Sommelier Secrets – How to Bring “Expert” Wine Knowledge Into Your Kitchen
I bite my lip, even if you can’t believe it, when I witness someone making a faux pas over wine. Luckily for me, most people know what I do and smile graciously when I offer unsolicited advice. And if the advice is good, as it always is, they ask for more. In the world of wine knowledge, here are some tricks, so no one tries to correct you in your home – except me.
The Word “Somm”
Here’s a pro tip – just skip the part where you try to pronounce the whole word – sommelier, someone who manages wine in a restaurant – and say “somm” instead. The problem is just in pronunciation. You can try using soft vowels for the O, E and A – “suh-mel-yay” – and pronounce it like it rhymes with “everyday.” But unless it rolls off the tongue effortlessly or you’re French, just say “somm” as that is the accepted abbreviation experts use. And I would bet the expert who first abbreviated the word was feeling your pain.
Describing Aromas & Flavors
This is a big one. A quick disclaimer: I have years of tasting and spitting and judging and reading and doing it all over again … and I can’t give it all away here. Suffice it to say, use your memories and close your eyes. For example, in a white you may find flavors and aromas of things like dried apricots, fruit cocktail and even a hot concrete sidewalk. In a red you may be reminded of strawberry jam, milk chocolate or a barnyard. Best part: It’s entirely subjective, so there are no wrong answers. Confidence is key here.
Taste Before Committing
This is my own invention. When you are giving or attending a party and several bottles of wine are open, pour yourself a small taste – less than an ounce – to swirl, sniff and taste. Then after tasting, commit to a glass, or try another until you find one that pleases you. Not only will you look like an expert, but also you will refrain from having to drink something someone else has plunked in your glass.
The foil capsule that sometimes wraps the cork and top neck of the bottle is actually considered “dressing” and not meant to be completely removed. I’ve seen videos and been instructed to use the foil cutter on your corkscrew; simply cut a slice at the top ring or the ring about a thumb’s length down. But whatever you do, once you cut that top ring, do not remove the rest of the foil – no matter how torn it looks. Tis’ verboten.
Eve Bushman has a Level Two Intermediate Certification from the Wine and Spirits Education Trust, a “certification in first globally-recognized course” as an American Wine Specialist ® from the North American Sommelier Association (NASA), was the subject of a 60-minute Wine Immersion video, authored “Wine Etiquette for Everyone” and has served as a judge for the Long Beach Grand Cru. You can email [email protected] to ask a question about wine or spirits. You can also seek her marketing advice via [email protected].