A bullshitter’s guide to wine

Photo by Brett Sayles from Pexels
Photo by Brett Sayles from Pexels

“Fake it ‘til you make it”.  When it comes to wine, no truer words have been spoken.  

We all have that one friend who will bring a bottle of wine to dinner that cost more than all your kitchen appliances combined.  Of course, it is our job as host to make sure this liquid gold gets the praise the cost of it demands – not an easy feat if your exposure to the drink has been anything like mine.

Wine school

From around the age of 10, I was allowed to have a tiny tipple at special occasions – I drank from something which was disturbingly renamed as “children’s wine glass”.  Mom, however, has always chosen wine based on the picture on the label, which has usually lead to experiences similar to drinking pure vinegar (tip: when the picture is of a bird peeing into a barrel, it’s probably not a top-class vintage).  Of course, just like any South African teenager, I’ve had my right-of-passage run-in with a growler of hobo-endorsed “Crackling” too (those who’ve also had this experience will know what I’m talking about).  I’ve since graduated to actual food-grade wine.

A “children’s wine glass”

While I enjoy a glass of The Grape and certainly have some personal favourites, when it comes to wine-related intricacies, as you can probably tell from my lifelong experience, I’m not what you’d call well-versed.  

My gift to you, dear bullshitter

There have been a surprising number of times I’ve been at functions where, for some reason, everyone seems like a hardcore sommelier.  Out of necessity, I have had to come up with a strategy which makes it appear that I know what I’m talking about too. My simple 4 step process might prove helpful to anyone who finds themselves in a similar situation.

Step one – “the sun”

The first step is to describe the colour.  Glass in hand, hold it to a light source (sunlight is best if available).  Something like “deep ruby” and “subtle golden hues” sound sexier than “purple” and “a bit yellowish”.  Extra points if you hold your glass at a slight angle.

Step two – “the swirl”

Next, swirl the glass in a gentle circle.  Extra points if you don’t spill on your brand new white table cloth or – horror of all horrors – yourself.

Step three – “the sniff”

Once swirled, time to smell – just kind’ve hover your nostrils over the middle of the glass.  Actual sniffing sounds are frowned upon.  Extra points for including the words “lovely bouquet”.

Step four – “the sip”

You’re finally ready to transfer this party to your mouth.  If you haven’t been able to sneak a peek at the label on the bottle to give you clues, you’ll be fairly safe using the following words to describe the flavour:

White wine:  Crisp, fruity, juicy

Red wine:  Red berries, vanilla

Rosé :  Say what you like –  no one drinks rosé anyway

Feel free to break these generalised descriptions down into smaller bits – for example, instead of saying “red berries”, pick a specific berry and use that.  Extra points if you precede the description with a word like “hints” or “undertones”. Something like “Mmmmm – I get hints of blackberry” works well.

Alternatively, with a serious look on your face, simply agree with the first person who mutters something along those lines – in all likelihood, they’re also following this guide!

Easy peasy!

Follow these steps often enough and eventually you’ll convince even yourself that you know what you’re talking about.  And if you’re still concerned that someone can see straight through you, just remember that by the end of the party, regardless of whether you’re a bullshitter or an expert, the hangover is the same!

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