Taking the “Snob” Out of Wine

Over the years and centuries, wine has developed an image. Picture well-to-do’s in evening attire swirling their red wine in fragile long stemmed glassware. Examining the legs creeping down the glass, wafting the aromas in idle conversation as words of poetry flow in eloquent descriptions of the grape juice they are sipping.

That has always baffled me. Why does wine have such a fancy pants image? Beer certainly does not have that image. Although craft beer in recent years have worked its way into the gastronomic scene, not to mention world competitions, tasting events and clubs – all revolved around the noble grain based beverage. Yet it still does not stack up to the upheld image of wine.

Do these “snobs” know that their beverage is derived from one of the most primitave means of production…agriculture? Sadly, corn farmers are not held as in high regard as the winemaker and vineyard tender. Why is that? Corn can be manipulated in many ways, from backyard BBQ corn-on-the-cob to Michelin level restaurant presentation on a tiny bed of arugula laced with truffles and caviar (I’m not sure that’s actually been served, so don’t quote me on that). In the same sense you have a range from box of wine to a 50 year old Lafite Rothschild. What’s the difference?

I deduct it all breaks down to conversation pieces. The French constantly talk about food. They talk about food when they are eating, and when they are not eating, they are planning the next meal. They discuss proper preparation, combinations, what not to do. Americans aren’t as big of a foodie culture across the board. Don’t get me wrong, some of the best restaurants in the world are in our great country. But when it comes down to the average Joe, most are content with a quick, easy, non-complicated meal. To the French, food is life, and every meal should be the best meal you’ve ever eaten. Americans therefore need something to discuss at social gatherings. Since it’s typically not food, we choose another standard offering of our gracious host; wine. Because wine is such a basis of conversation in many social settings, that is part of the reason I believe Americans are so inquisitive about their wine. French, Italians and Spanish tend not to question what percentage of which grape is in their bottle, Americans must know. To Americans, knowledge is power and prestige. The more you know about your wine, the more you can speak with confidence and always have a fall back conversation piece at the next dinner party.

I believe the younger generation is starting to change the image that previous generations have instilled upon wine. It’s becoming more acceptable to simply know your likes and dislikes and discuss them with open minds. Don’t feel bad if the 1979  Bordeaux you are sipping is not your favorite, although I personally wouldn’t dump it in the swill bucket among company.

I don’t believe in wine “experts.” I think it’s impossible to know everything there is about wine. Every wine drinker is constantly learning. No one is a better wine drinker, maybe a bit more knowledgable, but no need for the aloofness! Were your teachers aloof in school? I sure hope not. They were there to educate you, not make you feel dumb. The best way to defeat that urge to snob (and avoid being snobbed) is to taste, taste, taste. Taste as many wines as you can, develop your palate and you will soon be able to easily distinguish varietals, regions and characteristics of your favorite bottle of wine. It could be an old Burgundy, an Argentine Malbec or heaven forbid, a Merlot (there is nothing wrong with Merlot in my mind). Your tastes are your own, and everyone has different taste buds. Embrace it. And most importantly, relax.

Decanted Wines hosts weekly tastings from 5:30-8:00 pm. Visit http://www.decantedwines.com for the events schedule and upcoming tastings.

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Posted on June 17, 2010, in Wine. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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