I used to be a snobby sommelier at a snobby restaurant, and brother, I learned to spot a non-snob a mile away.
It’s not that filthy-rich Bloomfield Hills cardiologist who claims that he really doesn’t drink much wine, then orders the $600 Gaja to wash down a lamb chop: He’s the mayor of Snob friggin’ City.
Nor is it the upstart wine blogger who repeatedly insists that his web site ‘takes the snobbery out of wine’ then disses 90% of the wine that Americans enjoy while ordering some boutique South African pinot noir that otherwise—without his name-dropping claim to ‘insider-knowledge—is unsellable: This cat is Snobville U.S.A.
It’s not even that grunge-caked, domicile-challenged vagrant huddling over the heat grate in the alley by the restaurant’s dumpster—even he turns his nose up at Scorpio as being ‘too medicinal’, Boone’s Farm as being ‘kid stuff’, Night Train as being ‘so-o-o ten minutes ago’ and always shows up with a half-gallon of Black Velvet: Snobomundo.
No, the closest I ever came to encountering bonafide non-snobs was that geeky couple from Westland who were on their first date and asked me to recommend a wine because they were intimidated to pronounce Château Malescot St. Exupéry—and anyway, for them I wound up recommending a couple of Diet Cokes.
And just so that we’re all singing from the same hymnal, what I mean by ‘snob’ is pretty textbook—provided that the textbook you use is a dictionary. As defined by Merriam-Webster, the word snob describes ‘someone who displays an annoying air of superiority in matters of knowledge or taste;’ and to further refine, defines superiority as ‘having a more comprehensive understanding of a given subject’.
According to this, I am The Grand Apotheosis of Wine Snobs.
And not only that, but most of my colleagues in the wine-writing, wine-serving and wine-prattling fraternity fit the bill as snugly.
Why should this be a bad thing? I’ve spend decades reading books by Johnson and Zraly, visiting vineyards, interviewing enophiles and guzzling a Red Sea worth of wine—I’ve developed a reasonable palate and have written more than a million words on the subject. If you haven’t, you’ve likely spent your time on something more lucrative and productive, and good on ya for that. Me, I have painstakingly weaned my tastebuds from the flabby Central Valley plonk that Mom used to swig and nurtured my annoying superiority complex to the point where if somebody asks me if I’ve ever tasted some obscure wine that I’ve never heard of, they will totally believe me when I lie and say, “Of course I have; I thought it was ‘interesting’. What did you think?”
My contention is that snobs make the journey along the wine world’s highway lovely, lively, loopy and lush, even if it’s paved with gold from the non-snob’s pocket.
So, put on your butyl gloves and hazmat protective lenses and let’s dissect; you can decide for yourself whether you are proud to be a pretentious wine snob currently, or would like to become such a know-it-all wanker and bask in the bevy of beautiful babes that a wine snob’s obnoxious air of preeminence inevitably reels in.
Or alternately, if you would prefer to squander your remaining days as a Woodbridge-wallowing weenie.
Things Wine Snobs Like:
Well-appointed dining rooms where the effete tinkle of stemware sounds like translucent icicles forming in the Crystal Palace; an ideal setting for intellectual debates about whether zinfandel is a clone of the Croatian crljenak or the Italian primitivo.
- Multiple wine glass styles to maximize enjoyment of hoity-toity selections; prerequisite is that the glass must cost at least as much as the wine and you have to be able to pronounce Riedel without thinking about it.
- People who ask questions about wine that we can answer without sucking off Google’s teat.
- Free wine. The secret underbelly of the wine critic’s debauched existence: Distributor ‘samples’ arrive daily. I haven’t paid for wine in twenty years—the only inconvenience is if somebody puts you on the spot by asking the price of a wine you’ve reviewed and you are forced to respond, “Oh, they sell the stuff?”
- Wet saddle leather, melted road tar and cat piss. We must like them, otherwise, how would we know what they taste like?
Things Non-Snobs Like:
Piggly Wiggly shelf-stacker staples like Franzia (still thinking inside the box), Barefoot (even the name is gross) and [yellow tail], Australia’s [two buck chuck]; this trashy trio make up more than 10% of domestic wine sales.
- Cheap scotch out of a brown bag.
- Easy to pronounce varietals like chardonnay and zin instead of tongue-twisters like viognier and gewürztraminer.
- Dessert wine with the main course: In pairing food and wine, snobs who claim to be non-snobs always say ‘drink what you like’, then mock non-snobs who choose really sweet white wine to accompany their chateaubriand.
- Fre Wine: Just as Christians confront themselves with the question: ‘If it wasn’t going to guarantee my personal salvation, would I be volunteering at soup kitchens or adopting HIV-Positive orphans from Mbandaka?’, wine snobs ask themselves: ‘If it wasn’t for the buzz, would we bother?’ Non-snobs have no such qualms, and readily embrace dealcoholized plonk like Fre and low-octane honeybear drool like Bartles & Jaymes Pomegranate Raspberry Wine Cooler.
- Miller Lite.
Now, go and do the right thing, children.