Are wine drinkers snobs?

Byline: | Category: Blogging, Culture, wine | Posted at: Tuesday, 10 April 2012

I’m doing some wine research and I keep running across wine blog posts that come off as . . . well, snobbish. 

Here’s one discussing the thrill of being in a bubble separate from US culture, ironically even while discounting research that such a bubble might exist.  ” . . . at least my bubble is stocked with decent wines (and, yes, most of them are French, as if that even needs to be said).”  Read the comments for more.

Dr. Vino, a Ph.D., is another blogger who sometimes treads near snobbish waters.  He wrote recently about the propensity of wine writers to write reviews of higher price wines in a post entitled, “Do wine writers write only for the one percent?” 

Obviously, not all wine writing is snobbish, and to be fair to these wine bloggers, I enjoy reading them all and have even written a guest post for one of them.  Still, there does seem to exist a tension on wine blogs between a disdain for beer and mass-produced wines on the one hand and dismay that there aren’t more American wine drinkers on the other.  It’s the oenological equivalent to simultaneously complaining about people who shop at the big box stores (especially WalMart) where most Americans shop, while trying to convince those same Americans to support their views.

If a drink divide does exist in America, the fault for the fault exists on both sides.  While travelling several states over for the Easter Holiday my radio scanned to the Sean Hannity Show.  He was in a discussion with one of his producers or interns in the studio when the subject turned to alcoholic drinks.  Asked about his drinking habits, the host was almost apoplectic with denial that he was a wine drinker.  Hannity prefers Coors Lite.  And with obvious pride, he announced that he had never eaten brie.  Chips and dip were his cocktail cuisine of choice.  It was reverse snobbery as a form of snobbery itself.

Germany, where I’ve spent most of the last two years, is a country which straddles the beer-wine divide.  Most Americans probably visualize Germans as lederhosen-clad, polka-listening swillers of suds.  However, even in beer-centric Bavaria there exists a wine region (Franken) nearly as prolific as the Sonoma Valley.  Further west along the Rhine, grapes grow in even greater abundance.  And while the Germans I’ve met each have their favorite beverage, in my experience they don’t tend to begrudge those who make a different choice.  They certainly don’t seem to attach economic or political significance to one’s choice of drink.

If there is any significance to one’s choice of drink, it is regional.  In Württemberg locals sip quarter-liter mugs of trollinger, a pale red wine made from grapes grown pretty much only in the Stuttgart area. Just east of there in Bavaria, weizen, a beer made from wheat is the beverage of choice. Further north, where barley better tolerates the cool weather, pilsner is the local drink. It is similar across much of Europe: locals drink locally.

Americans, ever willing to go national with a popular product, have broken the local link to drink.  Perhaps with the nationalization of beverages, there came about the opportunity to differentiate drinkers.  It wouldn’t be the first time that Madison Avenue marketing has convinced Americans to select products based less on what they like, and more on what they would like to say about themselves.

As one who enjoys both stem and stein, I resent the imposition of socio-politics into drink.  The choice to me is all about context:  I would no sooner drink a zinfandel at a sunny summer ball game than I would toast a bride with Budweiser.  Each has its place.  And it is not the place of wine snobs or beer-drinking reverse snobs to pronounce judgment on the other.  If you agree, I would ask that you raise your glass with me–whatever might be in it.

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One Response to “Are wine drinkers snobs?”

  1. Salty Says:

    Prost!