Let’s face it, we all know someone we would deem to be a “wine snob.” In fact, I’m sure a lot of people call me a snob.
The truth-of-the-matter is that some people have earned the right to varying degrees of superiority on a topic when that’s what they do for a living.
To illustrate, let me tell you about my dad. He’s a joiner (carpenter) back in England. Needless-to-say, whenever he comes to visit, I have him doing the occasional “odd job” around my house. Without fail, whenever he needs to use one of my power tools, he’ll say something along the lines of: “Where did you buy that piece-of-crap drill from!?!? Toys R Us!?!?” or when talking about DIY work I’ve done “Who put this bloody shelf up!?!?! A blind man!?!?!”
Is my dad a “carpentry snob”? No. He just knows his sh*t, and when it comes down to the job he’s been doing since he was 15 years old, he doesn’t have time for amateurs like me.
What I’m getting at here is that some people truly know what they’re talking about when it comes to wine; not that it gives them the right to belittle other people who may know less, but it certainly entitles them (at least partially) to an elevated social status on the subject.
The people I’m taking issue with here are the ones that have absolutely no right to be pretentious about wine. The ones that maybe own a wine cellar, but couldn’t tell you what Burgundy is. The ones who claim to have an “exquisite and discerning palate,” but in a blind tasting, couldn’t tell the difference between Bordeaux and California.
Here are a few tips to help you combat your token wine snob (and just in case you were wondering, punching them in the face isn’t one of my suggested moves):
1. Don’t drink wine with them in the first place!
Ok, this is self-explanatory and could be a little difficult to avoid; but if you really have a friend that is a total douche when it comes to wine, maybe its best to avoid popping open a bottle of vino with them altogether! It may sound like a drastic step, but even I have a few “acquaintances” for whom I completely refuse to drink wine with.
Sure, in social settings I love to talk about wine, but I don’t need an education from someone who knows less than me. It’s exactly the same as me coming into your place of employment and instructing you how to do your job.
2. Insist on blind tasting them.
If you execute this properly, you might not even need to use the remaining 3 tips!
Blind tasting wines (and correctly guessing their origin) is a surefire way to “out” any wine snob. Even seasoned wine pro’s (especially if it’s a blend) have a hard time pin-pointing the origin or grapes of a wine.
With this being said, it’s probably unwise to blind taste someone who does actually know a thing-or-three about wine. Also, be careful about the wine you choose. New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, for example, can be recognized at 100 paces!
The flip-side of this scenario is if they correctly guess the juice that you just poured them, you’ll end giving them an eternal chip on their shoulder, and you’ll have to forever being regaled with: “Remember when you blind tasted me, and I guessed that wine!?!?! I have an AMAZING palate!!!”
3. Fire plenty of very specific questions their way.
“Tell me more about what the ‘legs of a wine’ actually mean…”
“What was it that you didn’t like about that vintage?”
“What is it about Spanish wines you don’t like?”
“So you say you hate every wine with a screw-cap…why is that?”
This could go either way, unless you’re very direct about the questions you’re asking, and you could in fact just end up feeding the fire that is their incessant need to fain an air of superiority in all things vinous! It would also help if you were asking questions that you already knew the answer to…
4. Try and reason with them.
It extremely easy to bad-mouth a wine that costs under $15, that is, when you’re comparing it to a wine that’s over $30 (most of the time). What people need to understand is that all wines have their place! I wouldn’t expect Screaming Eagle to be served at a baby shower, in the same way I wouldn’t want to celebrate my 50th birthday with Woodbridge. Sometimes a wine snob just needs to hear the voice of reason: “Hey, look dude, we’re at a wedding. Did you expect Chateau Margaux?”
If this doesn’t work, you can quite safely move on to the next step!
5. Blind them with bullsh*t.
If you absolutely can’t escape a conversation about wine with a self-appointed “connoisseur,” let me help by throwing a few extremely generic statements your way, that will – at the very least – give you something to contribute:
“I think it needs a little time to open up.”
This can be used in just about any scenario when drinking red wine.
“It could maybe do with a little more time in the bottle. Don’t you think?”
Same as above.
“I get a lot of apple and pear…”
Applicable to every Chardonnay in the world.
“I get a lot of red fruit….”
Applicable to the majority of Pinot Noirs in the world.
“I’m getting almost an earth/truffle/olive/spice/mineral quality to this wine.”
Applicable to a large majority of reds from the “Old World” i.e. Europe.
“That’s really crisp and refreshing. I can’t tell if there’s oak there, but if there is, it’s not hugely obvious.”
More-or-less can be used to generically describe just about every single Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Pinot Grigio/Gris et al. Certainly only use this one if the oak is indeed not “hugely obvious.”
“It has a great nose!”
Again, only to be used if the wine actually has a great smell to it.
“It needs food.”
Applicable to everything.
“Oh yeah? I must have missed that copy of the Wine Spectator.”
Maybe a little more aggressive/sarcastic than you might be looking for, but you wouldn’t believe how many people I run across that recite rhetoric such as: “I’m just not a fan of the 09 Pinots from Oregon. I would much rather an 08!” This when I know full-well that the Wine Spectator/Wall Street Journal etc. conveniently said the exact same thing in an article only days earlier. What a strange coincidence!