To make a real impression, learn how to open a bottle correctly. Don't cut above the lip with the bottle opener, but take the blade below it to the fatter part of the bottle and cut underneath – a sure sign of someone who's opened a lot of wines or worked in the wine industry. And it makes the bottle look nicer. With sparkling wine never take the metal cage off the cork. Take the foil off, loosen the cage, put your hand over it and it will give you enough grip on the cork to ease it out with a flourish.
And don't taste the wine in a restaurant or wine bar. You should be able to tell straight away from smelling it whether it's corked, and doing so shows you're confident. The smell you're looking for is a musty wet cork/cardboard smell. Instead of going for the most expensive wines on the list, go for classic regions that are currently unpopular. They'll be much better value for quality than top priced ones.
"To make a real impression, learn how to open a bottle correctly. Don't cut above the lip with the bottle opener, but take the blade below it to the fatter part of the bottle and cut underneath."
A good one is Muscadet Melon de Bourgogne from the Loire Valley. Popular in the 80s and 90s, it's not so fashionable now, but it's an amazing wine with lots of complexity. In a restaurant you can get it for £22-24, and under a tenner in a shop. It's so easy to cheat your wine knowledge nowadays. With apps like Vivino and Wine-Searcher you photograph the wine list and get the average score for each of the wines, so you can work out the best value while pretending you know what you're doing.
"Don't be afraid to pick the brains of wine buffs - find out what to pick and why. Then you can really show off."
It's cool that these apps exist because it promotes better wine drinking. What's more it makes the wine industry less select, where only a few of us know what we're talking about. Wine making is a process that's been massively perfected, that Hemingway described it as 'one of the most civilised things in the world' – and that's the magic of it. But it's basically just fermented grape juice, so it's a shame if people are intimidated talking to the sommelier – that's what we're there for, and it's not that complicated. Don't be afraid to pick the brains of wine buffs - find out what to pick and why. Then you can really show off.