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Know Your Wines (A Guide To Help You Fake It Till You Make It)

By October 05, 2012 , , , ,

Have you ever been at a table full of wine connoisseurs and felt ill at ease? Do you feel at a loss when staring at a long wine list at a bar, not knowing what to get? Well, today’s post is about how to help you feel more comfortable on vino-related matters. While I certainly don’t claim to be an authority on wine (there are plenty of other people and guidebooks that can do that for you), I do know of clever ways to help you maneuver around some tricky social situations involving wine. Some info may be common knowledge, but hopefully you’ll learn something new...

Situation #1:You happen to be at a wine store with a wine snob friend. She asks you to pick out your favorite bottle of wine. This is a daunting task for you. Beads of sweat collect on your forehead because you’re afraid of appearing clueless.

Solution: I have a highly methodical process. I go for bottles with cute images of cupcakes or animals or ones with quirky names like Dirty Laundry, The 7 Zins, Royal Bitch, and Cheap Red Wine. Okay, honestly, this isn’t rocket science. It’s fun to experiment with different wines, find out what you like and don’t like, and just have fun with it! And remember, just because it’s expensive doesn’t mean it’ll taste good.

Situation #2:You’re sitting at a dinner table and someone exclaims, “Mmm, this is quite a gummy red wine with earthy notes and nutty flavors.” You try not to roll your eyes at how pretentious that sounds.

Solution: Not to be outdone, you should respond back, “My wine is fruit-forward with bursts of berry flavors and undertones of dark chocolate”. So that you know what you’re really talking about, here’s a bit of info: A systemic approach to judging wines is based on appearance, aroma, and palate (how the wine sits on your tongue). Talking about the taste, flavors, and mouthfeel of wine is usually what gets many people all flustered. Here’s a simple breakdown I created that might be helpful:

Situation #3: You’re at a wine tasting party at a wine connoseiur’s home. You’re happily gobbling away at the cheese, hoping no one will ask you about the wine…until someone does approach you and ask if you’d like a cab or a pinot. WTF is a cab or pinot?

Solution: Psst, cab is short for Cabernet and pinot for Pinot Noir. Respond back indignantly with, “Neither, I’d prefer a Malbec please!” Okay, so maybe familiarizing yourself with the popular varieties of red and white wines and their general characteristics might help (read about them here). But once you figure out which characteristics you like best in a wine, it becomes fun to explore the unique and subtle flavors in each bottle. For example, chardonnay is a very popular white wine that often holds strong oak flavors because the wine is aged in oak barrels. Over time, I have learned that I don’t enjoy the oak flavors in chardonnays unless they are aged in steel barrels. So to each their own!

To wine-d down, here are a few recommendations of Urban Mantra's favorite neighborhood wine bars:
Wine bars in NYC: New York Vitners, Ayza Wine Bar
Wine bars in DC: Veritas Wine Bar, Corked, Urbana

P.S. - Don't forget to enter our fun fashion giveaway which ends October 7! The link to the giveaway post here: http://bit.ly/NSfQc8.

P.P.S - All the actual information above is based on my own acquired knowledge over the years and from the amazing classes I've attended at New York Vitners!

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  1. ladies, first let me start with how beautiful u look in the pic :)
    and well I was a wine ignorant myself, almost a couple of yrs back..and exactly had same thots (WTF n wat not ;)) n dinner table experiences. Getting better nowadays, bt still hav some learning to do reg. red wines.
    This info was useful esp the body of wine, n i love the way you added bullets - makes easier to grasp :)
    love this idea of post, a new dimension to your blog, kudos!

  2. thanks so much for your comments, Ashy! It was fun to write this, so glad you enjoyed reading it too! :)


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