September 3, 2016
During the recent Wine Bloggers Conference in Lodi, California, Master of Wine Andrea Robinson stated, “Wine is much more niche than sports.” Of course, this got me to thinking about wine snobbery and what exactly that all means.
I’ve spent hours reading about wine (and wine snobbery for that matter), and it is a concept that continues to come up in conversations, whether they be direct or indirect.
This morning on the rainy bus ride heading to the ferry terminal to go to Vancouver Island, I started chatting with the lady beside me. An easy conversation around, “What do you do?” ensued, as per usual when new people meet, and it was a pleasant conversation with a stranger. She is a 3D animator who hails from Edmonton but lives in Vancouver. Lo and behold, the time came for me to mention that I am a teacher, but I am also in the “wine business”. Like the hands of the clock striking midnight, the question arose as to whether or not I like (and consume) cheap wine.
Without sounding exasperated (and really, I was inside), I approached the question openly by addressing that yes, I do indeed consume cheap wine. I can name “cheap” bottles, as one would say, that are my “go to” wines to have with a meal. (Cono Sur Viognier stands out at this very second. Ten bucks CAD for that bottle – a real deal!)
“At some point, you know the differences between a quality wine and a cheap wine and how it is made,” I stated gently, “and when you know that difference, you tend to simply enjoy the quality wine more.” She nodded, trying to understand where I was coming from, after blankly stating that she is “not a wine person”.
“Generally speaking, everywhere in the world, there are big wine producers and small wine producers. Big producers throw whatever grapes they can get into a wine, whereas small producers make small batches typically from local grapes in their area, if not their own estate. People who really enjoy wine tend to enjoy wines that express a sense of where they came from, as opposed to a ‘generalized’ flavour of something.”
“It’s all about preferences,” I continued after some pause, “and enjoying wine is like the person who is into art but prefers abstract pieces to pastoral scenes, or the sports fan who will watch every hockey game but loathes football.”
“When it comes to wine, you like what you like.” She concluded.
“Exactly!” I enunciated. “There’s nothing wrong with football or hockey, or liking or not liking art. Wine is all about personal preferences. And as an addition, small wineries can make crap wine, too! One just needs to learn what they prefer and enjoy that.”
“You’d be surprised at how many people conclude ‘Oh, you are really into wine? You must not like cheap wine’ when they talk to me.”
Clearly, she wasn’t headed in that direction. After all, she appeared to be a level-headed girl who can think for herself. But this whole “wine snobbery” concept has to, at some point, go into the bucket that is being kicked.
In his novel, A Hedonist in the Cellar, James McInerney candidly addresses how a delight for wine seeps into the hearts of those who appreciate this realm:
Our love of wine is the fraternal bond that brings us together, and it is the lubricant that stimulates our conversation, but it’s a polygamous relationship that encourages and enhances our other passions. It leads us to other subjects and leads us back to the world. It lifts us up and delivers us from the mundane circumstances of daily life, inspires contemplation, and, ultimately, returns us to that very world, refreshed, with enriched understanding and appreciation.” [pg XV]
Much like art brings artists together, or sports fans gather to celebrate the World Cup, wine lovers come together in the same way to enjoy the bounty that grape harvests bring.
And so, if you like what is cheap and cheerful, enjoy it. And if you like ridiculously expensive Condrieu, enjoy that, too.
That lady and I never exchanged names once the bus reached the terminal, but I am fairly certain that we didn’t need to. We were just two human beings having a friendly conversation on the bus. Phones not included.