The New Wine Snob
By Lisa Sands
Vino 100 â€“ Independence Mall
Let’s get something straight, right up front: please don’t call me a Wine Snob.
Yes, I own a wine store. Yes, I grew up in California when the famous 1976 Judgment of Paris took place, when a few of the most prestigious (read: expensive) wines of France lost in blind tastings to the “priced for the people” wines of Napa Valley. (Just because I know that tidbit doesn’t make me a Wine Snob, either). I’ve traveled to major wine regions around the world, I’ve taught wine seminars, and I’ve tasted a heck of a lot of wine. Experienced â€“ yes. Opinionated â€“ yes. But that doesn’t make me a Wine Snob.
Wine is no longer the private domain of the educated or experienced. No longer must we rely on what Wine Spectator tells us what is “good” or what the sommelier recommends. What the winery wants us to know on their label is no longer our primary source of information. There are many opinions out there that match our own personal preferences more closely.
Let’s face it; you are just a mouse click away from knowing as much about any wine, region, or vintage as those of us in the biz are. The ability to judge “good” and “bad” wines is no longer dictated by a few. We all have access to the same information, we all have the ability to form our own opinions and ultimately determine what we consider “good” by actually tasting the wine. That’s right â€“ you are the New Wine Snob.
And, it’s not to say that the facts – things like terroir, vintage, and producer – are not important to a wine’s quality. They are. Years of tasting, a deep understanding and a passion for the juice do equal professional expertise. But the single most important element in determining a good wine is your own personal opinion of that wine, and how it tastes to you.
Don’t get me wrong; I hold these experts and prestigious wineries in high regard. But the fact is, I know what I like when I taste it, and so do you. It’s very, very personal.
So what other influences, besides the winery and the pros, are out there to help us form those opinions? There are many components. It might be a new grape varietal you heard about from a friend. Maybe it’s a wine blog like this one, or a review written by someone across the globe on their own personal blog. There is no shortage of information when it comes to forming an opinion about wine. One might argue that in the Internet age, there are no Wine Snobs anymore. Personal tasting experience aside, we all have access to the same information. We are all part of the world wide (wine) web. As we share opinions with our community of fellow wine drinkers, we help others form their own opinions in an ongoing cycle.
OK, so you have formed an opinion. Now it comes down to one final element â€“ your own personal taste. Hopefully you have built a relationship with a good wine shop that has taken the time to know your tastes and can point you in the right direction. You go to wine tastings and maybe even have taken a class. You are adventurous enough to try new wines by the glass beyond Cabernet and Chardonnay. If you’ve done these things, you know what you like. So go ahead, buy the wine and send a message to the producer that yes, this is good in my opinion. Go back and share your opinion with others. And the cycle continues.
You are the New Wine Snob.
The bottom line is, the wine that you like is what you should drink. Keep tasting and don’t give up on a varietal just because you had a bad experience. Take note of opinions and recommendations, yes â€“ but in the end, you are the critic and the best one to decide what’s “good”. Have fun, and be adventurous. After all, there’s really no need to be a snob, it’s just grape juice.