Drinking wine should be fun, not an exercise in snobbish one-upmanship.
Still, when enjoying wine you don’t want to sound stupid, so tips to avoid coming across as wine rube.
• Wine “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. Don’t comment on them; don’t put down someone who does.
• “Meritage” rhymes with heritage and is not pronounced with French twist (mare-ee-TAHJ). Name coined in 1980s 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. There are strict rules for grapes used in red meritage and white meritage. Meritage must be one of the winery’s two most expensive bottlings. Production cannot exceed 25,000 cases a year.
• “Champagne” is the name of sparkling wine made in Champagne region of France and the French pronounce it “Shahm-PAHN-yuh.” 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., crémant when made in France but not in Champagne region, spumante in Italy, cap classique in South Africa. There are U.S. sparklings with “Champagne” on the label, but they are not Champagne and only can be so labeled because the U.S. did not sign the Treaty of Versailles ending World War I. Yes, wine can be that arcane.
• Columbia Crest Grand Estates Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley 2010. Velvety rhubarb; big, chewy, oaky, balanced; another Ste. Michelle win. $9
• Sterling Vineyards Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2010. Heavy plum, cherry, black fruits; oak, vanilla, spice; classic CA cab for price. $15
• Fess Parker Santa Barbara County Chardonnay 2010. Typically well made; apple, pear, melon, buttery oak, spice; creamy full body, delicious. $18
Last round: Only amateurs wear white clothes to wine tastings. Consider Scotchgarded black instead.