It happened. Somewhere between helping a customer decide between a mind-blowing Sancerre and a staggering Roero Arneis, they looked at me and uttered the words. “You’re a big ol’ wine snob, aren’t you?”
I took pause. Am I?
I’ve been at this whole wine thing for a while now, but not nearly as long as others. As I’ve noted before, my
interest was a latent one, then a budding one, and only now am I aware I’m in the downward descent towards complete obsession. And frankly, I’m excited.
That said, am I becoming jaded about what I taste and recommend? What makes a wine snob? What makes a wine geek? I humbly submit I’m firmly in the latter camp, with little to no desire to be associated with the former. Sure, I go bug-eyed when I encounter certain wines. Yes, sometimes my knees buckle. And yes, I often tell my customers as far as my tastes go, the weirder the better. In short, I geek out.
Does this mean I am turned off by oaky California Chardonnay? Sure, but I won’t begrudge someone their tastes, if that is what they are looking for. That’s the distinction between “snob” and “geek,” I think: Personally, I will seek out bottles that scream at me to guzzle–because they are new, different, exciting, whatever–but generally speaking, it is a cardinal sin as a wine-lover to sneer at the consumer for their taste in what may be considered “common.” That’s bullshit, frankly. I’m here to help you find a bottle you’ll enjoy. Heck, one of my favorite wines–because it reminds me of my best friends and being young and foolish on a porch on a balmy Chicago summer night–is only $2.99. Does that make me snobby?
I avoid wine rankings and the Parker scale. While I commend rankings as a way for casual wine consumers to dip their toes into the water, I think it’s too simplistic. Wine should be an adventure, good or bad, and while recommendations from a knowledgeable shop clerk are encouraged (ahem), rankings are too cold, too easy. After reading Eric Asimov‘s How To Love Wine, I read on paper for the first time an echo of how I’ve been feeling about the whole business. As Asimov so eloquently hammers home, “The primary purpose of wine is to provide pleasure and refreshment. It can do so much more than that, but should never do less.” Amen.
The customer’s question sent me through a lightning-quick existential crisis. Am I, in fact, a wine-snob? My response: “I should certainly hope not.”