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Saturday, December 31, 2011

How to be a wine snob

Do you feel the need to:

-- Impress people with your knowledge?
-- Spend a lot of money?
-- Be serious about getting drunk?

If you do then you are a candidate for becoming a wine snob!

Following is a short list of things you should know. Read it, study it, and practice it.   Many are lifestyle changes so this will take some work.

Warning: Don't practice on people you want to impress in case of a faux pas. Instead practice on family or other people that don't matter, maybe in-laws. Don't currently have any in-laws? Ex-in-laws are even better!

1. Where to get drunk
After work instead of stopping at the local watering hole for a cold one go into a trendy wine bar for a glass of Chardonnay (if you're female) or Pinot Noir (unisex).  If you are a conservation gay I'd suggest a Spanish wine--a trendy gay then Pinot Grigio. See yourself as a masculine man's man? Then Cabernet only. No blends, no %#&king Merlot!

2. How to get drunk
You can't just pour a glass and guzzle it down like a beer! You've got to smell it. (Do you have a cold? Drink scotch instead). You have to swish it around in your mouth because the mouth has different areas for acid, bitter, sweet, and some other stuff I can't remember. So apparently it's important to know all this before swallowing. 
Actually, wine is the only beverage where you spend a ton of money for it then spit it out! You may want to invest in a spittoon.
Luckily, after everybody has had a couple glasses and eases up you can guzzle all you want.

3. When you get hungry while getting drunk
Food pairing with wine is a difficult science and art. Few people understand it well.  But once you're a wine snob whatever you say amongst your friends and guests will be right! Isn't this getting easier?

4. Disneyland for adults
You must visit Napa Valley. It's like Mecca for intoxicated snobs. When you go don't visit the hundreds of wineries open to the public where you'll find all sorts of riffraff (even Canadians)! The only wineries worth visiting are those that require an appointment at THEIR convenience. You know, folks who believe they make God's gift to wine.

5. Glassware
There are dozens of varieties of wines: Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet, Pinot Noir, etc. (These four are the best ones). You need a different kind of glass for each. Don't be caught drinking Zinfandel from a Sauvignon Blanc glass. Jeezuss. If you're going to be that pitiful you may as well use a Mason jar like the Italians. What do they know? They've only been drinking wine for a couple thousand years.

6. Impressive wines
  • Note that the best ones have labels in unpronounceable French or German. Others may have artwork for a label. The label is most important.
  • Look for high alcohol levels--more bang for your buck.
  • Screw caps?  Ugh. Screw caps = Gallo = drunken bums on the sidewalk.
  • Any wine worth touching your lips should have gotten at least 93 points from Robert Parker.   Don't know who Robert Parker is?  Doesn't matter, just be sure he gave the wine a good score.
7. Getting blotto'ed while eating out
When ordering wine at a restaurant:
  • The wine should be from Burgundy, Bordeaux or Napa.
  • It should be from the top 15% most expensive wines on the list.
  • Don't order a screw cap wine! It'll just lead to jokes about the screwing fee.
  • When the waiter brings the bottle and shows you the label just nod approvingly even though you can't read it from six feet away in bad light.
  • Once he removes the cork he'll set it in front of you sometimes partially wrapped in the foil from the bottle (meaning he really knows what he's doing).    Pick up the cork and smell it. The end with the wine stain on it, that is. It'll smell like vinegar, but that's OK. (The other end actually smells better). Look at the waiter and smile showing that you know what you are doing.
  • He'll pour just a bit in your glass. This is for your approval. Note that you are NEVER supposed to disapprove and say you don't want it.
  • Still, you must pick up the glass looking at the edges of the wine against the glass in the dark restaurant. Then swirl the wine vigorously to wash off any soap left inside from their glass washer.
  • Take a little sip, swish it around in your mouth and, this is important, with your teeth clenched draw air into your mouth so you can hear the wine gurgle.   If you're still up to it you can now swallow the wine and nod again to the waiter so he can pour some for everyone else.
  • A good waiter will come around a second time and pour the remaining wine in about half the available glasses. Someone will be left short so you'll want to order another bottle.
8. Impressive words
Key phrases worth memorizing:
  • "Oh boy, another over-malo'ed Chardonnay."
  • "Lots of terroir in this. You can really taste the dirt."
  • "I'm picking up a little sulfur/Mercaptans/Brett." (Your choice). 
  • "My friend Cal, the Sommelier (pronounced kinda like "smellier"), doesn't care for California Syrah."
9. Cults
In the wine world cults are actually good. In fact you should be on a few cult mailing lists. Better yet seek out the "pre-cults" to get a leg up on the less trendy. How do you recognize a cult wine? In California it will be a very small, very expensive Napa operation. The wines are not necessarily great. They are made to impress without having to actually drink the stuff. 
Look for cult winemakers. These folks are rock stars and you can be their groupie!
To help you understand how cults work check out the web page for Screaming Eagle Winery where you're made to feel small for even thinking about visiting to buy a $350 bottle.

10. Getting drunk at home
Your wine collection (remember, this is a hobby--it's going to cost you) should only contain wines that meet certain criteria:
  • You must have wine stored at home in a "cellar." The temperature in your "cellar" MUST be 55 degrees. No other temperature will work!  A cellar is required because the best wines require at least 20 years of ageing before they are drinkable.
  • Each wine should get 90-some points from someone who knows what they're talking about because they know what you should like.
  • Most wines should be either from obscure and expensive French wine houses or California wines that sell only by mailing lists. Don't bother with stuff you can find in a local store.
  • Nothing imported or from Napa should be less than $75 a bottle. Note that there are some areas of California where you can't find a wine costing $75 so it's best to limit yourself to Napa Valley.
  • You can, of course, have a couple bottles of crap laying around for guests who show up knowing you're a wine snob, but don't actually know anything about wine themselves, such as your in-laws.

(And if you already see yourself in some of this don't get too excited. It's all in fun. I see myself too. How do you think I know about this stuff?)

This post originally published 2/26/2010