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Opinion,Wine

Exploring 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 its 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.

Dionysus (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 can join in the fun.

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6 Responses to “Exploring the Fine Line Between Wine Snob and Wine Enthusiast”

  1. Wine people are no more “snobby” talking about wine than baseball people talking about ERAs or on base percentages.

  2. Jo Diaz says:

    Right on, Steve. It’s just conversation…

  3. Joe Rackelmann says:

    I tend to define a wine snob solely by the 2nd definition above: “One who tends to rebuff, avoid, or ignore those regarded as inferior”

    Sales reps for wineries tend to fall into this category often, but sometimes people will act like a snob for a moment. I even have friends who will “poo-poo” a wine, or even a varietal: just because i happen to like Cabernet Franc doesn’t mean you and your UCDavis training (blinders) need to denounce it as nothing but a blender…

  4. Jo Diaz says:

    I’m with you on that, Joe. I also believe that it’s not just wine, with that attitude. It’s all things under the sun.

  5. gdfo says:

    Good article.

    Though I cannot agree that knowing baseball statistics make one a snob.

    There are both people who know and love baseball and others who know and love wine.

    Also people are now going to wine tastings and know little about wine so they go to the internet or read up a little so as not to appear ignorant or stupid in front of peers. I do not consider that to be snobbism.

  6. Jo Diaz says:

    Neither do it, gdfo. I agree with you.

    It’s not the ones eager to learn, it’s the ones who know little about it, but look their noses down at others in hteir process. As I said elsewhere about this (Facebook), it is they who look their noses down at all things (state of mind), and just end up at a wine party talking about Cab Saaaaauv. That’s like fingernails down the blackboard for me, and tend to stand out as being amusing… (Been there and seen it… Very funny.)

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