WINE EXPERTISE

Okay, kiddies, this is all you need to know about the local wines to look like James Bond (or in my case, an ugly, pudgy, over the hill James Bond with a lousy British accent and no tuxedo or Walther PPK within 5000 miles).

When presented with the wine list first determine what you are going to eat. If you're both eating steaks, you will want a different wine than if you're eating trout. If one's eating trout and the other's eating steaks, try to compromise.

Now, tell the waiter you would like to try a local wine to compliment your meal and ask for his suggestions. You never see German reds in the U.S. So try them at least once. He will ask how dry you want the wine. The drier the wine, the less sugar. Try saying something like "not too dry," and he will suggest a couple of wines. Take the more expensive one. He'll compliment you on your choice.

When he brings the wine he will present the bottle so you can make sure it's what you ordered. Pretend to be reading the label and checking the vintage even though you have no idea what you ordered.

When he pulls out the cork, if he hands it to you, sniff it, roll it in your fingers, and lay it down on the table. He's offering it to you to check for vinegar. A rotten cork or a vinegar smell is bad news.

He will pour a little in your glass. Pick up the glass by the stem. Swirl it around a little and pretend to watch it. You're also letting the wine breathe. A red wine needs to breathe, thus it gets a wider mouthed glass. Now swirl it and sniff it gently.

Now taste it, just a little. Savor it. Roll it around in your mouth a little.

Pronounce it acceptable and put your glass back down. He will pour some in the lady's glass then more in yours. He'll pour in relatively small amounts at a time because he's letting the wine breathe, too.

Now, he'll think you know what you're doing, and so will the other patrons watching. Only you and I know you don't know Ripple from Chateuneuf du Pape, and I'll never tell.

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