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This World is Full of Crashing (Wine) Bores

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)


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the links dude, I had a read at both the original article and the response.

I hope Joel was expecting this kind of blowback. Any time you off-handedly insult something many people take seriously, there is bound to be a slew of informed people raising their eyebrows at you.

If his goal was to ruffle some feathers, I think he was modestly successful. If it was to make a comprehensive argument, I think he fell far short.

Anonymous said...

Yep, we've got to work on that book... :-)

Anonymous said...

Oh no! Not another Morrisey fan!

Thank you for the very kind words Joe!

Frankly, responding to Steins piece seemed so simple to do do that I was surprised nobody had beat me to it.

Anonymous said...

I know a lot of baseball fans but they have never forced their baseball knowledge on me at the dinner table. I have never met one that called himself a Master of Baseball and insisted on a M.B. after his signature. I have never met a baseball fan who picked his favorite players or favorite team based on the opinion of a baseball critic. Or bragged that his team had the critics highest rated score. A baseball fan will watch a tee ball game, little league, women's softball, go to a losing double A minor league game just as happily as they do to the majors. And not a single one would get hot under the collar if someone made fun of their enthusiasm. They'd have a good laugh and go back to the game.

Joe Roberts said...

Great point Morton - some of the 'wine snob' criticism is deserved, otherwise it wouldn't carry such a negative (and easily recognizable) perception.

Having said that - I've known many, may sports fans (baseball and otherwise) who do follow teams by jumping on the latest bandwagon - and I'd argue that blindly following Parker wine scores isn't much different.

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