Seems as though most wine critics and tasters are  bunch of posers who couldn’t tell a Beaujolais from a Bass Ale.

In other news, Queen Marie Antoinette was guillotined yesterday.

As an aside, I once did a couple of wine courses over a period of two weeks at the Bellingham and Meerlust estates.  During that adventure, I learned that a.) there are some people who can in fact tell the grape varietals from a sip of wine, and b.) there are only about a couple dozen such people, tops, in the entire world.  Blindfolded, most people can’t tell red from white from beer (seriously, I’ve seen a few of those challenges).

Here’s a tip when dining out and the sommelier  asks you to “taste” the wine:  don’t do it.  Pick up the sample glass, swirl it a couple of times and then sniff it cautiously.  If it’s not rancid — and you’ll know that  when you smell it — just nod and say,”That’ll do.”  If he says, “Don’t you want to taste it?” reply “I don’t need to.”  Then sit back and carry on with your conversation, ignoring him.

For extra points:  if it’s a dark red like a cabernet or burgundy, wince slightly, then tell the sommelier  to let it breathe for ten or so minutes before he serves it to the table.  (That’s a cheat, by the way;  all  reds need to breathe a little after uncorking.)

The wine world is full of phonies who like to show off.  The way to make people think you know what you’re talking about is to say less, not more.  What you do  (see above) is more impressive than what you say.


  1. Not just wine either.

    Some years back I knew a couple who belonged to Mensa, and I was invited to a New Year’s Eve party at a friend of theirs. I brought my rendition of Death by Chocolate: Dark chocolate cake (Duncan Hine’s box cake), four layers, instant chocolate pudding between the layers and frosted with canned chocolate fudge frosting. Yes, it’s as good as it sounds, unless you’re one of those strange people for whom a dessert can be “too chocolatey” (I know what those words mean individually, but together they have no meaning).

    So the Mensans were discussing my cake at some length. They concluded that it was DEFINITELY made with fresh cocoa, and were debating over what BRAND of cocoa I’d used.

    Funny thing, my IQ is plenty high enough to get into Mensa but I never joined. For most of them, their personalities are reliable birth control. On the other hand, if you can’t get laid at a Mensa party, you’d strike out at a Reno cathouse equipped with $500 cash and a bottle of Viagra. Not uncommon to walk past a woman and have her grab your arm and inform you that you were spending the night with her.

    1. I went to one — ONE — Mensa meeting, and after about half an hour of pointless intellectual one-upmanship games I quit, never to return.
      If you’re that smart, you don’t have to prove it to anyone, least of all by joining a fucking club.

      1. No argument at all. Like I said, young and single me went to the parties mostly to chase tail and drink beer (they generally had VERY good beer and the women tended toward morally flexible, and a large number of the women REALLY didn’t like wearing clothes).

        While I self-identify as a nerd (BS and MS degrees in computer science and have now worked as a computer programmer for 34 years and counting), I’m a moderately high-functioning nerd. In Big Bang Theory terms, I’m more Leonard than Sheldon (and like Leonard I also have an inappropriately hot wife). Some Mensa members make Sheldon look socially adept.

  2. John Cleese did a show called “Wine for the Confused” (you can find it on YouTube).
    One of the first things he says is “Don’t let anyone ever tell you what wine you should like.” And tells of a wine he did not like at all that an “expert” gave a 96 to.

    I extend the rule to a number of other things – beer, chocolate, art, music, movies…and so on…

    De gustibus non disputandum est.

  3. Quite so.

    I grew up as a young lad in the California gold rush country during the 60’s. Even then the Zinfandel vines planted by Italian immigrants were approaching 100 years in age.

    While stationed in (the former) West Germany, I took a boat tour down the Rhine River that included wine tasting.

    Along about ’79, I took a semester wine tasting course from Professor Marion W. Baldy at CSU Chico. I was over 21 by then, so didn’t have to spit the samples in a cup.

    I like to think I have a decent layman’s grasp of wine. If you conducted a blind tasting for me of the four or five wines I regularly drink, I’m confident I could tell the reds from the whites. On rare occasions when someone actually asks, it is my cue to look at them over my spectacles and remark “The wines I drink are HIGHLY SELECT”. Translation–I like ’em, I select ’em. What John Cleese said.

    I find the whole thing fascinating. The endless variety of climate, season, soil, slope aspect, etc., leading to an endless variety of wines. For my palate, the last drought cycle in California didn’t help. And, I draw the line at “Two Buck Chuck”. Even in my younger days, a little too “sand papery” going down.

    My current favorite red is a (gasp!) blend–
    (4th one down)


    1. I like blended wines — just like I enjoy “blended” Scotch (J&B, for instance, is a combination of over forty malts). If the blend is well done, it can be a distinct improvement over “pure” (single-varietal) wines.

  4. I drank so much 99 cent a gallon Boone’s Farm and similar rotgut in the days of my callow youth that I can’t even walk past the good stuff in a store without getting sick. There isn’t much worse than the hangover from really cheap wine when you’re 17 years old and trying to keep your parents from figuring out why you’re so sick. These days I stick to beer and bourbon – and very little of that right now as my digestive system is trying to figure out how to function without a gall bladder. Yeah I know that Saint Paul said a little wine is good for the stomach, but this old man will gladly let you have what’s been allocated to me.

  5. Take the challenge try a ‘Bota Box’ cabernet and see if you like the way it tastes. This is our table wine most every evening and it is most decent. My wife grew up in Northern California and at one time her sis owned a vineyard in Saint Helena, my wife kind of knows what decent wine tastes like and now, her go to every day wine is a box wine that is very drinkable. As for me, if it’s alcohol and not hair tonic it might be ok.

  6. I drink a lot of red wine, far too much sez my wife, but I really, really like it.

    It seems I can mostly tell good wine from a bad one, as good and bad are defined by the ‘experts’. But how, I have no clue at all. If you give me a ‘good’ Rioja and ask me to tell you if I like it better than a ‘bad’ plonk from west bumfuckistan, I’ll pick the Rioja. Ask me to decide which is a Rioja and which is a Chianti, can’t do it.

    As for white wine versus red, pfah, it’s easy, the white is cold, and tastes lousy. Especially German white wine which is Kool-Aid with alcohol.

    The whole thing is a mystery which I shall continue to explore, in detail and at length.

  7. Maybe it’s only in Los Angeles, but white wine is served straight from the refrigerator, and red wine is served at room temperature even in August.

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