Drinking wine should be fun, not an exercise in snobbish one-upmanship.
Still, when enjoying wine you don’t want to sound stupid, so here are some basic tips to avoid coming across as wine rube.
• Wine’s “legs”—streaks that form in the glass after swirling—say little or nothing about quality. Known as lagrimas (tears) in Spain and Kirchenfenster (church windows) in Germany, legs may suggest fuller-bodied or higher alcohol wine. That’s about it.
• “Meritage” rhymes with heritage and is not pronounced with French twist (mare-ee-TAHJ). Name coined in early 1980s in America by combining “merit” and “heritage” to identify American Bordeaux-style wines.
Meritage is trademarked and can only be used by members of the Meritage Association. Red Meritage can only be made with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, and Petit Verdot. White Meritage can only be made with Sauvignon Blanc, Sémillion, and Muscadelle. Finally, Meritage must be one of winery’s two most expensive bottlings and production cannot exceed 25,000 cases a year.
• “Champagne” is name of sparkling wine made in Champagne region of France. It is not a generic name for sparkling wine. French produce Champagne using méthode champenoise (may-TOD shahm-puh-NWAHZ); elsewhere same technique is called traditional method or classic method.
Sparkling wines are called Cava in Spain, Sekt in Germany, sparkling wine in U.S., and Crémant when made in France, but not in Champagne.
By the way, French pronounce Champagne “Shahm-PAHN-yuh”, but “Sham-PAIN” works here.
• Hahn Estates Meritage. Lush collection of dark fruits, tamed tannins. Affordable. $15
• Freixenet. Spanish cava made in many styles, available everywhere, affordable to everyone. Ignore snob’s snide remarks. Most around $10.
• Water Wheel Memsie Red. Rich, peppery, meaty cherry, nice finish. Consistent Wine Spectator 88+ rating; wow value. $14