You can spend anywhere from $4-$400 on a glass of wine. And for what?! Really, unless you appreciate the nuances of it, the flavors, the “notes,” you are potentially wasting a lot of money. If the point is to get wasted, may as well order the cheapest swill on the menu and call it a night.
That’s not to say that I am against good (and expensive) wine. I’m all for it! But only if I “get” it. Understanding wine is more than for the purpose of getting your money’s worth. It’s also to enhance your appreciation of it and enrich your experience, something that somehow translates into drinking more slowly, getting less wasted, and wasting less money.
A Waste of Money No More
Because I’m not into wasting my, or some guy’s money, I decided to learn about wine. While taking a class is all well and good, whenever I am in a school situation my brain somehow decides to put a barricade up. It’s like I am unable to retain information the old-fashioned way. I have to actually experience it for myself- something that can seriously suck when it comes to learning lessons the hard way. So I started to pay attention to people who “know” wine, understand how to drink it, what notes to look for- people who talk about tasting “mushrooms,” “wet cement,” “gooseberries,” and “grapefruit rind” in their wine. They might seem like snobs about it, but for the amount of money a single glass of the grape juice costs, I totally get the concept of learning to appreciate each sip.
Wet Cement, Mushroom, and Bandaids in your Wine?
So I started to ask sommeliers about the “tasting notes” of certain wines. But I wouldn’t just ask for the description while ordering, I wanted the notes while sipping, that way as they say “wet cement” or “mushrooms,” I can focus on that flavor and see if I am able to pick it up too. On dates, if a dude seems to know what he’s talking about in the wine department, I’ll let him order the same wine for both of us, then as he sips his I ask “what are the notes that you’re picking up?” The trick with picking up notes in wine, is that once you find one you have to put it out of your mind and start to focus on the next. Any flavor can make sense, so don’t dismiss it is you suddenly have a memory of the smell of bandaids. What’s interesting about pairing wines with food is that you think: “would these notes make sense as an ingredient in the dish?” If they make sense, you know it will pair perfectly with the food. Ok… so maybe bandaids aren’t so appetizing.
Slutty or Tight?
Once you get the notes concept, you can start to pay attention to how the flavors reveal themselves.
Slutty Wine: Do they show all of their flavors immediately in the first sip, like a big jammy fruit bomb? That’s a slutty wine.
Tight Wine: Does the wine need time to “breath” and “open up” in the glass? Does it seem like a tight rose, its petals clasping together into a bud that slowly opens, revealing one flavor, then another, then another over time? That’s a tight wine.
Wine snobs say that “amateur” wine drinkers prefer slutty wines, while experienced sippers prefer tight.
Swirling & Sipping
And then it comes to how you sip and hold the glass. Don’t think I’m nuts when I say that there is a way in which people drink wine that bugs me. I mean, seriously irks me. It’s one of those personal little quirks of mine. As much as it might appear kind of silly, there is actually something to the seemingly snotty way of drinking wine that involves swirling, smelling, and finally sipping- like what you might have seen in the cult film “Sideways.” But that’s not what bugs. If you don’t want to swirl the wine in order to open it up, release the scent and flavors, and enhance your experience. That’s your issue.
What bugs me is when people incorrectly hold the glass- grabbing it by the bulb instead of the stem. It’s not about looking pretty or sophisticated or anything like that. It’s about maintaining the integrity and appropriate temperature of the wine and not killing it’s delicate flavor with your hot hands. The ONLY time it’s ok to hold a glass of wine by the bulb is if it is too chilled- thereby muting the “nose” (smell) and taste. In that case, you can hold the glass by the bulb with both hands in an attempt to slightly bring the temperature down (white wine isn’t supposed to be sipped at refrigerator temperature- that’s too cold).
Alright, enough talk. Bottoms up!
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