You might have been there. You turn up to a party with a great bottle of wine, someone notices, impressed, and hits you with a string of wine words you’ve never heard before in your life. You sneak off, murmuring something under your breath about needing to find a corkscrew.

So here are a few of tips for making it seem like you know a little about what you’re pouring… when you actually have no idea.

Get your jargon down

Young sommelier in a waistcoat making notes in his note pad standing by wine shelves and looking at the labels on bottles

As in pretty much any field, grasping a quick bit of jargon can go great lengths in masking your slight, or total, lack of knowledge. What do people mean when they say a wine is “earthy”? They mean its flavor or aroma carries traces of leaves, herbs and other “earthy” things. “Robust”? Strong, pronounced flavors, usually an old red. “Astringent”? It’s harsh, a quality of acidic whites reds high in “tannin”, which makes certain reds bitter. Just don’t overdo it; no-one likes the guy at the wine tasting proudly saying that every single sip he takes is “crisp”, “oaky” and “firm”.

Take it to the nose

Man sniffing red wine in a glass, close upThere’s a reason that waiters at fancy restaurants stoically offer your glass of wine for a little sniff before you drink it, and it isn’t just for show. Smelling is actually an important part of tasting; those two senses are linked to such an extent that getting a whiff of your wine before you drink will not only help you appreciate its flavor more, (and make it look like you know what you’re doing), it might also give you a little more inspiration when it comes to the nerve-wracking act of describing what you actually think of it.

Step up your pairing game

Cheese plateYou could argue that we all know the basics here – red wine for meat, white wine for fish. But there’s much more to wine-food pairing and it pays to have a couple extra tricks up your sleeve. Bold, heavy reds for instance will be better paired with beef and cured meats, while medium and light reds will be suited to chicken and even some richer seafood. It’s also smart to pair cheeses with richer whites when they’re hard, sweeter ones when they’re soft. It can seem obvious once you know, but these are good ways of getting some light showing off done at the dinner table nonetheless.


** Note: Shallow depth of field

And now for the part that doesn’t take any actual work; drinking! We’re not recommending going full on wino, but the only way to really sound like you know your wine is to… actually know it. Experiment a little, go for new bottles, new regions and new pairings. Get that repertoire up and it won’t be long before you don’t even need to fake it anymore.

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