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Wine Snobs Versus Wine Connoisseurs

Sep 6, 2008
A common wellspring of confusion is wine literature. Many excellent wine books are currently available to lay readers. Most of them praise the vintages of individual regions, debate wine's subtle food harmonies, or relate pleasant sojourns among the vineyards enjoyed by the authors.

Although always delectable reading, they rarely spare space to rehearse the ABC's of wine. When an occasional writer does discuss the subject in grade-school terms, he leaps so abruptly to the post-graduate level that the novices among his readers are left completely befogged. Wine volumes heretofore published have thereby helped to create the need for the present one.

From the various sources available, largely gourmets and writers in Great Britain, but also in recent years from those of the United States, have also come many of the rules which surround fashionable wine selection and service. These rules did not come from the wine countries of Europe, where the average citizen consumes his wine as freely as most Americans gulp their ice water. The ordinary Frenchman, Italian, Spaniard, or Portuguese, to whom wine is among the staple necessities of life, is happily ignorant of its abracadabra, and if he ever were told that red wine should not be served with fish, would regard it as so much nonsense.

American winegrowers have done little to clear up the maze. Most of them would be happier if their product could be freed of the enigmas and paradoxes which hinder its broader sale. Yet few would be willing to strip wine of its noble traditions and its undeniably valuable romantic atmosphere. Half-hearted attempts have occasionally been made to depart from the time-honored, but ambiguous, wine-type nomenclature inherited from Europe, only to be frustrated because the Old World wine names have become permanently anchored in the English language. And European vintners, whose principal customers already know how to buy and enjoy their merchandise, lack any motive to change their perplexing labels.

All of this confusion helps to make wine more intriguing than if it were simple. It also helps to account for the growing numbers of wine snobs. For on a subject as tangled as wine, almost anybody can expound safely, because hardly anyone else knows what is right or wrong. What is wine snobbery? Let's first get the terms straight by distinguishing among wine experts, wine connoisseurs, and wine snobs.

A genuine wine expert is one who can readily distinguish among the world's principal wines without reading the labels--a Tocai, from a Trebbiano. The number of such people is surprisingly few. You can become one, if your senses of taste and smell are keen, by sampling a sufficient number of wines with an open mind and a retentive memory, and by learning, at the same time, about the principal wine grape varieties and how wines are made.

To be a wine connoisseur, it is not necessary to be such an expert. Surely you are already a connoisseur (that is to say, a critical judge) of steaks, roasts, coffee, cheese, and also, perhaps, of liquor and cigarettes. In fact, we are all connoisseurs of the things we especially enjoy in food, drink, and entertainment. We are not shy about discussing our likes and dislikes among such items. Why be suddenly shy about our likes and dislikes among wines? Your taste is unique just as your thumb print is. You alone are the judge of what pleases your discriminating palate. It should be maintained that you are a connoisseur of wines when you have sampled enough of them to know which ones please you and which do not.

You are a wine snob, on the other hand, if (a) you look for a wine's faults instead of its virtues, if (b) you behave like an expert when you are not, if (c) you are influenced by a wine's price instead of by its flavor, if (d) you turn up your nose at bottles that lack famous names or vintage dates, if (e) you belittle wines simply because they do not come from Europe, or, in general, if you drink the label instead of the wine, whether it be a Merlot or a Viognier.

From the above distinctions it is readily apparent that while wine snobs are not necessarily experts or connoisseurs, you are likely to find many connoisseurs and some experts behaving like wine snobs.

Yet there is no particular harm in wine snobbery. In fact, it is fun, and might even be recommended as an easily acquired mark of gentility. Other cultural endeavors get welcome support from art snobs, book snobs, and music snobs, to name a few kinds. All of them enjoy themselves and derive benefit there from.
About the Author
Sarah Martin is a freelance marketing writer based out of San Diego, CA. She specializes in the history of wine, legendary vineyards, and Viognier . She especially enjoys a great glass of Trebbiano . To learn more about different grape types, please visit http://www.wineaccess.com/wine/grape .
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