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Wine,You've Got to Be Kidding Me

The Fine Line Between Wine Snob and Wine Enthusiast

I just read a story on TheGlobeandMail.com, entitled, You too can talk like a wine snob.

Why do wine writers perpetuate the concept of a wine “snob?” Is  it because readers love to rag about them, and it makes for fun gossip?

What I read that really got me to thinking…

One commenter wrote,

“My husband knows nothing, NOTHING about wine. [N]Either do I. He went to a wine-tasting thing with people from his office, where they had to try to identify certain wines. He was surrounded by wine snobs, who were busy sipping, sniffing, swirling, and using many of the words in this article. He thought they all tasted the same, took a complete[ly] wild guess on his form to identify which was which, and he was the grand winner. Says a lot about wine snobs.”

Luck of the draw for him; he got lucky, and probably felt petty good about his wild guess, I’d say. I also believe he’s on his way to knowing a lot more, whether or not he and his wife know it, yet. He gained a bit of wine knowledge on that one, and was pleased enough about his achievement, that he shared it with his wife.” I can hear his conversation with his wife now.

“Guess what, honey, I was surrounded by people who are supposed to know so much about wine, but when it came time to guess which wine was which, my guesses trumped their guesses!”

Wine knowledge is infectious, as it relates to it being every expansive within our lives. It’s so visceral, and yet it builds external social interactions and behaviors, based on prior experiences.

I take words at their literal meaning, mostly, when I see them. Seeing the word “snob” in the sense that it was written above, made me realize how silly and intense we enthusiasts look to those who are not initiated. When we’re at it, we have no clue about the outside world looking in; or, how we look to them because it’s all about us, isn’t it?

We get so self absorbed that we seem to look like ridiculous creatures, if the commenter above is right… And perception is always reality where I’m sitting. If she thinks we’re snobs, in her world, we are.

In my literal world, though…

Snobbery, as defined by Websters:

  • One who blatantly imitates, fawningly admires, or vulgarly seeks association with those regarded as social superiors
  • One who tends to rebuff, avoid, or ignore those regarded as inferior

Neither of these things happened in the above situation, I believe. People were enjoying and studying the wine that was before them. In that group, there may have also been others who weren’t as learned as the most experienced within the group. And yet – to an outside observer, who’s never jumped into wine education – this appears to be imitating, fawning, vulgar seeking association with those regarded as social superiors, or any of the next bullet points.

Websters even has an example of SNOBBERY

1. the snobbery of some wine connoisseurs

It’s not snobbery, people, if I may be so humble to voice my opinion on this one.

What the wine enthusiast is all about…

We swirl to get the wine’s aromas going. (In geek speak, that’s called volatizing your esters.)

We breathe (sniff) it in to become enraptured with it’s floral, aromas (You’ll hear us talking abut the wine’s fruit driven bouquet.)

We sip to taste the nectar of the gods, the beverage born of an alchemist who has an artist trapped inside of him.

We enjoy (drink) it with food and with our family and friends. We even slosh it around in our mouths, because it covers even more taste buds, really making the flavors explode in ways you just can’t get a potato or steak to do.

Our heads become a bit lighter, and our social guards come down a bit.

We become more open to new concepts, so we’re expanding who we are and what we know.

Foods become more rich and complex, because the combination of food + wine is more enriched and complex than simple food with water.

Dionysos (or Bacchus) was born to party

Dionysus (Greek) or Bacchus (Roman) is the god of  grape harvesting, winemaking, and wine. He was part of events that involved ecstasy, and the impetus behind the Greek theater. He’s known for inspiring joyful worship and at festivals and celebrations. He was also known as the Liberator (Eleutherios), the god of freeing ourselves from ourselves through ecstasy and/or wine.

So, even though we may look ridiculous, we have a point; and it’s a lot of fun, even if you can’t see or understand that, yet. We aren’t meaning to snub you, we’re just absorbed in this ritual we’ve come to love.

We are not snobs; we’re enthusiasts, and anyone is welcome to join us. You need only ask, if we forget to include you. Your husband was included, Ms. Commenter, and now he’s becoming one of us wine enthusiasts. I hope you jump on board, too, so you’re not left high and dry.

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15 Responses to “The Fine Line Between Wine Snob and Wine Enthusiast”

  1. 1winedude says:

    Wine snobs, in your definition of snobs, deserve every jab coming at them. It makes no sense to me why any consumer product, no matter how grand it can be in the pleasure it gives us, should be elevated to the point where it instills fear into people’s hearts and forms elitist sects.

    Happy Holidays!

  2. Jo Diaz says:

    Very well put, Joe.

  3. Oh, lord. That Globe & Mail piece is something else. Why do some insist on perpetuating such alienating behavior?

    Wine is a beverage, an elixir, a social lubricant. Treating it any more seriously than that threatens our ability to enjoy it. At the heart of a true enthusiast’s love for wine is the belief that we can’t take it – or ourselves – too seriously.

    At the end of the day, nothing attracts more enthusiasts than the invitation of laughter – all the better is it’s directed at ourselves.

    Merry Christmas, Jo!

  4. Jo Diaz says:

    Why, Winethropology? Probably because – as you’ve noted – it’s about laughter. For some who are insecure, it elevates their insecurities, and makes them better than others… simply because they don’t get it, so it must be wrong, making them right. (In some circles and sometimes, it’s called bullying.)

    I once heard that angles fly because they take themselves so lightly. Wine brings us to that point, and that’s why I love it, personally.

    I love your line about the laughter being directed at ourselves. That’s why I love the image I’ve used… Although, the commenter got me going, because she’s so haughty naughty…

    Merry Christmas to you and yours, too!

  5. Wine lovers can be quite passionate about wine. And yes our behavior can seem “over the top” for a person who is just starting out in their wine journey, but it does not mean we are snobs.

    Now, there are many who use their wine knowledge to elevate themselves and make others feel small; I really don’t like that type of behavior. Wine is meant to be enjoyed.

    Merry Christmas Jo!

  6. Jo Diaz says:

    Merry Christmas, to you, too, Lorrie!

    PS: I call those guys wine Nazis.

  7. Hilarie says:

    As a Canadian, I apologize for one of our journals perpetuating such silliness.
    As the wife of a winemaker, I adored your comment on sipping “the beverage born of an alchemist who has an artist trapped inside of him.” Too true and I hope I may quote you.
    Cheers and Happy Holidays to all.

  8. Jo Diaz says:

    Please do, Hilarie, since you’re married to one ;^)

    No apology necessary. It’s the journalist who hasn’t yet found the true path to ridding us of such nonsense.

  9. Jo, if you look closely at that picture, you’ll see me, on the left in silhouette, hoisting my wine glass.

  10. gdfo says:

    I think a good definition of a wine snob is someone who has a chipped ego on their shoulder.

  11. Jo Diaz says:

    Steve, as hard as I look, I just can’t find you in this one. Maybe it’s because you don’t fit the profile ;^)

  12. Jo Diaz says:

    gdfo, good definition.

  13. Jo Diaz says:

    Lorrie,

    My best to you now and always!

  14. winetal says:

    i think there is such a thing as a wine snob, however mere interest, enthusiasm, or knowledge about wine does not by any means indicate snobbery. some people have a tendency to feel like someone who has a comprehensive understanding and genuine passion for something that is not common knowledge is a snob or elitist. it certainly doesn’t help when the knowledge is in a field of something that has a class association with it as well, as with wine. i think it comes down psychology. i would say that two huge reasons for perceived snobbery (when it is really just wine enthusiasm) would be that one can feel threatened by someone else’s knowledge and/or feel like an outsider or loser. and this is certainly not limited to snobbery in the wine world. the perceived snob factor is everywhere.
    that said, there is such a thing as snobbery in wine, though i would say it is more indicative of a someone who probably has snobby tendencies and an overall egomaniacal personality. this is the person who snubs a delicious $15 bottle of wine and pompously states their preference for fine bordeaux or burgundy – anything under a certain (high) price simply is not good. it is the big name wine seeker. it is the person who talks down to you as if you’re an idiot for not sharing their opinions. it is also probably the most insecure and least genuine wine enthusiast there is.
    most wine “snobs” aren’t snobs at all, they are just fanatic wine nerds who are mystified by the great variety of something so simple as fermented grape juice.

  15. Jo Diaz says:

    Winetal… Great observations.

    (Just back from the SF Ballet Nutcracker, or I would have approved earlier.

    I think your right… the tendencies cross all boundaries.

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