I encourage wine lovers or those new to wine to use events like wine shows to try new wines. This led me to make a few calls to find out what wines will be poured, and upon hearing some of the suggestions, I found that I was turning up my nose at some of the suggestions. “Oh dear!” I wondered to myself , “Am I becoming a wine snob?”
To some persons, wine is just a drink; to others wine is a complex artistic expression of the winemaker and the vineyard, filled with history, geography, art, science, politics and religion. I have been watching a rather amusing series on BBC America called James May’s Road Trip. Originally aired in the UK as Oz and James’s Big Wine Adventure, it is presented by wine expert Oz Clarke and motoring journalist James May (of Top Gear), with Clarke aiming to educate May about wine while undertaking a road trip. The key thing here is that James May is more interested in drinking wine than in talking about it, which is what I believe is a major difference out there in the wine world. One could argue that these two represent the two big groups that wine drinkers fall in — those with wine knowledge, and those without wine knowledge. Some suggest that a further sub-category of persons with wine knowledge exists: wine aficionados, wine experts, wine connoisseurs, and wine snobs. Let me attempt to define these terms.
Aficionado — an ardent devotee; supporter, fan, enthusiast.
Connoisseur — a person who is especially competent to pass critical judgements in an art, particularly one of the fine arts, or in matters of taste.
Expert — a person who has special skill or knowledge in some particular field; specialist; authority.
Snob — a person who believes himself or herself an expert or connoisseur in a given field and is condescending toward or disdainful of those who hold other opinions or have different tastes regarding this field.
From these definitions, it appears that a true wine expert can readily distinguish among the world’s principal wine varietals without reading the labels. You can become one by training your senses of taste and smell, and also by sampling a sufficient number of wines with an open mind and a retentive memory, and by learning, at the same time, about the principal wine grape varieties, where they are from and how they are made. Master Sommeliers, Masters of Wine and other persons who have passed advanced wine examinations are all wine experts.
To be a wine connoisseur, it is not necessary to be such an expert. In fact, we are all connoisseurs of the things we especially enjoy in food, drink, and entertainment. Jamaicans defend the preparation methods of their favourite foods with great passion. You alone are the judge of what pleases your palate. It should be maintained that you are a connoisseur of wines when you have sampled enough of them to know which ones please you and which do not.
You are a wine snob if:
a) you behave like an expert when you are not.
b) you are influenced by a wine’s price instead of by its taste.
c) you turn up your nose at bottles that lack famous names.
d) you belittle wines simply because they do not come from regions that you like.
I know a few wine importers and purveyors that belittle wines that they don’t sell themselves — snob or
From the above distinctions, it appears that wine snobs are not necessarily experts or connoisseurs, however, you are likely to find many connoisseurs and some experts behaving like wine snobs. I know
quite a few.