How to Talk Wine Without Being a Snob

If you’re like me, when you’re at a party or social gathering, you need to have something in your hand. Preferably said thing is a beverage of sorts, and more often than not, it’s a glass of wine. I have often witnessed this lead to dangerous social faux-pas territory – wine snobbery – and, even if surrounded by wine lovers, no one likes haughtiness when a good time is to be had. That being said, there are a few simple guidelines to keep in mind if you want to chat about wine without coming off as an elitist. Miss Manners, checking in.

  1. If the host is providing wine, don’t criticize it. It doesn’t matter if they’ve put out two-buck chuck on the bar and you’re well versed in the five most recent vintages of Pouilly-Fuissé, it’s still a nice gesture! You don’t have to drink it, but resist the urge to say something like, “wow, haven’t had that since college!” even if you think it makes for a conversation starter.
  2. Don’t say the wine has “excellent legs” or “well defined tears.” Fact: wine contains alcohol. Fact: alcohol evaporates quicker than water. As the alcohol evaporates it crawls up the glass as the miniscule layer of water gravitates downward, and this is all physics – not wine quality.
  3. Ask questions! If you’re like me, and you often get excited while talking about wine, you may find yourself talking too much. So take a break and ask the person you’re talking to what they think, or for a recommendation.
  4. Don’t be afraid to say, “I’m not sure exactly how to describe this flavor…” or, “this tastes like cherries, only cherries, and I like it.” When the wine is flowing and there are tons of other stimulations around, you may not pick up on the wispy, effervescent meyer lemon note in the bouquet – and that’s okay. Tasting wine is fun, and doesn’t have to be pretentious in its description. Talking it out and determining flavors can be a fun conversation.
  5. Focus on what you like about a wine. Unless you’re at a wine tasting where you’re determining the nuances, when making casual conversation about wine at dinner or a party, be positive. It may not be your favorite, but note its good qualities, or how it pairs well, rather than drawing attention to the lack of depth, or your preference for black fruit over red fruit flavors.

Above all else, when toasting and clinking glasses – don’t forget to make eye contact.