In recent years, the world of wine and its champions have made impressive strides to overcome that harsh, nagging stereotype that wine lovers are snobby and elitist.
We’re lucky, really, to be living in such an age of drink super-geekdom that has given rise to a wealth of unique venues, companies, and brands. These are genuine passion projects run by folks more than eager to share their enthusiasm and knowledge, lively wine tastings where people won’t give you a glaring side-eye if you don’t spit after every taste, and wine bars that feel as relaxed and casual as your favorite local dive. Take Corkbar in Los Angeles, for instance, whose owner, the appropriately named Caleb Wines, notes "It seemed like most of the 'wine bars' here were just glorified restaurants or really esoteric and intimidating, where if you didn’t know the latest Eastern European varietal you were made to feel like an idiot."
More casual and comfortable wine bars are great, and let’s hope more of them continue to appear. But here’s the thing: If you open up the wine list and request a "pea-NOT grigg-ee-O" (instead of a pea-no gree-joe) you’re going to sound, well, pretty stupid, no matter how lax the locale.
And it’s not just the mispronunciation of names that can make you sound like you don’t know what you’re talking about — there’s also the matter of understanding the basic terminology and knowing how to approach a wine list, or even what to do if you think you’ve been poured a defective glass.
To that end, we’ve put together this basic guide to help you imbibe without the risk of embarrassment.