15 signs that you are a wine connoisseur
Regular readers of my wine blog will almost certainly have an interest in wine. The very fact that you are here reading this article must mean you too are probably an oenophile. Most of you will consider yourselves wine lovers or wine enthusiasts rather than simply wine drinkers but how many of you consider yourselves wine buffs, real afficionados, even wine obsessives? In this blogpost I provide some tongue-in-cheek clues that might suggest you are serious about wine or that you are getting bitten a little too excessively by the wine bug.
Wine drinker, wine lover or wine buff?
The bad news is that if you are a wine buff your wine bill will increase as you appreciate the difference between well-produced wine and the cheaper, more commercial plonk that most of us start off drinking. It saddens me to hear that the average price of a bottle of wine in the UK has RISEN to over £6. I appreciate that there are many people who cannot spend more than this on a bottle of wine – but, if you can afford to spend more, you should because, of that £6, £3.43 or 57% is made up of duty and VAT. Whereas if you pay £12 for a bottle of wine, ‘only’ 35% of that £12 is paid to the UK Government in duty and VAT, meaning that proportionately more has been spent on making (and marketing) the wine. I’m not saying that all £6 wine is rubbish – but you have a better chance of finding a great wine priced at £12 than you will of finding one at £6. And the better wines that you start to drink, the more you won’t mind splashing out on fabulous wines.
On the other hand, as a wine buff, you may notice that you actually drink less wine as you start to appreciate the complexities of wine rather than just knocking it back. You will distinguish more nuances in the aromas, flavours and textures of the wines that you taste and savour them.
Your wine rack will seem inadequate. You will keep adding layers to stackable racks – and filling them - or purchasing new wine racks to hold your growing collection of wines. You may even install a wine fridge and if fairly obsessive you will make sure that it has separate sections for red and white wines though this is not strictly necessary as long as you give yourself enough time for a chilled red wine to reach its optimum temperature after taking it out of the fridge.
You will always hold your wine glass by the stem never by the bowl and you will not own stemless wine glasses which may look good on the dinner table but are completely impractical for a true wine buff. It is not a matter of wine snobbery as some think; there is a practical reason for holding the glass by the stem which is that it prevents you warming up your wine, especially important for white wine and champagne. An added bonus is that it keeps your wine glass free of greasy finger marks. There is an exception to this “rule” though and that is when you specifically want to warm up a wine that has been served too cold which may be one reason why a wine seems closed.
You may subconsciously start to swirl every glass (or cup) put in front of you. At any trade fair, this is the first thing you will see wine professionals do whenever any wine is poured into their glass. It helps to open up a wine that seems closed i.e. when the aromas seem subdued. If you are not confident about swirling your wine when the glass is in your hand, try doing it whilst resting the glass on a table. Be careful if you start swirling your coffee or any other hot drink though!
You only pour a small serving of wine rather than fill your glass to within 1 cm of the rim. You will know if you swirl as mentioned above that you cannot swirl a full or even half-full glass of wine without spilling it everywhere. The centrifugal action disperses the wine far and wide so keep the servings small.
Every drawer in your kitchen will have a corkscrew – just in case you lose or break one. And you will almost certainly have several different types of corkscrew.
In a similar vein, you will have a wide range of wine implements probably bought for you as presents from well-meaning relatives and friends. Wine savers, wine pourers, wine aerators, you name them, you’ll have them but will probably rarely use them.
Subconsciously or consciously you will book holidays in major wine regions and make a point of visiting as many as you can in order to further your viti- and vini-cultural knowledge and to add to your wine appreciation.
Friends will bring chocolates, flowers, in fact anything but wine when coming to your house. Those that do bring wine may have devious plans - see the next clue...
So-called friends will take great delight in testing your blind wine tasting skills by expecting you to pinpoint which corner of which particular vineyard a wine is from, whether the grapes were hand- or machine-picked, the wine fermented in oak or stainless steel and what the wine-maker's middle name is. They will then be disappointed when you don't even get the country correct
You are automatically handed the wine list when dining out with friends - and then starts the agony... Do you choose something that you would really like to try or should you pick something you know your friends will be comfortable with? Dilemma!
You become much more adventurous in your choices of wine, you are more open to trying new grape varieties and styles of wine – reputable wine merchants can be a great help with suggestions and in restaurants so too can sommeliers but see next clue...
You enjoy playing games with arrogant wine waiters - note the vast majority of sommeliers and wine waiters enjoy helping their customers to make appropriate wine choices and to discover new wines but from time to time you can come across one who seems to enjoy taking advantage of any gaps in a customer’s wine knowledge. So what's wrong with turning the tables from time to time?!
You will be called a wine snob - don't be too concerned. Rather a wine snob (though I prefer to say wine enthusiast) than someone who chooses to drink any old plonk.
How to become a wine connoisseur
If I have not put you off and you want to learn more about wine there are a number of options:
Go to wine school - I strongly recommend the Wine & Spirit Education Trust courses which are offered not only at the WSET's offices but nationwide via approved wine educators
Read wine books - I'll cover some recommendations in a future blog post
Hold a wine tasting for friends - either organise one yourself virtually or when we can, face to face. Or I am more than happy to organise a tasting tailor-made for your level of expertise, tastes and budget
And, keep reading my blog posts, most of which are more serious than this week's!
© Wines With Attitude Limited, www.wineswithattitude.co.uk
Lindsay Cornelissen DipWSET is passionate about good quality wine and set up Wines With Attitude to share that passion with other wine lovers.