Saturday, March 3, 2012

Wine Snob; Insecurity, Jealousy, or Just Ignorance?

To the die hard NASCAR watching light beer drinkers, anyone who drinks wine is a wine snob.  To the over oaked Chardonnay swilling soccer mom, anyone who drinks red wine is a wine snob.  To the wine drinker that simply enjoys a narrow selection of wines and knows what they like, someone who can distinguish between wines or elaborate on the aromas and flavors represented in a glass of wine is a wine snob.  To the wine enthusiast with experience in a broad range of wines, someone who has a well stocked wine cellar and would never consider drinking a wine from upstate New York is a wine snob.  And on, and on to the exalted wine critics who tell us what to drink.

The term “wine snob” is an epithet thrown about casually as an intended insult to a range of people who simply drink wine on one end of the spectrum to those who are experts in the field at the other extreme.  With such a broad range of people fitting this intellectually bankrupt description, I find the term as useful as playground name calling.  What do you think about that fatty, skinny, shorty, blondy, lanky, pokey, dummy, bugger eater, block head, dork, poo breath, fart master, dip stick, geek, dumb jock, egg head?

I was motivated to write about this after listening to a podcast that insinuated a pseudo-scientific debunking of the “wine snob” crowd.  The hosts talked about experiments with blind tastings that revealed cheap wine dominance over expensive competitors, price bias supported by research suggesting people had a more favorable impression of wines doing greater damage to your credit card, and incomprehensible wine descriptions offered by the wine elite.  My normal experience with enjoying a lengthy list of podcasts was disrupted…my blood pressure was rising.

Following this experience, I went to the search tab and prowled the far end of the internet to see what was being said about wine snobs.  Here are a few quotes:

“Wine snob. Isn’t that a redundancy, like saying wet rain or nuisance telemarketer?”

“When wine drinkers tell me they taste notes of cherries, tobacco and rose petals, usually all I can detect is a whole lot of jackass.”

“Thick legs, full body, good structure. Sounds to me like a bad description. But no, it’s a cabernet sauvignon. Huh?”

“Most people in the wine business are douche bags.”

“How do you appreciate wine without turning up your polo collar and becoming someone worthy of a slap in the face?”

With this small sampling of hate, I reflected on my own perception of a wine snob.  After healthy consideration, I concluded my conception of the true wine snob sticks closer to the textbook definition of a “snob.”  Here are a few definitions:

  • A person who imitates, cultivates, or slavishly admires social superiors and is condescending or overbearing to others.
  • A person who believes himself or herself an expert or connoisseur in a given field and is condescending toward or disdainful of those who hold other opinions or have different tastes regarding this field: a musical snob.
  • One who tends to patronize, rebuff, or ignore people regarded as social inferiors and imitate, admire, or seek association with people regarded as social superiors.
  • One who affects an offensive air of self-satisfied superiority in matters of taste or intellect.

If you fit into one of these definitions, shame on you.  I suggest it is time for recalibration and a pair of lead boots to bring your feet back to ground.  And by the way, I don’t care to enjoy a glass of wine with you.  If you enjoy wine, and are able to avoid this pretentious self aggrandizement, you are welcome in my home.

So here is the bottom line.  Would you stop eating one of your favorite foods because someone else disliked it? Of course not. Wine is no different. Ultimately, the question is whether you like it or not. The arbiters of taste at Wine Spectator might think their palettes refined and worship-worthy, but it’s as ridiculous as a writer at the Washington Post insisting that you stop eating Five Guys burgers because they give it 74 of 100 points. One of my “daily drinking” red wines costs less than $6 per bottle, and there is no shame in it. Drink what you like and enjoy it unapologetically. It’s the epicurean pleasure, not the price, that makes wine worthy of finding a home in your glass.

Not withstanding the mass-produced-light-beer-guzzling-NASCAR-watching-rednecks, if you have made the mistake of caring about what you drink, and treating it as if were something interesting and more special than a can of grape soda, you will not be able to escape the mantle of wine snob.  Embrace it.  Don’t fight it.  If you read this entire article, chances are you are a wine snob.  Somebody pour me another glass!

In vino veritas, buen provecho.



  1. Well said my friend. Now fill my glass with some Two Buck Chuck, but don't you dare serve it when pairing with a nice meal!

  2. Great essay. It sums up exactly how I feel about oenophilia. Forced to do so, I probably wouldn't be able to discern a widely regarded wine from a bargain pour in a blind taste test, but I know what I like.
    At the same time, I enjoy sampling wines while reading a taster's description- I then suddenly sense the grapefruit or melon or black cherry or- god help us all- wet dog, that I wasn't aware of before.

    (found your blog via John Downey on FB, btw)

    1. Kristen, thanks for taking the time to comment, and I am not surprised you have similar thoughts. Much of this was inspired by comments from my wine drinking are not alone. Cheers.