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On Tasting
Steps in Becoming a Wine Snob
Saturday, 10th December, 2011  - David Farmer

In days not long ago it was easy to be seen as a wine expert and it only took one further step to be a wine snob. I'm still learning that final step. Recall that a wine snob is different to a wine-wanker; the latter being reserved for those who talk a lot but who know little. There is also the anti-wanker or awanker who talk a lot about the fact that there is nothing to know, a trait which is quite likeable, though they get exposed at events by returning regularly to the best bottle thus revealing that they are wine snobs. As you can see this is a very complex area of human behaviour.

This discussion has been inspired by an article in the Globe and Mail (Toronto), July 2nd 2011, 'Is my wine-snob friend going to ruin my dinner party?'; by Chris Nuttall-Smith.

"The question: I'm hosting a wine dinner next month for which every guest will bring a great bottle that they're excited about. One of the guests, however, is quite a collector. She told me she plans to bring a 1989 Barolo, and then offered to bring along "varietal-specific glassware," as she put it. When I followed up, she said it "would be a waste" to drink a wine this good from a glass that isn't made for Barolo. Say what?"

"The answer: Your friend has brilliant taste in wine for someone so gullible. Some glassware companies claim – albeit without any evidence – that minor variations in the shape of a tasting instrument, as they often call them, dramatically affect the way a wine tastes in your mouth. Actual scientists who've done real studies counter that this is nonsense, at best, but the marketers persist. And so consumers like your friend believe they're not alive unless they've got entirely different glasses sets for chardonnay from Chablis, chardonnay from Montrachet, vintage Champagne, ordinary Champagne, sparkling wine (seriously!) ... the list goes on. If your friend wants to bring her own glasses, let her – there's no harm done, and you're getting some pretty great juice in the bargain. But save your own cash for what really affects the way wine tastes in your mouth: the wine itself."

I love the idea of rocking up with a bottle and the appropriate Riedel's or some other enormous glasses or even better imagine arriving with just one glass. While I have a large number of oversized glasses I no longer know which is for which wine. If you find yourself in this position you should be able to bluff your way through, though how embarrassing if you were challenged that it's not an authentic Barolo glass! In this situation I would argue that I accidentally picked the wrong bottle from the cellar.

My specialty has been to arrive with the wine in a decanter of which I have a large collection though this is a story for another time.

Back though to the wine writer's advice as Mr Nuttall-Smith takes a purely scientific view whereas the taste of wine is related to the glassware and many other subjective things, such as the price paid. Indeed as a rule of thumb I believe the greater the theatre the finer the taste. The sommeliers in the finest French restaurants knew this 50 years ago when they pioneered the giant balloon glasses which appeared whenever they deemed a better than average wine had been ordered. Oh how important this made us feel.

I trust the food was good enough for the Barolo. Would it be wrong to arrive with the correct cheese for the wine?

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