how to blag being a wine buff in six steps

We’d all love to know more about buying a bottle of plonk, but who really has the time or inclination to sit in an evening class for weeks on end just to start to understand wine spiel?

A long, knowing gaze will fool anyone...

Andy Leach, Director of wine retailer Cape London director shares how to be a wine buff in six easy steps!

Be a pro with what you know...

Find two or three types of wine you like and stick with them, wines like a Cabernet Sauvignon or a Chenin Blanc that you’ll find on most wine lists. Read up on a few characteristics: for example, a Cabernet’s going to be fruity, with big berry flavours, whereas a decent Chenin will be soft and buttery. That way you’ll have something relevant to say about them. Don’t try to blag it with a grape you’ve never come across before. A Bukketraube won't make things easy for you!

Never go for a No.2 at the restaurant...

Are you a 'second-on-the-list' kinda buyer? Restaurants bank on the fact that no one wants to be seen as a tightwad by ordering the cheapest. But the second cheapest? That says, “I’m on a budget but I’m not a skinflint,” right? Trouble is, it’s where the restaurant hides its biggest margin. By spending £17, you’re often getting a cheaper and worse bottle of wine than the £14 house bottle. Wine experts will know this and if they see you do it, it’ll blow the blag.

Be nosey...

When someone serves you a glass of wine, don’t just knock it back. Part of the beauty of a good wine are the aromas, which also tell you a lot about what you’re about to taste. Tilt the glass slightly and give it a swirl (holding by the stem of the glass). This gets air in and helps release the scents. Then take a good deep sniff, then think about what you can smell. What comes to mind? Fruit? Spice? Chocolate? All good. Trust your nose. And if there’s no scent at all, or if its smells musty and mothbally, it’s possible you’ve got a corked one. Speaking of which…

Corking myths...

If you don’t like a particular wine, it doesn’t mean it’s corked. Especially if, like a lot of excellent wines these days, it comes with a screw top. It’s also not (necessarily) corked if it has little pieces of cork floating in it; it may have been clumsily opened, but it’s not corked. The term “corked” actually means that the wine has come into contact with a cork that’s contaminated with TCA: that’s 2,4,6-Trichloroanisole to you. Cork is a natural substance and the TCA is a mould that can affect the cork tree bark when exposed to chlorine compounds. Now to blag it, you don’t need to know all this, of course. But you do need to know not to say a wine’s “corked” when it isn’t. Insisting that a wine’s corked to a sommelier just because you don’t like the taste of it will most definitely mark you out as a blagger.

Mind your language...

The world of wine is full of prosaic terms, and if you’re not sure when to use them, don’t. Not sure how to describe a wine? Just swallow, smile and take your cue from others around you. Don’t go saying things like, “ooh, wonderfully complex” if all you can taste is a big dollop of blackberries or a smash of citrus. A wine doesn’t have to be complicated to be enjoyable.

Keep it fresh...

You’ve had a glass of white with your starter, and the table’s moving on to red to go with the main course. Don’t say, “stick it in here,” and offer up the same glass. Always, always get a clean fresh glass for each wine you drink. And know your white wine glass (smaller) from your red glass (larger), too. The glasses are a different size for a reason. The red needs more room to be swirled, letting all that air in as mentioned above. Knowing your glass is almost as important as knowing your wine. And any decent wine blagger should know that.

Most importantly, have a bit of confidence in what you're saying. You'll seem so much more convincing! capelondon.co.uk puts no-nonsense explanations next to each bottle they sell, making it easy for everyone to be a wine blagger.

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Guest Saturday, 24 October 2020

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