|(a) One who tends to patronize, rebuff, or ignore people regarded as social inferiors and imitate, admire, or seek association with people regarded as social superiors. (b) One who affects an offensive air of self-satisfied superiority in matters of taste or intellect.
O.K., even if they do, what’s it to you? The best course of action is to ignore such people, not call attention to them. But let’s power on.
1. Our first group of “suspects,” people who are wine connoisseurs, could hardly be called snobs. They are people who are seriously educated in wine and who generally enjoy sharing their knowledge with others. Everyone began at the bottom of the wine knowledge ladder, spent years acquiring their expertise, and are always in “learning mode.”
- True wine connoisseurs are very passionate and knowledgeable about wine, have highly educated palates, collect fine wine, drink very good wine as a rule and avoid middling wine. Declining to drink mediocre wine does not make one a “snob”: Would you eat a tough steak?
- Good wine does not mean pricey wine. A wine connoisseur knows how to find a satisfying $10 bottle from Cahors, South Africa or wherever. In fact, anyone knows how to find a good $100 bottle of wine. The hero is the person who finds the good $10 (or these days) $20 bottle of wine.
- True wine connoisseurs don’t care if you’re wealthy or important, as long as you have deep knowledge about wine and can have a vibrant discussion about it. A school teacher with a great palate and a wealth of information and ideas is more welcome than a millionaire with neither.
- True wine connoisseurs cherish enjoying the world’s greatest wines on special occasions and sharing them with other wine lovers—in fact, part of the excitement is having the communal experience with other wine lovers who will appreciate the bottle and remember it in discussions that will take place years hence.
- They don’t really want to have Mouton Rothschild and Chateau d’Yquem every night, because then these great wines will cease to be special experiences. They enjoy new discoveries and don’t judge anything until they’ve tried it.
Those who enjoy theatre aren’t called “theatre snobs.” Those who spend a lot on fine travel aren’t “travel snobs.” Those who pour fortunes into lavish homes aren’t “real estate snobs.” It’s that industry jargon that others don’t understand or appreciate that causes those who use it to be seen as “snobs.”
- Yes, wine connoisseurs use words like “blackcurrant,” “smokey,” “butterscotch” and “leathery” to describe wines. But that isn’t snobby, that’s descriptive—just as you’d use the words like “fruity,” “peppery,” “buttery” or “herbal” to describe different styles of olive oil.
- The overarching point is that knowledgeable people know what they want to buy. If you prefer a wine with dark fruit flavors like blackcurrant to red fruit flavors like strawberry, you want the sommelier or store clerk to point you to what you’ll enjoy—just as you want to be able to accurately describe the wine is to fellow connoisseurs.
- And while we’re at it, here’s a chart of olive oil flavors and aromas, while we’re at it.)
Now for the real wine snob.
2. If anyone needs to be called a wine snob, it’s the person who wants to impress people with his wealth and/or knowledge by throwing around the names of prestigious wines he/she has consumed. A person who acts in the manner of the dictionary definition cited above. A person who will tell you that he had a 1990 La Tache Burgundy with his burger last night.
- Real wine connoisseurs call this behavior “drinking the labels”—i.e., trying to impress others with what you own or what you’ve drunk or who you drank it with. No one thinks less of a wine snob than a wine connoisseur.
So enjoy your glass(es) of wine on this dual holiday. Think of all of those who have given their lives for our country, and how unnecessary it is to need to call anyone a wine snob—or any kind of snob—in the first place.