5 ways to bluff your way into looking like a wine expert

Earlier today, I watched a TED talk video by a famous Harvard professor on faking it ’till you make it. The idea is simple: you should pretend to be confident so that you can, in fact, become confident.

While the speaker was discussing the impact of posture on your own self-confidence and self-image, my mind wandered – as it usually does – to wine. (No, I was not thinking about which bottle to open at 11am on a Monday morning. That would be too aggressive.)

I was contemplating the fascinating dichotomy of wine. On the one hand, most people enjoy drinking it and it is a product that is present in their daily lives. Yet, on the other hand, it provokes a deep sense of insecurity and vacillation on behalf of the drinker. Will people judge me for my wine choice? Am I doing it properly? Will I come across as cheap if I buy Cava instead of Champagne? 

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We’ve all had these anxieties before. So, how do you bluff your way into looking like a wine expert?

1. Know how to hold the glass properly. I beg of you – do not hold the glass by the “bowl”. You will alter the temperature of the wine – particularly problematic if you’re drinking white or rosé – and it also means you can’t fully appreciate the colour. Hold your glass by the stem or the base and you’ll avoid judgement and heckling.



2. Be wary of adding ice to your wine. Adding ice cubes to wine is considered taboo – the winemaker has spent a great deal of time ensuring a balance between body, acidity, flavour intensity and (in the case of red wine) tannin. By adding ice and diluting the wine, you disrupt the beautiful balance. Fortunately, I wrote an article a few weeks ago that offers a few solutions to tepid wine.

3. Learn the critical tasting moves: stare, swirl, sniff and sip. Don’t just pick up your glass of wine (by the stem, obviously) and guzzle it noisily. When tasting a wine for the first time, you want to inspect the colour for hints of the age; you should swirl it in your glass to release the aromas; smelling is important as the aromas make up a huge part of the wine drinking experience; and finally you want to sip it slowly to fully appreciate the myriad of flavours.

Yeah... don't do this.

Yeah… don’t do this.

4. Use wine language. Instead of saying “I smell X”, say “on the nose, I’m getting X”. Similarly, substitute “I taste” with “on the palate”. Click here for a great article by Winefolly on wine descriptors; my favourite adjectives for wine are esoteric, barnyard (particularly for red Burgundies) and eucalyptus (particularly for reds from the Rhone Valley).

5. Know the main grape varieties. You don’t need to know them all – no one does – but it is important to be aware of the key grape varieties. As far as whites are concerned, remember chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, riesling, viognier, pinot grigio/pinot gris, and chenin blanc. For red, be conscious of merlot, cabernet sauvignon, malbec, grenache, and syrah. These are known as international grape varieties – they are found all over the world.


Life is all about perception. Just follow these five basic rules and you’ll fool the world. Most of the time.

“The whole world is run on bluff.”
– Marcus Garvey

Grappled is an app that helps you pair wine with food, impress your date with fun facts, and choose a wine for any occasion. Download it for free and always have a sommelier in your pocket. Visit www.grappledapp.com for more information.

Photo credit: Winefolly, Giphy

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