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February 01, 2017

How to Drink Like a Billionaire: Mastering Wine with Joie de Vivre

Nancy Matsumoto

Billionaires are getting a bad rap lately as they’ve paraded up and down the escalator at Trump Tower and through Senate confirmation hearings. So seeing the title of wine writer Mark Oldman’s latest book, “How to Drink Like a Billionaire: Mastering Wine with Joie de Vivre,” might not immediately induce you to whip out your overworked, post-holiday credit card.

Yet the actual point of the book is to coach readers on how to drink and buy in a savvy, smarter way, based on the belief that billionaires got that way because they appreciate the value of a dollar and didn’t squander theirs.

Oldman and I crossed paths when I wrote this Wall Street Journal article about the “wine sanctuary” that he created in his New York City loft. At the time, he told me he shunned high-priced “prima donna decorators” and went DIY, creating a quirky, one-of-a-kind space.

Oldman’s books are similarly anti-snob and value-driven, as well as highly entertaining. Here are some of my favorite takeaways from the book:

  • Know the difference between acidity and tannin. Oldman provides a handy “Face-Off” chart with key differences: Acidity is lemon, tannin is tea. Acidity think Sauvignon Blanc, tannin think Cabernet Sauvignon. Metaphorical destination: acidity takes you to the electric tower, tannin to the Sahara Desert.
  • Blended wines are not inferior. Reputable wineries are “not exactly using the viticultural equivalent of Hamburger Helper to fill out the rest of their wine.” Look at Champagne or Bordeaux-style blends like Dominus and Quintessa. They can be great.
  • You can color coordinate your wine! Oldman’ secret color-coding system matches green foods (salad, vegetables) with whites so light they shine a certain tinge of green (Sauvignon Blanc, Vinho Verde). Pink rosé hits it off with tuna, salmon and lobster; yellow Chardonnay, Viognier and Sémillon are attracted to egg dishes, corn and pineapple; and dark foods like steak, lamb and game hook up well with full-flavored reds like Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and Malbec.
  • Among “Unexpectedly sublime pairings,” my favorite of Oldman’s suggestions: rosé and barbecue potato chips: “Dry and pink goes with everything but reaches the thin-air heights of greatness in the presence of barbecue potato chips.”
  • Don’t fear the big bottle, the magnum or even larger. Though many people see them as “the stretch Hummer limousine of wine: outlandishly expensive…and as glitzy as the disco room of the Liberace Museum,” in fact if you look beyond prestige wines you’ll find reasonably priced varieties. Rosé “gone jumbo,” in fact is often so reasonable you can buy a double magnum (three liters or four standard 750 ml bottles) or a jeroboam (4.5 liters or six 750 ml bottles).

Drinking copious amount of good-value wine, come to think of it, is not a bad way to spend the next four years; it will go by in a happy blur, and our pocketbooks, at least, will be none the worse for wear.

Wine BookMark Oldman