You sit down in a fancy restaurant. The waiter hands you a wine list as thick as the menu. You glance through the pages and the only two things you understand are the prices and the colors of the wine. You either go two routes. The first one is you go for the second cheapest bottle of the preferred colored wine (just to not look like a complete cheap bastard). The jerk of a wine snob beside your table condescendingly nods at your direction. Or you decide to ask for the waiter’s recommendations and end up feeling like you got fleeced. I’ve been there.
My earliest memory of wine appreciation was with my grandad. He was part of the Penang chapter of an exclusive wine tasting club. For over 40 years, he and his other ten buddies would suit up and gather at a fancy hotel to wash down little canapes and plates of cheese with bottles of wine. Sadly, I picked up none of this. My grandad knew my weakness for beer and always stocked chilled cans of lager in his refrigerator whenever I visited. Therefore it wasn’t until I left for university that I started to appreciate the vino.
This is not a story where I tell you that I’ve since transformed into a wanky high-browed wine snob. The truth is I’m still learning and I’m completely okay with that. However, what I can tell you is that I’ve picked up a good thing or two by reading and speaking to other people. Also, I’ve recently started beefing up my wine knowledge by watching a ton of videos online. There’s a wealth of terrific and easy to digest resources today on YouTube. Here’s how to start your journey to wine snob-iety by way of YouTube:
Of New World and Old Worlds
Even the terms “new world” and “old world” in themselves sound pompous and arrogant. It’s like some patronising comparison between the superiority of the stuffy European landowners’ aristocratic entitlements over the brazen and wild spirit of adventure seeking frontiersmen. Old money, new money BS. Shit that wine snobs love.
Having studied in Australia, I would say a large proportion of the wines I’ve consumed and continue to consume is new world. I’ve familiarised myself with the big Australian and New Zealand based wineries, the common grape varieties in the region and the naming conventions. Perhaps this is why I often still gravitate toward Aussie wines at the booze aisles and restaurants in Singapore.
By just taking a quick look at the multi-regional wine selection of my neighbourhood grocer, I can tell that I’ve been missing out on the vast diversity of “other worldly” wines for the better part of my adult life. I thought it was high time I got out of the new world and tried to understand more about the old world. So I decided be proactive and turn to the most trusted advisor I know… Google. Here are the best YouTube videos that I found:
What’s all the Fuss About Old and New World Wines?
Below is a great overview of the difference between old world and new world wines. The video does a great job comparing the geographical distinctions, taste, methods of production and history in a four minute video.
If you can look past the presenter’s awkwardness, you’ll be able to learn in the video below the ways to identify the key differences in old world and new world bottle labels.
Of Seeing, Swirling, Sniffing, Sipping and Savouring
As a strapping young lad in my twenties, wine-tasting always baffled me. Why would people gather for hours putting different great wines in their mouths only to spit it out. Seemed like a terrible waste of good alcohol. In your twenties, any alcohol is good alcohol.
When I first started work, I quickly realised that the art of wine tasting wasn’t exclusively reserved for posh get-togethers. It was a way for wanky wine snobs to “subtlely” display their so called “high culture” in different social settings and often in the presence of the gentler sex. It’s the proverbial peacocking if you will. To be fair, it was quite effective.
Truth be told I was myself blown away by some of the folks I’ve met. They were ordinary (albeit slightly pretentious) advertising executives like myself but I thought they had the palates which could put a few sommeliers in Europe to shame. Or at least, I thought they did. They could tell apart wines from different wineries in specific regions in Europe. They could even call out the year in which they were produced. I was mine-blown. These weren’t ordinary parlour tricks.
I asked myself what kind of trickery was this? So I decided to Google this and found out that there’s actually a few practical ways to get better at wine tasting and appreciation. Here are some of the YouTube videos to get you started.
Wine-tasting for Beginners
The video below is a great introductory video. It covers all the basic aspects of red and white wine tasting including the notoriously loose use of verbal expression in wine tasting. Yes, you heard right. She said she smelled a little bit of “funky animal”. Fast forward to the 38th second of the video to skip the restaurant promotion shit.
This is an easy to watch and informative video to walk you through the maze of wine tasting terms. The video is literally called “How to sound like a wine snob”.
Of Pairing with Food
The most standard piece of food pairing advice I know is red wine goes with red meat and white wine goes with fish and poultry. As far as western cuisine goes, I pretty much adhere to this “rule” fairly religiously. It agrees with me. Yet this is probably as deep as my pairing knowledge goes. It stops at the colour of the wine. My latent wine snob in me was deeply ashamed.
Wine snobs would have you know that there are countless ways to pair different types of red or white wines to different produce and cuisines. It seems the extensive volume of descriptive vocabulary which they can attribute to different types of wine lends them the same kind of credibility when it comes to pairing. How can you doubt someone who can taste the tantalising touch of wet stone, the piquant acidity of roasted figs and a fleeting whiff of freshly cut summer grass. All of this from a sip of Cab Sauv.
I decided to come clean and admit my innate curiosity. I did this despite my discomfort with the notoriously pretentious nature of wine pairing. Heck, if I can order the Sake pairing omakase tapas degustation option in the trendy Japanese Spanish fusion bodega in town, I’m guilty of being as much of a wanker as the other guy. Like any discerning wannabe would do, I googled. Here are some of the better YouTube videos I watched.
Wine and Food Pairing for Dummies
This is a simple and short video about the insanely easy secret to pairing wine and food – You have to think of wine as a food/ingredient. He may look like the Dude from the Big Lebowski but he knows his wine.
This video below is slightly technical but it is a good deeper dive into how the various elements of wines play when paired with different types of food. Start at the video at 1 minute 45 seconds. Don’t ask me why she decided to play fucking island paradise music in the background.
Of Ratings and Pricing
Take a closer look at the bottles of wine in the booze aisle at your grocer and you’ll notice that almost every single one is award winning. Even the cheapest and shittiest looking one would be adorned with a shiny gold award ribbon, maybe two. This further complicates the already complicated process of picking up wine. What would a self respecting wine snob do?
I’m ashamed to admit that for the longest time, I chose my wine based primarily on how much I liked the bottle label. It was a shitty strategy with more misses than hits for sure. Over time, my buying habit shifted to only picking a small selection of wines I’ve tasted before. I had become too risk-averse. Discovery was on a low. Enter Vivino.
The Vivino app is a godsend. Fancy a bottle label? Whip out your iPhone, open the app, snap a picture of the label and voila, get an instant and simple 1 to 5 star user-generated rating. So long to buying shitty wine with beautiful labels. To be honest, I don’t know what wine snobs think about the app but I’m sure they’re secretly using it (if not openly). That all being said, I thought to myself there must be a more conservative and purist way of rating wines. The closet wine snob in me decided to dig deeper. Here are a few YouTube videos that I found to be relevant:
Wine Ratings and the Wine Points System for Beginners
Here below is a very basic explanation for how wines are rated and the rating’s relationship with price. Despite the cheesy lounge-y background music, this is a good and short explanatory video.
The video below is a more detailed overview of the wine rating system which covers the basic history of the wine points system, the criteria which wines are rated on and some flaws of the rating system. Good watch.
We dudes love our gear. Wine gear is no exception. I have collected quite a few of my own despite being an amateurish appreciator of fine wine. Allow me to take a little detour. When we moved into our current house, a little over three years ago, we received an unusually wide variety of wine accessories. Who would have known that housewarming gifts could be a barometer of how much of an alcoholic your friends and loved ones think you are. Leaving aside my family’s opinion of my lifestyle choices, I want to focus on the bevy of wine accessories that I had received.
It was the first time in my adult life that I had owned an actual fancy-ass wine decanter. I was stoked. Grown ups and wine snobs drink from decanters. I believed that this world is truly divided into people who owned decanters and vinomofos who didn’t. I also received a few sets of big red wine glasses. More than I cared for at that time. However, I would later find out they each set were meant for different types of red wines. Rookie mistake.
Finally, I also received a neat little wine aerator. It had a plastic filter attached to it allowing me to filter out fine sediments. Suddenly, my days of worrying about breaking dodgy corks in mid yank were over. I’d just push the stuck half of the bastard right into the bottle and still enjoy sediment free and perfectly aerated wine.
You can tell from my wine gear that I’m still a young padawan in this world of wine snobiety. My search for enlightenment lead me to the YouTube videos below:
Wine Tools and Gear for the Uninitiated
This video is a handy-dandy guide to key wine accessories that every wannabe wine snob should have. Fantastic for folks who want to start getting snobby about their vino hobby. By the way, the presenter seems tipsy.
The Dude is back. This is a great video on how vino-lovin novices should store their wines at home. It has loads of great tips. I highly recommend it.
I hope you enjoyed learning about wine as much have. Us amateur wine snobs need to stick together. It’s almost wine o’clock and it’s time to pop open the red in your fridge. Salute.
Below is a checklist of the all the items discussed in this article and in the YouTube videos. You can use it as a guide if you wish to do further research.