Having not been active in the wine industry for long, I’m trying to be open. I listen to what everyone has to say and for the most part I enjoy meeting new people. Wine is a product of fun and sharing after all. I’ve had great conversations with students and teachers, masters and enthusiasts, everyday wine drinkers and even people who don’t like wine.
Wine is a product with a big and very diverse consumer base, and it possibly is one of the very few industries that you can make a career without an education on the subject.
The “wine is an art” philosophy and the natural wine movement, contribute to the idea that everyone can make wine. And it is true that you only need observation and taste to make wine, perhaps even good wine.
There are many who decide to change their career and turn to wine from production to sales. I get it, it’s fascinating. Lawyers and teachers alike, and everyone in between, take a chance and try to make a new beginning in wine. Successful or not in their “past life” a new chance is presented.
There are many paths to take. Some choose to pursue an education in wine first. These people are making a conscious decision to change their life, and take it one steady step at a time. And I admire them, because it takes courage to drop everything and pursue a dream. For them, a university course or some seminars seem the way to go. Education, even in wine, is not a waste of time. It gives you access to all the knowledge gathered during millennia in an understandable way. You learn to ask “why” and to make the appropriate choices in every situation.
On the other hand, there are people who started their career in a totally different way. At a certain point they liked wine. Perhaps read a book or two about their favourite wine. They quickly became the best in their group of friends and associates when wine was involved. That is possibly the first time they are the best in something. That’s when they start to advertise their knowledge to anyone who will listen.
Just like that, wine snobs are born.
The ability and willingness of the wine world to take you in is abused. Here applies the phrase “between the blind men, the one-eyed-man prevails”. The wine snob doesn’t hesitate to talk about all things wine. Usually this happens in basic consumer groups, where nobody really cares about what there is to be said. Most of the time talking confidently with half-educated phrases, trying to intimidate everyone, is enough to make them surrender to their grandeur. Because they’re the best. And they succeed since they sell a facade of knowledge to the non-knowledgeable.
Just like with every other aspect in life, lack of knowledge leads to the adoption of certain ideas that are followed religiously. The same happens to the wine snobs. Their “expertise” usually expands from what is the best soil type for each variety, to what is the best wine in Hawai’i. Many times these ideas are at the extremes. It gives them something to defend in a conversation, but are not willing to admit a mistake or an alternative opinion no matter the counter arguments they are presented with.
Wine gives indeed the flexibility of sometimes allowing different approaches on the same problem, all of which can be right. By adopting the most extreme approach and considering all others as wrong, they try to minimise every dissimilar opinion and become once again the best. Words like “always”, “never”, “can’t”, “this is how X does it”, are used in every other sentence.
When I accidentally become entangled in a situation like this I don’t get mad. I know whatever I say will be used against me by the wine snob, and that there is no point in trying to make an argument. Nor I agree with them if I don’t believe in it. Avoiding feeding the egoism of wine snobs that are trying to show off is the best approach.
There are always people who take advantage of situations. In wine, the openness and acceptance of the industry gives the stepping foot to do something you can’t do in other sciences. It enables fake importance.
There are high chances, that while reading this article someone you know came to mind. Maybe it’s your best friend, maybe it’s the sales person at the wine shop, or maybe it’s you.
Openness and acceptance is key in whatever you do. Keep that in mind and life goes on.
Until next time,
Disclaimer: There are terrific people out there who haven’t opened a single book about wine and can make mind-blowing wines. This is clearly not about them. Also, I’m obviously not a psychologist.