I'm having a hard time typing today's column, because my eyes keep being drawn to a sexy little golden statuette parked on the side of my desk.
I picked up this little beauty -- a buxom woman in a clingy evening gown made from gold-painted plastic -- the other night at the big media competition to kick off the 13th annual Winnipeg Wine Festival in support of Special Olympics Manitoba.
In previous years, the festival has kicked off with a Celebrity Grape Stomp, where local media persons would thrash around for two minutes inside a grape-filled barrel until their overworked hearts burst out of their pounding chest cavities and skittered away, slipping on puddles of grape juice that had splattered on the floor.
This year, however, we media personalities were divided into two-person teams and then forced to compete in a quiz to test our knowledge of both wine and Hollywood movies. I was teamed up with hard-hitting sports columnist Gary Lawless, who, along with being an expert in hockey and football, is also surprisingly knowledgeable about the finer things in life, such as wine.
The way it was supposed to work was our wine columnist and book editor, Ben MacPhee-Sigurdson, would politely ask a wine-related question, then the competitors would buzz in by clinking their teammate's wine glass. What actually happened, considering we had spent the early part of the evening drinking free alcohol, was we just jumped out of our chairs on stage and began shrieking our answers.
So it was chaotic but entertaining and in the end, even though Gary and myself were easily the loudest and heaviest team, I have no idea who won. Fortunately, that did not prevent me from accidentally scooping up one of the little golden statuettes on my way out and taking it home as a heartfelt reminder you should always play fair, unless that's too hard.
But that is not today's cultured wine-drinking point. Today's point is, if you are planning on sipping, sniffing and swirling with the city's elite at the wine festival, which runs from April 27-May 3, you are going to need some expert tips to prevent you from looking like a complete idiot.
The good news is that I personally am an insufferable wine snob and am willing to share my expertise to help you be part of the "in" crowd at the public tastings, which are expected to draw more than 8,000 wine lovers to the RBC Convention Centre next Friday and Saturday. (Tickets are $49.95 and are available at www.winnipegwinefestival or by visiting your local Liquor Mart.)
Here are a few tips to ensure everyone realizes you are a pretentious wine snob, just like me:
1) Never smile -- Your face is the ultimate weapon at an upscale wine tasting. Your expression should be a permanent scowl. Even if a particular wine's bouquet reminds you of spring flowers, you should glare at it to convey the notion that the wine has made you extremely angry and, if you could, you would punch it in the mouth.
2) Etiquette -- Speaking of punching people in the mouth, that is exactly how you should react if someone is uncouth enough to suggest that you sample a glass of "domestic wine," defined as a wine coming from anywhere you have ever heard of in your life. Also, seeing as how the festival attracts huge crowds, when you walk around with your fragile wine glass, keep your elbows up and pointed outwards in case you need to "rub out" a wine enthusiast who wanders too close.
3) Discussing wine -- Remember: If you say the wrong thing, you will be vilified by all the other wine snobs in the room. To be safe, make sure no one can understand a single word that comes out of your mouth. For instance, never say a wine "tastes good" or "smells nice." Instead, here is a handy phrase: "I find this (insert type of wine here) to be somewhat strident and yet I am almost amused by its presumption. The chocolate and cigar notes accent the plummy and earthy character, giving it a concentrated mouth feel and lovely firm tannins that wrap around the pungently perfumed mix of asparagus acidity, vanilla and cat pee on a mulberry bush."
It's hard to know how to act at a wine tasting if, like me, you know next to nothing about wine. If, however, you pretend to be a rude waiter at a fancy restaurant and sneer at everyone -- the way you look at a puppy that has just had an accident on your living-room carpet -- you should be fine. Above all, remember you're not just drinking wine; you're drinking fermented grape juice. Bottoms up!