Wine Talk

Snooth User: spikedc

Defending the 'Wine Snob'

Posted by spikedc, Jul 7, 2012.

Good article by Lettie Teague....

Wine Snob


Reply by Chris Carpita, Jul 7, 2012.

The article paints a major false dichotomy between Snob and Ignorant, as if those are the only paths you can choose.  Drives me crazy when writers do that.  I think that Snooth appeals to populism in many ways, but the end goal is to disseminate more knowledge and raise the bar.

Reply by EMark, Jul 7, 2012.

I'm not sure I agree with you, Spike, on the merits of this article.  If I'd been at the bistro meal she described, I would have tried to change the topic of conversation.  Or, I would have ran, screaming, from the table.

I think I'm more aligned with Chris's opinion.

Reply by GregT, Jul 7, 2012.

Yeah. I have to agree with you guys. I like Lettie but she's writing for the WSJ and you have to consider the audience. A bunch of people who consider themselves pretty savvy - different audience than People magazine for example. So the guy who knows a little bit wants to strut and the article helps validate him. If I find someone who knows about some issue, I usually end up badgering him or her with questions so I can learn. Of course, if it turns out that they don't know anything, I still like to ask questions, just to mess with them.

But really, I don't think it's snob vs ignoramus because they're one and the same.  I think you can be quite knowledgeable and not be a snob. A snob, in my definition anyway, is someone who wants to flaunt whatever little knowledge he has as ostentatiously as possible, and who wants to proclaim his superiority to the untutored. Sometimes snobs actually know quite a bit; usually they don't. They just know a little more than Joe Average - just enough to make themselves insufferable.

In the case of the cafe, had I been there, I would have simply invited her to my table. She's charming and if the wine sucked, and she'd know, leave it for that guy.  He seems like a jerk. Why talk about it at all?  Duh. Would you not talk about the food either? Just galp something down and run? Then why go to France instead of the local MacDonald's? To point out that a wine is bad or the milk is sour isn't snobbery at all.

Now, were she to take out her camera and notepad and start recording and writing about the wine, that would have irritated me. That's a perfect example of the wine snob IMO - someone who can't simply enjoy wine but who has to write tasting notes on every bottle encountered. 

Reply by spikedc, Jul 7, 2012.

Reading the article again and thinking about it i can see your point guys, although i still enjoy the way Lettie writes having read her book 'Educating Peter' and enjoying it.

Little bit worried about Greg's last paragraph, although I do enjoy wine a lot and drink for  pleasure i often find myself making mental notes sometimes writing tasting notes / experiences down, even using my phone to photograph the bottle now and again.

Oh no !, I must be turning into an uneducated, unexpirienced 'Wine Snob' HELP !

Reply by GregT, Jul 7, 2012.

Spike - we all make mental notes about our experiences - whether they be travel, musical performances, food and wine, uncomfortable mattresses, or whatever.  That's cool.

And it's completely understandable to write down the name of a wine you just tasted that you want to remember.  Why not?  My mini rant was against those who get into the rut of considering wine something separate and apart from life, something that needs a quasi religious ritual to be correct. 

Wine is what you drink. I'm increasingly dismayed as I go out to dinner and everyone wants to channel Robert Parker. You can see them as their brains are shouting "Stop everyone!  I need to take a few minutes and furrow my brow!"

Cripes!  There are some people who can't go near a glass of wine w/out writing about it.  And to what end? To quickly run off somewhere to post about it? Or Tweet about it?

It's crazy and it ruins dinner. It's like yacking on your cell phone when you're at dinner with people. Why even show up?  I'm going to start banning notes in my house if I invite people over for dinner.

I go to plenty of tastings and take plenty of notes. But come on man - sometimes it's really good to just enjoy a glass of wine.  We can discuss it and so on, but that's the point - our interaction and camaraderie.  It's weird to replace that.  My advice is not too.  Don't let the consumption consume you and remember to enjoy it.


Reply by Mike Madaio, Jul 8, 2012.

It's amazing to me how much wine journalism is devoted to the idea of "snobbery". (Who cares?) Most of these articles try to differentiate between people with discerning taste and people who are "snobs" (a word which typically ends up being defined as obnoxious people with or without taste). For me, however, it all too often comes across as a rationalization by smart wine lovers who - for some reason - feel guilty about the fact that they know more about wine than most.

This is why I loved this article - it got away from the thinly veiled guilt that these other authors have. Personally, I know that I have discerning taste and I am not afraid to admit it. I do my very best to keep it to myself unless appropriate, and I certainly encounter those who are intimidated by it, but I'm not going to lose any sleep over that.

In sum, it was nice to read one article that got away from the guilt/rationalization and attempted to accept who we really are..

Reply by spikedc, Jul 10, 2012.

How about this wine label.............


Reply by GregT, Jul 10, 2012.

Interlocutor even!

Reply by Bordoo, Jul 11, 2012.

Funny about the "lousy" wine because I am of two minds on this.

One if everybody at the table is enjoying the wine and the expert says it is a lousy wine (not a corked or otherwise off wine), the expert is ruining everyone else's dinner/time.  She's the only one that thinks [knows] it's a bad wine.

On the other hand, I have been at a table where I was the 'expert' and the wine served was off - cooked, mildly sherrified.  Everybody else liked it, I couldn't drink it at all.  I had to stop them all and return the bottle, which was acknowledged to be unfit.  But I felt bad because I felt I had made my companions feel bad - they did not know/could not tell the wine was wrong.  Sure I did them a service, but there's really no graceful way in such a situation.

The opposite (in a way) happened to me recently which actually made me feel good in a schadenfreude kind of way.  I'd picked up an Italian red at my local wine specialty shop. (A specialty shop - 56 degree F retail and shipping - that kind of place)  I returned it the next day, it was off.  Staff noted they had received no complaints about wine, it was selling well.  I had to return the second bottle as well.  Could I have received the only bad bottles they had?  No, the shop ended up taking remaining bottles off the shelf.   The co-owner in fact thanked me for making them aware and gave me a bottle - something else. The schadenfreude glee came from refusing to believe that only the bottles I bought and those the staff subsequently tried were bad. 

No, every one who had bought this wine got a bad bottle and they all thought it was fine - every one but me.  Like the members of Snooth, these customers are all wine hobbyists, serious about their wines.  Damned right I took my snobby satisfaction.

Reply by ps, Jul 11, 2012.

I've always wondered what defined a wine snob.  Just as everything else there are different levels of interest in wine and knowledge about wine - so it's sliding scale.

I'm interested in the history of the regions and the cultural context for drinking wine.  What does the wine mean to the local consumer and producer?  How do they drink it?  Over the years I have spoken to people who are really passionate about their wine region and what makes their wine unique.  The passion and ownership they feel is inspiring - it's a connection to the land and the art which I envy.  This cultural context and tradition is more important to me than many other things the experts know about.  But I'm always interested in learning more.

I enjoy drinking wine and want to know enough about it to not take it for granted.  Is there such a term as a wine snooth?

Reply by zufrieden, Jul 15, 2012.

Spike, this has been (so far) a most interesting thread.  The issue of snobbery versus good old North American egalitarian tendentiousness is kind of a scale in balance: the snob (or sometimes, just the misrepresented expert who wants to "help") can seem the spoilsport (c.f. the comments of GregT and others) when she is only wanting to point out certain sensual facts.  Par example, when a bottle is ordered in a less-than-pedestrian restaurant (or cognate setting), a certain tension of expectation may be set by the cost and/or reputation of the wine ordered and the wine orderer.  The example given of inappropriate maderization (sherry-like oxidation caused by deliberate exposure to air and heat) where company expressed contentment with the product is interesting.  Should you break the spell or keep silent?

I think that whether you are identified as a snob by the majority of company in such a circumstance (should that be a concern and it may well be not) should reflect on the company if you are a person of balance and integrity.  People(mostly)  have a second sense concerning disingenuous behaviour.

Knowledge is knowledge.  If there is no secondary objective on your part (e.g. being painted as the expert in something or another), that will usually be discerned, and your superior palate will be given due consideration.

This does not(and never can) negate personal taste, but it does show that experience in the exploration of wine has meaning and (more importantly) value.  The taste of Joe Bloggs is different than the taste of the meticulous drinker.  Whether of greater import or no, I leave that to you to decide.




Reply by GregT, Jul 15, 2012.

"Knowledge is knowledge.  If there is no secondary objective on your part (e.g. being painted as the expert in something or another), that will usually be discerned. . ."

Well said Zuf.  If the wine is bad, it's bad. That's not being a snob. You don't let someone drink corked wine any more than you let someone eat moldy bread.

If the wine isn't bad, and it's acceptable, but it isn't the 1989 Bordeaux that you had two weeks ago, that's fine. Keep that to yourself.

One definition of a "snob" is someone who takes pains not to simply enjoy the simple things. Lettie didn't do anything wrong IMO. If the wine was bad, it was bad. The guy was a jerk.

Reply by EMark, Jul 16, 2012.

The guy was a jerk.

The author tied him in jerkness.

I am not a lawyer, but I have been on enough juries to know that when the prosecution (or the plaintiff) rests, you don't start deliberations.

Do you think it is possible that there was some history between the author and the husband prior to the bistro dinner that was related in the article?  If I was a betting man, and, really, I'm not, I'd bet that there was. 

Do you think this was the first time these people had ever met?  If I was a betting man, and, really, I'm not, I'd bet that it wasn't. 

Do you think it is possible that the husband had heard the author pontificate before that meal?  If I was a betting man, and, really, I'm not, I'd bet that he had.

Knowledge is a wonderful thing.  There is a clear difference between wine snobbery and wine knowledge or wine appreciation.  I would greatly enjoy an evening talking with you, Greg, about wine.  (If you could also explain the workings of the KERS systems that are being used by Formula 1 teams, I would really be appreciative,)  However, do not try to "save" me from anything.  There are enough missionaries knocking on my door trying to save me.

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