Hacking Wine – Can you Go from Rookie to Connoisseur with Shortcuts?
If you feel as awkward as a cat in a tux when browsing through the shelves of a wine shop, you’re not alone, wine can be a tough nut to crack and the barrier of snobbism than sometimes seems to separate the initiated from the generic grape juice drinking peasants or even worst, the beer-chugging morlocks is both pernicious and off-putting.
Fortunately, there are numerous things that you can do over a short period of time to drastically and legitimately increase your wine knowledge such as taking a class, organising a weekend trip to a wine region or joining a wine club.
But if you are willing to delve into the forbidden art of fake-it-until-you-make-it territory, there are hacks to puffer fish your way into coming across as a worldly wine aficionado.
After all, many claim to have the key to help you reach all sort of achievements in a short period of time, from learning how to play guitar, to becoming fluent in French or loosing a good few pounds; and while surely you know that becoming a skinny francophone rockstar in a month is not going to happen, who hasn’t been tempted by a shortcut? Take these hacks seriously at your own risk…
The Haunted House Effect
During my Girl Scout years, once I stayed with my team at a country house with amenities that only a chain-dragging ghost would be attracted to. At dinner time I mentioned I had seen something moving in the murky field besides us and before dessert, everyone had “seen it too”, some of the girls even “heard it.”
I’ve noticed the same principle of collective delusion at many a wine tasting: while Beetlejuice at least had the decency of waiting to be called upon three times, the moment someone yells licorice! The botanical spectrum seems to manifest to all the present and once a taster summons aromas of violets in a glass, everyone begins to notice them too.
Next time you’re at a wine tasting, unveil a flavour and see it posses the room. The trick is to choose something of a similar colour of the wine you’re drinking: whites wines? Knock once for lemon, twice for apples. Rich reds? Invoke the ghost of Christmas cake. Is it Champagne? List your favourite French pastries in no particular order, just make sure one of them is toasted.
Let the Wine Memes do the Talking
If causing mass hysteria is not your thing, maybe showing all your friends how much of a wine-head you are by sharing humorous wine memes on any social media you exist in will be more your style. They’ll think “wow, my friend is so comfortable around wine that he/she actually jokes about it.”
The key is to add a witty comment when you share it, something that shows you are in the know, like “so true”, “that’s my life” or “wine world problems.”
Wine Humble-Bragging and Homemade Product Placement
If someone praises a wine you’ve chosen or brought to a party, please don’t make the mistake of simply thanking them for the compliment, humble-brag your heart out at any chance you get: Extrapolate the fashion routine where one spends hours choosing the perfect outfit to then say “Oh, this old rag? It was just the first thing I threw in this morning!” to the vinous world and make it clear that it was just something you casually picked up from a wine shop (it has to be a wine shop).
While you’re at it, pick up a few wine magazines and let them rest on top of your coffee table.
That’s not the only in-house product placement you can resort to to let people know you know your Pinot Gris from your Pinot Noir. Get one of those wine-scented candles made from upcycled bottles, reuse wooden wine boxes or put together a DIY project made from wine corks (you can also humble-brag about saving the environment with these ones!) and leave a couple of empty bottles strategically positioned around your place as decoration.
No worries if you don’t have a big budget. Think again about the fashion world, where one of the ultimate humble-bragging gambits you can pull off is to loudly exclaim “It’s from Penneys!” when someone admires your choice. Want to get the same effect as a newly self-proclaimed wino? Blurt “It’s from Aldi!” as soon as you feel any hint of validation. Then let them awe.
The Art of Complaining
Melomaniacs will complain about every song you inflict on in their refined ears, film enthusiasts will show disdain at today’s blockbusters and oenophiles? Well, only by disapproving what appeals to the masses you can rise above them and show you have standards.
Is your wine too oaky? Blame Robert Parker (don’t you dare calling him Peter Parker by mistake!). Your rosé too light? Blame the entire region of Provence. Is the label too ugly? Blame those Jurassic retrogrades who refuse to market wines the right way. Too pretty? Those dreadful millennials are only buying it for the ‘gram!
If you want to be legit
Wine-related mumbo jumbo will only take you so far and at some point someone will realise that the emperor is wearing no clothes.
But if you do want to increase your understanding of wine in a short period of time, the aforementioned classes and clubs do help, as well as reading didactic and interesting books such as Wine Folly, Jancis Robinson’s works, or even Wine for Dummies (put the pride aside, it’s actually a great read for beginners).
No time for books? Watch documentaries like Somm or Mondovino. Also, pick up a notebook and write down your impressions after tasting a wine, or download (and actually use) a wine app like Vivino, and finally, if you’re going to deepen your understanding of wine, abide to the first and most often broken rule of dating: be yourself.
Learn about what’s out there and you’ll discover what you love, but let it fill your mind with pride and prejudice and you’ll soon be wishing you could go back to the blissful ignorance of taking great pleasure from sharing sangria-grade reds unceremoniously served straight out of the fridge. Until wine knowledge can be implanted in people’s mind like they did with Kung Fu in The Matrix, there might be no real shortcuts, but the journey is so pretty that why rush it?
Gabriela’s passion for writing is only matched by her love for food and wine. Journalist, confectioner and sommelier, she fell in love with Ireland years ago and moved from Venezuela to Dublin in 2014.
Since then, she has written about and worked in the local food scene, and she’s determined to discover and share the different traditions, flavours and places that have led Irish food and drink to fascinate her.