Bluff your way around the wine list.

- June 11, 2013

For a few years now, New York Times wine critic and holder-of-clever-sounding-name Eric Asimov has lamented the great shame that people think they need to know something about wine to enjoy it. He covered the topic in his print column, on radio, online and even wrote a book “How to Love Wine” in an attempt to expose the great ‘wine expert’ ruse oft-expressed with the line “I’m getting floral bouquets, playful summers of rosy-cheeked children and classic tones of Albanian leather, aren’t you?”

Not to be confused with actual-expert sommeliers, ‘wine experts’ natural habitat is the bluster and charade of selecting and tasting a wine in restaurants, and, Asimov argues, has the effect of intimidating others and “depriving them of an exquisite, deeply satisfying experience.”

If other pleasurable tasks were treated with such fearful reverence then everything from reading a book to selecting a hotel room would be fraught with self-doubt and stress.  This is especially bad for our little island where eating out and hosting your own parties is essential to making friends and staying sane. Your friendly event rentals company could not stand for this, so we’ve thrown together a 5 minute lesson in how to bluff your way with wine so you can get on with (responsibly) enjoying grape juice with the best/worst of them.

How to fake it – wine edition


Despite the apparent plethora of winey terms, you will likely be stunned to learn that you can blag this subject for the rest of your natural days by using just one of two classification types; Old or New World. (Red wine attracts an especially acute type of pomp so we’ll also cover light or full bodied to deal with that).

New vs Old World: These terms reference where the wine is made, how it is made and how it tastes (so everything, then). Old World wines tend to be made in places where old paintings of miserable royalty come from such as France, Italy, Spain and Germany, and are notable for being fuller bodied, heavier and more complex in flavor. They are also referred to as “food wines” as they taste better when paired with a meal. New World wines tend to be made in the places TV shows about surfing and girls with dreadlocks come from such as the U.S., South America and Australia. They tend to be made in warmer climates where the fruit can get riper and so tend to be very fruity, fresh and very drinkable all by themselves.

Light vs Full Bodied (red wine super-knowledge): Dark purple-coloured wines are full-bodied while lightly pigmented wines are light-bodied. To work out which you have, tilt your wine glass over your menu or watch – if you can read it through the wine it is light-bodied. Light-bodied wines are always described with feminine terms so use phrase like “elegant colour,” “lovely red fruit” or “sensual, seductive and silky” and note the presence of red fruits like raspberry, strawberry or cherry (any or all will do).  If you find yourself with a full-bodied red then go uber-machismo with phrases like “dense and strong colour” or “intense dark fruits” and switch your fruits to blackberries, black currants and/or plums.

After swallowing, if your mouth feels a little dry or rough then announce “ooh, firm tannins,” guaranteed to draw agreeable hums and head nods.

Added grape variety bonus: Although there are thousands of varieties of grape being grown today, there are 5 main types to remember – Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.


If the art of bluffing is not your thing then you could always just say what you really think. Asimov points out that one of the biggest problems with wine is people say what they think they’re supposed to say as opposed to what they really think about wine. Wine is a drink, and if you like it or not, your opinion is just as correct as even the most disciplined sommelier.

When you are feeling bold enough to show off your mad new skillz, contact Vicky here at Massive and let’s put on a dinner party so you can stun your pals with your insights. We have some exciting new ready-made party packages coming out soon to give you lots of excuses to be the host(ess) with the most(ess) this summer – email me by clicking my name below if you want to be first to receive party-package details!


Time to go relax with a glass of plonk in my Albanian leather pants.

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