How To Drink Like a Billionaire | Mark Oldman Tells All
Always wondered how to drink like the 1%? Wine expert and author Mark Oldman tells us his most coveted secrets for stepping up your wine and champagne game in his new book, How to Drink Like a Billionaire. To him, it's not about being able to afford the most expensive spirits on the market; it's about being able to find the quality and deliciousness in the best priced bottles. Oldman stresses that drinking like a billionaire is not about being snooty, but it's about being knowledgable in within the wine and spirits space. From terminology, to food pairings to techniques and more, this book is the bible for all things wine culture. I got the chance to speak with Mark Oldman about the inspiration behind his book, his background, his wine trend prediction, favorite champagne and more!
1. Your philosophy states that you don’t have to be a billionaire to drink like one. Explain more about what this means to you.
“Billionaire” is a metaphor for someone who feels in control, equipped to hone in on the most delicious wine for the least amount of money and effort. They are able to take advantage of the best parts of wine culture without feeling overwhelmed by rules or the tyranny of too many choices. And they can do so without having to become experts themselves. The billionaire drinker can cut through the sales pitches and geekiness and hipsterism so prevalent in wine and get closer to the two overriding purposes of wine: pleasure and sharing.
2. Where did you interest and passion for wine come from?
As a college student, way before I started writing wine books, I established a campus club called the Stanford Wine Circle and would write for club members “Anti-Snob” briefing packets about major wine types and producers.
The impulse to do this, and eventually speaking gigs and full-fledged books, has been motivated by a keen interest in innovating in the areas of education and consumer advocacy. All of my professional endeavors have been animated by these themes, from co-founding and running the career portal Vault.com to serving on several boards of Stanford. Even as a teenager I was drawn to consumer information; for example, at the tender age of 16, I participated in one of Zagat’s first restaurant surveys, back when they were just one guidebook solely focused on New York City restaurants.
3. How did you get the inspiration for How to Drink Like a Billionaire?
I noticed that while the superrich will, of course, spend for special occasion wines, they rarely order from the reserve list. They are often happiest with moderately priced bottles that drink above their cost. So I set I to help everyone else, in similar fashion, maximize their enjoyment of wine without spending more than they have to, including addressing the threshold concept that price is not proportionate to quality, dismissing the notion that you need several glass types, and exploring how to use a critic’s points to your economic advantage.
4. Your book goes into great detail into the world of wine, from wine types and alternatives, to wine pairings to etiquette and more. How much did you know about all of these things before writing the book? How much research did you have to do?
I’m am constantly in the field, researching, tasting, writing, and speaking about what I learn. I see myself as elementally a bridge, conveying expertise to the millions who want a good bottle, including to those who don’t want to make wine an obsession, or even a hobby. How to Drink Like A Billionaire, my third book, represents about a 18 months of intense research and writing.
5. You offer an extensive amount of tips to your readers in the book on the fundamentals of drinking like a billionaire. You say from reading it, “you will learn to approach wine like a shrewd member of the one percent.” What do you think are the top 2 most important rules to abide by?
One is that billionaires, as well as those at the top of the wine business, relax about wine more than you’d ever imagine. Most people never get to see this, because the people on wine’s front lines – the clueless waiter, the merchant in it for the wrong reasons, the glassware salesperson – often overcomplicate wine for the rest of us. But the empowered drinker – including the savviest winemakers, wine writers, and sommeliers – think nothing of dropping ice in a glass of red wine, or protecting their wine glass from being prematurely refilled, or using just one simple type of glass for all of their wine.
Two: Paying more for wine doesn’t necessarily yield more deliciousness. From the first chapter – “Pleasure is Not Proportional to Price” – this theme runs like a current throughout the book. In fact, I’ve noticed that many wealthy wine lovers are determined not to overspend. Armed with confidence and access to experts, they tend to trust their own conclusions and are unencumbered by the fear of making the wrong choice. They do what they damn please, and are happier for it.
6. I loved that you included in your Appreciation chapter that “Wine is Not a Mouthwash.” It’s a bit funny, but now that you say that I totally am more aware of this happening! Do you find that people actually vigorously swish more often than not?
Some pros like to gargle their wine – in effect aerating it in their mouth – to get a better taste. This is fine for professionals when they evaluate wine at trade events and competitions. But for the rest of us, such annoying motorboating is best kept to aminimum. Much better is to give the wine a good, healthy sniff - we can sniff thousands of things, making the nose far more sensitive to the finer nuances of wine.
7. How did you learn the insider lingo? Wine terminology needs its own dictionary – there’s so many!
I’m a connoisseur of words. I constantly collect them.
8. What is your favorite alternative to big-brand champagne?
A tie between French grower Champagne and fine American sparkling wine.
9. I had no idea there were so many of the same terms in plastic surgery and wine! You include in your book a page called “Plastic Surgery vs. Wine Face Off.” I have to ask – which do you think is the funniest plastic surgery/wine term?
Glad you noticed! I meant it as micheveious fun. I suppose my favorite term, said with Austin Powers inflection, is “good length”. Winos seek it in aftertaste, while penile implant patients seek it from surgery.
10. You mention in your book that you tell people “one of the greatest pleasures is giving a meal ‘champagne bookends.’ Why is that?
You should not only start a meal with Champagne or sparkling wine, but do something few do - end it with bubbly, too. There is no better palate cleanser and digestif.
11. What’s the current trend in wine, and what do you think is next?
We’re now living in a brave new world of wine, an era where wines from rediscovered and emerging grapes and regions are stocking store shelves. And so I’m always looking to help people take advantage of this bounty and explore a bit outside of their comfort zone to experience new taste sensations.
12. You talk about “champagne baptism” in your book. Have you ever actually gifted champagne to a newborn?
Many times. I slid my friends Samer and Alison bottles of Tarlant “Cuvée Louis” Brut Prestige not once but twice for their newborns. It primed their babies for a lifetime of stylish imbibing.
How to Drink Like a Billionaire was named one of three finalists for the IACP Cookbook Award in the Wine, Beer, and Spirits category! You can snag a copy HERE!