Arthur Przebinda (of redwinebuzz.com) has an opinion piece published today in the L.A. Times' Blowback section. It's well worth a few minutes of your busy time to read.
In his well-written rebuttal of Joel Stein's amusing but ultimately misguided take on "wine snobbery", Arthur contends that the language of serious oenophiles is not meant to be pedantic, and is actually no different in principal than that of a dedicated sports fan (or a passionate follower of any field):
"...the knowledge informed wine enthusiasts possess is no less meaningful, less interesting nor more 'snobbish' or difficult than the performance statistics in the head of a sports fan or the technical information rattled off by car aficionados."
In other words, it's just geek talk. And geek talk does not necessarily a snob make...
By the way, I don't use the term geek pejoratively - in fact, I prefer to use the term "wine geek" to describe my own passion for wine (as do most of my wine industry buddies).
I love the company of wine geeks, just as I love the company of people who know way, way too much about the wood combinations of MTD basses. Because talking about wine, for me, is the apex of fun.
While I would rather leap off a 4 story building with my arms and legs bound and an anvil tied to my head than discuss fantasy baseball, you might love discussing fantasy baseball with your pals. I certainly wouldn't ridicule you for doing it - and I'd expect you to show the same respect to us wine geeks.
I think where Arthur has this right, and where Stein is way off the mark, is that wine talk itself does not equate to snobbishness. As the famous Micahel Broadbent put it in Winetasting:
"If there is such a thing as a wine snob, he or she will have all the atributes of any other sort of snob: affectation and pretentiousness covering up the lack of everything that makes a person worthy of serious attention."Kind of like when Stein starts off an article with "When wine drinkers tell me they taste notes of cherries, tobacco and rose petals, usually all I can detect is a whole lot of jackass."
Far worse than a snob in any case is a bore. The seriously smart Mr. Broadbent was onto this in a big way - also from Winetasting:
"A great expert can be a bore, particularly if speaking out of context, being repetitive, pedantic, opinionated... or merely intoing in a tedious, grinding, long-winded way. The wine bore is the person who speaks about wine when no one is inclined to listen, or to the exclusion of all else."Sounds right on the money to me, as it can easily be applied to any field of geek interest. Like wine, or fantasy baseball.
As Brit-pop music icon Morrissey sang, This World is Full of Crashing Bores. Wine bores. Fantasy Baseball bores.
And L.A. Times reporting bores.
(images: ewinetasting.com, viva-hater @ flickr.com, informationleafblower.com)