It happened again. Somebody got on a mission to prove that wine snobs are all full of shit, and then did a ‘study’ to prove it, and now it’s all over my goddamn Facebook, and I am sick of it. Joss Fong published a column entitled Expensive Wine is for Suckers. With all due respect to Mr Fong (very little), I’d like to suggest he cram this title up his ass.
I’ve tried hard to de-mistify wine over the last 13 years because I really like wine, and I want more people to be able to enjoy it. I make a specific effort to taste wines of all different styles, even styles which I don’t generally enjoy myself, just so I can remain as objective as possible in my assessments, and thereby be as helpful as possible when trying to help somebody choose the right wine for the right situation.
The trouble with this article, and most like it is, first and foremost, the title. It’s deliberately confrontational and sensationalist, and furthers the idea that there are these “wine snobs” out there who are looking down on you if you don’t know what “leesy” means. And I’m not saying that those people don’t exist, but those people are assholes independent of their interest in wine. If wine just suddenly disappeared from the face of the earth, those people would find something else to be condescending and snobby about. The rest of the wine-drinking world, and particularly the wine industry, is not out to get you just because you don’t know as much as us. You shouldn’t know as much as I do about wine. I’ve been doing this shit full-time for thirteen years. It would be outright irrational for somebody who doesn’t actually make a living in this industry to spend as much time and energy trying to learn all this crap. But do you know why I do that? Because it helps me sell wine to people. Not like a con artist who’s trying to figure out what are the right words to convince you to spend your rent on a bottle of rare Himalayan ice wine that’s harvested by sherpas and aged in barrels made out of the actual Noah’s Ark. I want to know as much about wine as I can so I can help you find the right wine for you. If you like that Santa Rita Cabernet more than the Honig Napa Cabernet, chances are you like a wine that’s basically just fruity and unassuming, and seriously that is fine with me. I can find you something that will work for you, just don’t try to make me feel like an asshole if I tell you that I genuinely prefer a more expensive wine.
The other problem with this article and others like it is food. This is a problem inherent to the wine press that is mentioned in the video, and seems to be all throughout the wine-reviewing industry. Wine tastes different with food. I don’t expect I need to get too deep into the science here. In my experience, most people who are shopping for wine are looking to have it with food. And even if they’re not, that’s a choice as well that’s going to impact your perception of the wine. Sugar, acid, tannins, and all the other chemical compounds in a wine will be perceived differently when put alongside different food pairings. Applying this to the Vox tasting, it can be generally assumed that an inexpensive wine is made to be drunk straightaway, and not specifically intended to go with food. Whereas the winemaker of the Honig almost certainly made his wine with the intention that 1) it be cellared for at least a few years and 2) it be consumed with food. The Santa Rita is literally made for these tasting conditions- it is meant to show it’s best straight out of the bottle, no aeration needed, and can be as easily appreciated in an office/video studio, as in an actual human environment. And it won’t suffer significantly from being served in COMPLETELY the wrong glassware, I mean come the fuck on, where the hell did you even get those glasses, Vox? Did you have a martini tasting last week and just bought too many glasses? Jesus tapdancing christ!
Ok, I’m calmed down now.
The other problem inherent to these “gotcha” articles that seem aimed at proving that people who claim to know things about wine actually don’t is the spurious nature of the qualifications of the judges they employ. Articles like this one will sometimes even tout the lack of experience of their tasters in an attempt to demonstrate the inherent objectivity of the palate of the common man. Or something. And here’s the thing, again, if you don’t drink a ton of wine, and you can’t tell the difference between the Honig and the Santa Rita, or you can tell the difference but you still like the cheaper one, that’s fine. Sincerely, it is. I don’t care. You should have what you like. But just because an admittedly inexperienced wine drinker prefers inexpensive wine, that doesn’t mean that people who enjoy more expensive wines are suckers. It’s exactly the same as developing a taste for any other subtly nuanced thing, whether it be food or cocktails or music or movies. I can’t tell the difference between good Dubstep and bad Dubstep, and I’m not using that as an example to make a joke about how Dubstep sucks, it just all sounds the same to me. But if you tell me you really really love dubstep, you’ve dedicated your career to becoming an expert in Dubstep, and then one day I need to buy a bottle of Dubstep, I’m gonna come to you, and I’m gonna trust your opinion, because you know a whole shitload about Dubstep, and all I know is this one time Deadmau5 played this prank on Skrillex.
Lesson learned-people who are assholes about wine are such because they are assholes, not because of the wine.