Beppi Crosariol’s column of October 22nd was titled ‘The new wine snob - it might even be you’. That struck a chord!
But then my second reaction was:
What makes a snob? How do you know if you’ve become one?
Anyone with a smattering of knowledge and in a position to spew information and experiences on any particular subject and then provided with a captive audience could be a snob. An unsolicited dissertation on BMW models, the Byzantine Empire, Hollywood celebrities, etc. could be arenas for snobbery. As well, snobbery needn’t be based on wealth or the ability to afford a compulsion although it becomes more difficult to avoid if one has intimate knowledge of how a Ferrari corners on Hwy 115 curves…. or whether Carnival balconies are wider than Royal Caribbean. Even these needn’t be snobbery if the audience has the opportunity to participate. I contend the term ‘snob’ is perfectly suited to any elective pasttime - but most others use the term ‘bore’, as in ‘Gawd, he‘s a bore!’.
In the extreme, when fact becomes fiction, when claims are overstated, when verbal obscurities befuddle and mislead he/she becomes an opportunistic fraud and has reached ‘grand snobbery’, the ‘I can fool you because I know more than you’ stage.
I also contend that it takes two for snobbery to take place: the snob and the snobbee. When someone doesn’t contribute to the conversation or at least attempt to segue to other subjects they become the snob’s accomplice. As a prospective snobbee, if you find your eyes glazing over and/or your hackles start to rise it’s past time to recognize you’re being snobbed and act.
Appreciating wine depends on an ability to describe the senses of sight, smell, taste, touch and, in an obscure way, hearing. If the eloquence of a master chef mystifies then the oenologist’s surely must as he uses similes and metaphors reflecting thousands of swirls and slurps, localizing and refining each sense and accurately relating tasting conclusions. Now that these are shaped in his cranium he does his best to convey these senses without slipping into snobbery.
Added to the senses, if the oenologist has visited chateaus on the Gironde, for instance, how can he describe the seasons, the vineyards, the ancestral heritage of their owner without conveying some level of ‘Haven’t I done more interesting things than you?’ It’s a tough job needing practice and humility. Perhaps that’s what’s missing? Humility… letting others share in your conclusions…. knowing when to stop… social engagement.
OK, now what makes a snob?
You can be sure you’re a snob when:
- There’s no shared participation or give-and-take
- Your one-sided conversation continues ad nauseum
- A specialized and often intimidating language is used
Am I a wine snob? Naw… not me!