Wine attracts mystique like no other drink and few other subjects. Many people are defeated by wine thinking that in order to claim any knowledge of it they need:
1. to have visited various vineyards in France
2.to have a cellar (i.e. not a cupboard under the stairs), or
3.to be able to identify exactly where a wine comes from without looking at the label.
This, needless to say, is nonsense. Gone are the days when the wine drinker would ignore anything that didn't come from France, Germany, Spain (only sherry of course) or Portugal (vintage port). Upstarts from the New World like Australia, Chile, South Africa have put themselves firmly on the map; sleeping giants like Italy and Spain are waking up; newcomers like Bulgaria and even Moldova have appeared and surprised everybody with their quality.
The message to the person starting to learn about wine, then, is not to be intimidated by the mystique.
Some knowledge of the old traditions and etiquette is desirable, however, so that you can take on the wine bore at his or her own game and win.
This guide sets out to conduct you through the main danger zones: places and circumstances in which you are most likely to encounter wine and the wine expert, and to equip you with a vocabulary and an evasive technique that will minimise the risk of your being found out.
What is Wine?
Tasting and Drinking
Talking about Wine
Understanding the Label
Wining and Dining
Wine and Food