There have been a few recent blog posts that have gotten the old noodle going for me. It started a little over a week ago when I read a post called It is Time to Put the Snobbery BACK into Wine on Hardy Wallace’s Dirty South Wine blog. I really intended to write a response right away, but being the slacker that I am, I didn’t act on that thought right away. After some more thought, I wanted to go ahead and respond to Hardy’s post.
Hardy’s overall point was that we have dumbed down wine to the point that quality has been affected. When we take away all of the things that make wine special, we end up with a lot of bulk wines that people think are comparable to the wines that are, “made by hand, heart, blood and sweat from a piece of dirt with something articulate and beautiful to say.” Reading through the comments on the post, it was clear that some people got caught up in some of the tone and word selection of the post (introducing the word “snobbery” with a positive connotation is a sure way to get people’s gander up), and might have missed the point of what Hardy was saying. Hardy is one of the masters of sharing real information about wine without coming across as being snobby. If you have had him guide you through a tasting at The Natural Process Alliance then you know exactly what I’m talking about. Hardy is a wine geek, but he’s still able to share the story of the wines that he loves in a way that people can understand, and relate to.
That being said, I think that it needs to be acknowledged that sometimes us wine geeks can take this whole thing TOO seriously. Sometimes people just want to drink. Despite all of the great stories that are behind the wines, at its heart wine is just fermented grape juice. It tastes good and it gives you a buzz. Just because I have so thoroughly jumped into the world of wine that I catch myself swirling my water in the glass doesn’t mean that everyone else cares about the little facts that I know about the wine they are drinking with dinner. Most of us who are prone to vociferously rattling on about wine have learned to diagnose the situations where people are actually interested in learning more about wine, and those where they are just into drinking it. Those who haven’t learned this skill generally come across as pompous gasbags. Although I want everyone to come over to the geek side, it just isn’t going to happen.
There is also a time and place for bulk wine, after-all, most of us aren’t going to be drinking Chateau Latour with our Tuesday night frozen pizza. Hardy even somewhat acknowledges this in his post. I think that looking down on people for enjoying bulk wine is where we start to venture into “snob” territory. I have friends who drink nothing but Two Buck Chuck and Yellowtail. If that does the trick for them, more power to ‘em. I definitely prefer to drink non-bulk wines, but I am not going to be opening up that $30+ bottle of wine in the middle of the week with my fast food. When I drink my supermarket wine, I am well aware that there are a lot of wines that are much more complex and of higher quality, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t enjoy what I’m drinking.
In general I agree with Hardy’s point. We shouldn’t flush everything that makes wine wine in the interest of “demystifying” it. The stories, places, and information about the wines are what captured my imagination initially and made me want to learn more, and I think that removing those things will actually create a barrier to people really getting into wine on a deeper level. All the “geeky” stuff about wine are what gives it substance, but there is a delicate balance between sharing information about wine and sucking all the fun out of it. Hardy does a good job with maintaining that balance, but a lot of others don’t. I definitely don’t think that we need to start bringin’ snobby back, but I’m all for keeping wine real.