By Damian Hartner, Contributing Writer

2010 has provided quite a spectacle, so far, when it comes to sporting events. There are the “normal” events that we cherish in the United States – The SuperBowl, the College Football Bowl Games, the College Basketball “March Madness” Playoffs, the start of Baseball season and Basektball season, The French and Australian Opens, and Wimbeldon. But we also got to witness the Winter Olympics and, recently, the World Cup.

And, who is the most unlikely, and arguably tasty hero to emerge from the World Cup? Paul… an Octopus! This creature, when presented with an option to spend the next 90 minutes plus an indeterminate amount of time floating in a tank emblazoned with what would be either the winner or loser of the current match’s flag managed to choose to swim in the winning tank 8 times in a row! He may have a career as a lottery number picking consultant.

Alas, I like my octopus marinated for a few days and then grilled to perfection and served over a light salad accompanied by a glass of wine… or two. Octopus is easy to pick – if you are in Manhattan, just go to Barbounia ( on 20th and Park. Find a good seat at the bar and order the octopus appetizer. You’ll not need much more than that to eat. Of course, you’ll want to select a nice glass of wine to accompany your grilled cephalopod. And, that is much trickier.

Selecting a glass of wine is a little easier than selecting a bottle. Like a date, this isn’t a long term commitment. First of all, you are only agreeing to one glass (one evening/dinner/coffee/whatever). Even if it is so horrid that you cannot finish the glass (take them home), you can alert the bar tender (call a friend) and ask for something else and then (run like hell), even if they charge you (you pay the bill), you are only out $10 (one dinner) or so. Additionally, the list of glasses from which to select is usually much shorter than the bottle list. Here is a tip when selecting a glass of wine: If you enter a bar and you ask what kind of wines they have by the glass and the reply is, “Red, White, and White Zinfandel” then drink a gin and tonic. Otherwise, just go with the bartender’s choice – unless of course the bartender always picks the most expensive glass… then choose your own adventure.

But, selecting a bottle is much more difficult. Like a long(er) term relationship, you should take greater care as you will be stuck with this decision for a while and it should be something that you enjoy and that doesn’t tempt you to go running out for a different glass of wine every once in a while. First, know your criteria. Does the label need to be pretty? Does the wine need to smell good? Is it okay that it isn’t perfect right now but promises to improve with age? How easily should the cork come out… are we talking corkscrew, champagne, or screw cap? How expensive is your taste? Second, pick your color. Do you prefer white, red, or something in the middle? Third, pick your personality. Bubbly? The strong silent type, deep and dark, light and fruity, effervescent. Remember that this is nothing wrong with sampling all of them – but that is what tasting flights and glasses are for – we are talking bottle here. Finally, fourth, pick your country and region. A Spanish conquistador, a French countryman, a punctual German, a down under Bloke/Sheila, or a laid back Californian.

Once you have narrowed down all your requirements, put them in your match profile… um, I mean, open the wine list and find the 3 – 5 bottles that match most of your criteria. Then, call the sommelier or bartender over or ask your friends which one is best for you. Order, pop the cork, enjoy… no regrets.

To celebrate the Spanish world cup victory, I’m going to head out to Barbounia, order the Octopus, and have a nice deep dark red Rioja.

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