Fast track to becoming a Wine Expert

Lean. Thin. Acidic. Astringent. Bitter.

No, not your mother-in-law. And not me, either.

These are the notes that recently appeared in a wine critic’s notebook. It requires pondering — can a bottle wine resemble, to such an astonishing degree, someone you personally know and, heavens forbid, have to live with?

Let’s face it — if you’re reading this, you probably have a deep-seated desire to be a wine critic who can pontificate on any wine and influence the drinking trends for the next three decades. We have a mini Robert Parker in our closet. We all want to be able to describe wine with fancy jargon in painful detail.

The easiest, quickest and simplest way to become a wine critic is just a click away, really. Go on Google and you can find enough technical information on any wine to share over a boring social dinner. But anyone can regurgitate information. And what if it is inaccurate? After all, the Internet is both an information highway and a platform for every opinion potentially to be taken as gospel truth — a platform, in other words, to end all truth.

So. Reciting information you memorised from a technical fact sheet will make you an absolute bore, and the Internet is potentially hazardous to your credibility. What to do? Simple — become your own maverick wine critic. Do what wine writers seem to do best: describe your mother-in- law, your neighbour’s cat, or that alluring guest seated opposite you.

Have you just been served a Sauvignon Blanc? Swirl the glass with much pomp, stick your nose right in, take a deep whiff, sip, and pontificate. The trick here is to do it with unwavering confidence and just that right amount of snobbery. “A little green, a little thin. Some cat’s pee, too. Dry and linear, kinda boring. Very acidic, 89 points.”

Lo, thou art a god of wine.

Let’s try another bottle. Suppose you’ve been served a Chardonnay, the wine that is fashionable to hate. With ceremonious, purposeful motion, do the necessary: Swirl, sniff, sip and swallow. Then, think about your second aunt, and solemnly declare: “Big. Round. Flinty. A little fat, and somewhat nutty.”

If you are seated opposite a beautiful, tanned, attractive and eloquent young man or lady, you’re in luck. “Very perfumed, floral and elegant on the nose. I see that it’s also nicely balanced, nuanced, composed, delicate, restrained and well-structured. Very sexy.” Remember to wink.

Now, the same method applies for reds. Just remember that a Pinot Noir is less dense than a Merlot, which is less dense than a Cabernet Sauvignon. If there’s an unfamiliar wine and you’re stumped, just refuse the drink.

But then, a good wine critic should never refuse a drink, right? So fall back on the best trick in the book: fake it till you make it. Think of someone we’re all familiar with, or someone whose company we all enjoy. “A little fruity. And it wears a perfume of heady spice. Rich, sensual, and a little fleshy. I find notes of tobacco and dark chocolate. Very likeable, grows on you. 96 points.”

If it’s a Pinot Noir, think of your spouse. “Sensual, smooth, elegant, and soft. This is all about texture and finesse. Very refined and delicate.”

And if it’s a Cabernet Sauvignon you’re drinking, think of your BFF. “Incredible structure and power. It’s bold and strong, like a pillar. Supple, vibrant and energetic. An ample wine, indeed.”

So yes, a bottle of wine can in fact resemble someone you know and live with. I now proclaim you a wine expert. Go forth, and capture the world’s attention.

Kenny Leong, CSW the author

Previously the wine editor of Appetite magazine, Kenny Leong is now back in the wild again. Now as a freelance writer and editor, he dashes his points with pepper and healthy heaps of salt.