Review: ‘Fake Your Way Through a Wine List’

By on December 14, 2015
Portland-based wine journalist Katherine Cole has written three books — 'Voodoo Vintners: Oregon’s Astonishing Biodynamic Winegrowers' (2011), 'Complete Wine Selector: How to Choose the Right Wine Every Time' (2013) and 'How to Fake Your Way Through a Wine List' (2015). (Courtesy of the Cole family)

Portland-based wine journalist Katherine Cole has written three books — Voodoo Vintners: Oregon’s Astonishing Biodynamic Winegrowers (2011), Complete Wine Selector: How to Choose the Right Wine Every Time (2013) and How to Fake Your Way Through a Wine List (2015). (Courtesy of the Cole family)

You know you’ve become a wine expert when you embrace the opportunity to select a wine at a restaurant because you have the confidence to pick out a great bottle for any occasion.

Until then, being handed a thick wine list in front of a group of colleagues is nearly as terrifying as giving a speech in front of 1,000 people. Fortunately, a new book by one of Oregon’s most respected wine writers should help allay your fears – and provide plenty of fun wine knowledge along the way.

How to Fake Your Way Through a Wine List by Katherine Cole arrived to store shelves in October, just in time for your consideration in this holiday season.

Cole, who until earlier this fall was the wine columnist for The Oregonian newspaper in Portland, has put together a fun, fact-filled volume that will increase your confidence in wine knowledge. She combines memorization techniques with pronunciation guides and brief backgrounds on dozens of wine regions. She also goes through various scenarios that you might face.

And throughout How to Fake Your Way Through a Wine List, Cole uses her disarming humor to make wine fun rather than intimidating.

‘How to Fake Your Way Through a Wine List’

Wine lists can be intimidating, but Katherine Cole’s new book helps ease the anxiety.

Wine lists can be intimidating, but Katherine Cole’s new book, published by Sterling Epicure in New York, helps ease the anxiety.

Here’s a breakdown of Cole’s new book.

Take the first steps: Nobody starts out as a wine expert, a point that Cole emphasizes in her opening chapter. Therefore, open a bottle of wine, pour yourself a glass and begin reading. It’s a brief journey from terrified novice to confident wine drinker.

Choose your own wine adventure: You don’t need to memorize the 10,000 producers in Bordeaux – or even the First Growths. Using charts, this chapter breaks down dozens of styles of wine with occasion (dinner party, cocktail party, etc.) who you’re with (colleagues, in-laws, first date, etc.) and what you’re eating (appetizers, seafood, dessert, etc.).

Explore the world of wine: This is the heart of the book. Cole profiles 75 regions and their wines. She provides pronunciation guides, backgrounds on growing areas, food pairings and more. She looks at everything from Washington Riesling to Burgenland Zweigelt.

Reverse the power structure: In this chapter, Cole breaks through some of the myths of wine (“If it’s expensive, it’s got to be really good”) and dives into a variety of role-playing scenarios you’ll likely face in your journey as a wine lover. For example, if you’re asked to pick a wine while you’re on a business trip with colleagues – including your boss – Cole provides tricks and tips that will help you not only pick a great wine, but also look good in front of everyone else.

Embrace the unknown: We are in a time when it’s cool to go for the obscure. Find a wine on that list from Lebanon, Croatia or India. Going out on a limb never tasted so delicious.

Learn the lingo: The most difficult part of sounding like a wine expert is understanding what everything means. Malolactic fermentation? Powerful tannins? Barriques? A little knowledge will go a long way in making you look wine-smart. So Cole has put together a list of some of the terms you’re most likely to encounter or use.

About Katherine Cole

voodoo-vintnersCole, who left The Oregonian this fall, has now written three books. The other two are Voodoo Vintners (about the Oregon biodynamic wine movement) and Complete Wine Selector.

Through the years, she has written for such publications as Wine Spectator and Grape Collective and created a smartphone app called “Oregon Wine.” She also appeared in the documentary American Wine Story.

She earned degrees from Harvard College and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. She also has taught journalism classes at Portland State University.

She lives in Portland.

  • How to Fake Your Way Through a Wine List: Tips and Tricks to Sound Like an Expert by Katherine Cole, $18. Published by Sterling Epicure, 223 pages, paperback.

About Andy Perdue

Andy Perdue is the editor and publisher of Great Northwest Wine. He is a third-generation journalist who has worked at newspapers since the mid-1980s and has been writing about wine since 1998. He co-founded Wine Press Northwest magazine with Eric Degerman and served as its editor-in-chief for 15 years. He is a frequent judge at international wine competitions. He is the author of "The Northwest Wine Guide: A Buyer's Handbook" (Sasquatch, 2003) and has contributed to four other books. He writes about wine for The Seattle Times. You can find him on Twitter and .

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Anti-spam measure * Time limit is exhausted. Please reload CAPTCHA.