Up To Here With Wine Snobs

Roberto Viernes
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Wednesday - January 19, 2007
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Wine snobs. I dislike them just as much as you do. In fact, I probably run into them more often than you think. I try my best to avoid them, but there are still plenty of them around who try to stink up a fun wine time with their “I know more than you,” “I’ve tasted more and better wines than you” condescending attitude.

The wine industry has really become much less snobby in recent years, trying to bring wine to every corner of the world and to everyone regardless of socio-ethnic or economic stature. I believe that wine is a grocery that should be enjoyed every day, not a luxury that is enjoyed only by the wealthy and privileged.

But the wine world in many people’s view still holds a certain amount of snobbery that really turns them off. I’ve seen it before. A guest is ordering wine from a waiter in a nice local restaurant. I can tell that they are uncomfortable choosing the wine, and even have a hard time pronouncing it as the waiter hovers over them like a foreman ready to punish a bad choice with a crack of his whip.

Suddenly the waiter creases his brow and rolls his eyes in conceit. “That wine is all right, but you really should have ...” he starts to pontificate about his own recommendation.

The guests glance at each other with the “Do you understand anything he just said?” look and acquiesce. As soon as the waiter/judge leaves, they remark at how snooty and stuck up he was, not at how much he knew.

This is no local phenomenon either. When I dined at a Michelin three-star restaurant in Paris, I ordered a wine and was immediately treated as if I knew nothing about wine. The sommelier recommended something inferior in my opinion, and I insisted on my own choice. He promptly gave me a French “whatevers” look and walked away. I never saw him for the rest of the night.

It happened again at another three-star restaurant in Burgundy, where the sommelier gave me a look of “Oh you think you know better than I do?” He gave me an upside down smile and went for my wine.

It’s not just bad sommeliers who are guilty of this snobbism. Even when I go to public and industry wine tastings, there are people who feel the need to try to impress upon everyone else that they know more than you do. One winemaker leaned over to me during a tasting and said about another winemaker, “This guy doesn’t know good wine if it bit him in the—!”

There is also the name-dropper. “Oh yeah, I had dinner with (insert name of winemaker).

Yeah, we’re really good friends.”

Well good for you! You’re so much better than little me.

Then there is the person who seems to have tasted everything - and I mean everything. You can’t even enjoy the fact that you had a great wine because they are too busy flaunting their own experiences. “Oh yeah, I’ve had that wine several times, it was good, but it was surpassed by the (insert wine name). Have you had the ‘61, ‘47 or the ‘29?”


And give me a break. In the wine world, there is always going to be someone who has tasted wines you’ve never had, or has a larger collection than you, or is willing to lie about it just so they can look good.

So what?!

Wine is something real to be shared and enjoyed by everyone. If you can’t share in that philosophy and let other people enjoy it too, then go find another drink. Just because you feel insecure about something else in your life, don’t compensate by trying to bring the rest of us down with you. I’m thankful this doesn’t happen to me that often, but on the other hand, once is already too many.

No snob wines here: 2005 Mueller Pinot Gris ($18) really good, fresh, lively and super easy to drink; just pure pleasure. 2005 Neyers Theriot Vineyard Chardonnay ($45) Chardonnay like this comes around only once in a lifetime. It has awesome texture and complexity; the complete package. Absolutely delicious!

Roberto Viernes is a master sommelier. E-mail .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
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