Drinking Wine

Patrick Appel titles a post “How to Drink Wine,” providing only a link labeled “A guide.”   I’m pretty sure I know how to drink wine (pour into glass, invert slightly …) but am intrigued and click through to find Aaron Potts‘ “How to Drink Wine Like an Expert.”  I drink quite a bit of wine but am far from expert, so read on.

What ensues is a lesson on the characteristics of wine, including some made up ones like “typicity” and “elegance.” This is somewhat interesting but, alas, does not leave me feeling even the slightest more expert on the subject of drinking wine.

I’m reminded of the 1983 Elton John – Stevie Wonder hit “I Guess That’s Why They Call it The Blues” which, while catchy and enjoyable, provides no useful information on the etymology of the term “The Blues.”  I’ve appended a video of same below so as to make this post not entirely a waste of your time.

FILED UNDER: Uncategorized, , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Maggie Mama says:

    Dr JJ, on rare occasions I find something very informative on PBS. One evening I came across a program teaching you how to become a “wine snob”.

    I could NOT stop laughing. Information was pouring in as the tears were pouring down my face!

    I guarantee it will amuse you.

    John Cleese: Wine for the Confused DVD
    Single DVD

    Item No. JCWC401

    Our Price: $19.98

    Description: The world of comedy was enriched by John Cleese through his various works in MONTY PYTHON and beyond. Here, Cleese turns his attention to one of his other pleasures in life: wine. Many people love wine, but gaining a greater understanding of how to drink it, what to buy, what’s good, and what’s bad can cause confusion. Fortunately, Cleese makes the process easier to swallow in this entertaining guide, originally broadcast on the Food Network.

  2. G.A.Phillips says:

    And let us tip a glass or a bottle to all those who die for us to be free, you need to crank this one for full effect.


  3. Maggie Mama says:

    PS. Usually PBS programs/gifts are only available via PBS outlet. I just checked and this DVD can be obtained at a lower price at Amazon.

  4. Boyd says:

    I’ve never thought of that song as an Elton John – Stevie Wonder song, since all Stevie does is play harmonica in it.

    And especially odd to call it that, since the performance you embedded has neither Stevie nor a harmonica.

  5. Our Paul says:

    “Wine for the Confused” can also be found on NetFlix, and it is now in my queue. If you pop up in a thread in the future Maggie Mama, I will let you know.

    In the meantime, sip, do not gulp. Always aerate a bit, and keep in mind that neither California nor France rule the roost.

    Having once suggested to our host that he partake of sweetbreads (ris du veau) on his trip to Canada and been crudely rebuffed, one hesitates to suggests matter of the palate on this blog.

    I will proceed courageously forward and point out that Finger Lake Region of New York State has more than a fistful of small vineyards. Among the varietals produced are the Gewürztraminers, well worth an exploration. Rest assured that if you line up three different vineyards, or indeed two different years from the same vineyards you will be delighted by their differences…

    But then, in matters of the palate one should keep in mind Lord Byron’s famous phrase about love, for they may be indistinguishable. But then, who am I to claim knowledge that I do not posses? As each Chef tackles sweetbreads in his own way, always consult the sommelier.

  6. James Joyner says:

    I like Gewürztraminers but was unaware of the New York State variety. I have heard of Finger Lake wines but never made the NY connection; not sure if I’ve ever tried them.

    I’m pretty ecumenical wine-wise. I tend to like pinot noirs, of which Oregon produces some of the best.

  7. Our Paul says:

    Ah, James, let me help you out. I have nothing against Oregon, or its cache of reds, but surely a far ranging mind such as yours would prefer to explore the unknown…

    If you gaze at a New York State map, fix on the Pennsylvania and western N.Y. boarder, then scrutinize up to Lake Ontario and Rochester. Your gaze will pass over the Finger Lakes. It was a family from Rochester, seeking cheaper land, that began the wineries on Long Island that have become prominent in this game. Throw in a couple of other wine regions, and you have the third largest wine producing state in the US.

    I picked Gewürztraminer because the wine is so mutable, year to year, and winery to winery, that it would be impossible for a truly knowledgeable person to come after me… And then, there is that almost poetic Germanic name, umlaut rules, none of those funny things that go over letters first to the right, and then to left that seems to captivate both the French and Spanish. Finally, it blends in nice with sweetbreads, the German and the French, so continental…

    But, as usual, I am losing myself in smoke instead of focusing on the matter on hand. The local newspaper has a blog the focuses on Finger Lake wines that may be of interest to you, and of course the locals have banded together with their own information agency.

    There are Pinot Noirs produced locally, but I have not explored them in detail, so there is not much I can add to your affliction. What I can tell you is that each lake has its own wine tour, and having done one, you are ready for the next one. A web search will get you started.

    Meanwhile, a cautionary word. Do not, under any circumstances order sweetbreads in a house that is known for steak. We are not talking red meat James, we are discussing a culinary flower that will delight your senses.

  8. sam says:

    Steve Bainbridge has a nice little piece titled “Wine Storage” over at his place.

  9. Drew says:

    If I may……

    It is certainly true that there is much false mystery surrounding wine, especially reds.

    If I might, wrt merlot and cab based reds…..

    Its actually very, very simple. For tasting you have 1) the fruit, 2) the tannins, 3) the aging vessel (oak or stainless steel).

    Fruit: the blue fruits (cabs) and the blue plus red fruits (merlot). Think primarily blackberry, plums, cassis etc. On the red side, think cherries and raspberries in the merlots and pinots.

    Tannins: this is the taste imparted by the oxidation products of the grape skins. As they mature (and we all drink red too young, btw) we get flavors such as “smoke,” “lead pencil,” “mushrooms” blah blah blah.

    The vessel: So we get oak, or (if previously used) sherry oak, or nothing (if steel).

    And so it goes. Very, very simple.

  10. Drew says:

    Fellow wine lovers –

    A logical response to what I posted would be “gee, if its that simple, why all the strange descriptions I read, Drew?

    So I thought I might go one step further. Despite the fact that there are only three sources for flavor and smell in wine – the fruit, tannins and aging vessel, here is Emile Peynaud’s classification of the various possibilities. You will see how it gets so convoluted:

    1. animal – game, beef, venison
    2. balsamic – pine, rsin, vanilla
    3. woody – (new oak barrels)
    4. chemical – acetone, mercaptan, yeast
    5. spicy – pepper, cloves, ginger, truffles, anise
    6. empyreumatic – smoke, toast, leather, coffee
    7. floral – violets, rose, jasmine
    8. fruity – black currants, plums, raspberries, cherries, fig (and apricot!)
    9. vegetal – mushroom, herbs, tea

    I didn’t put down all the secondary descriptors. But you get the idea. Memorize these and you, too can be an overbearing, insufferable wine snob.

    I prefer my short version…..