good to have a few terms in your vocab to talk about what you like or don’t like. That California Chardonnay? It’s buttery, creamy, and round. You may even say it’s a little oaky, since it’s been aged in the wood. Prefer a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc? Means you’re more into an acidic, fruity, minerally white that’s a little lighter in body. As for red, an Australian Shiraz is also pretty fruity, even jammy (that big fruit flavor really packs a punch), while a Cabernet Sauvignon from France’s Bordeaux is more tannic, that quality that can make a red wine taste a little rough but gives it the structure it needs over time to smooth out and age. Once you use these words, you may even start to notice trends in the wines you like (fruity, earthy, and did I just get a whiff of chocolate?)

Old World versus New World
Winemaking differences aside (and there are many), the main point of distinction for you when picking up a bottle is whether the appellation or variety is listed on the label. It’s good to know that wine labeling falls into two camps: Old World (mostly Europe) and New World (everywhere else). New World wines are fairly straightforward, listing the grapes (or the one that’s in the majority) right on the label: Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, you get the point. But if you wanna know if it was aged in oak or stainless steel, you may have to read the back label closely to get more information about the style.

Old World wines make you think a little harder. They will list the appellation, not the grape, which means that a little knowledge about that place tells you not only the grape (or grapes) but also the style. A good non-vintage Champagne will be a blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier, and it’ll have aged at least 15 months in bottle, if not longer. Well-known regions you should know? Chablis, an unoaked Chardonnay from northern Burgundy; Sancerre, a minerally Sauvignon Blanc from the Loire Valley; and Chianti, an acidic red wine made of the Sangiovese grape from the Italian region that happens to go great with food.

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