Yesterday afternoon I read an article that really annoyed me. It highlighted two people, the author and another character in it that have come to epitomize the snobbish image of wine. It is also part of something larger and more recent. Over the course of the last couple years, I have noticed a disturbing trend, however before I tell you what it is, let me first put things it into context.
The mass appeal of obtaining wine knowledge is a rather new concept. In fact, it was only four decades ago that popular publications such as Wine Advocate and Wine Spectator burst onto the scene. This was a seminal moment in the history of the wine world. It marked the introduction of wine knowledge to the masses. Prior to this, wine knowledge was in many ways privy to a select few. Thanks to the likes of Robert Parker, James Suckling, Matt Kramer and James Laube that hidden knowledge was brought to the forefront. Subsequently, these names also began to become commonplace in wine circles, as people were beginning to broaden their horizons beyond French wines, largely on their recommendations. However, as is the case with any newfound knowledge, the newly educated like to show off and quickly revolt against the teacher.
Enter the new wine “elite”. Starting in the 1990s and gaining a heck of a lot of momentum in the 2000s, this new group, emboldened by the anonymity of the web, lashed out in droves against anything seen as established. In some cases this was justified and the arguments made are well thought out and necessary. They also stand up against the small portion of the established elite that need a swift kick, because they are the ones who continue to portray wine as something unobtainable. Nothing is perfect, so why not attempt to improve upon it?!
However, other sects are overly critical and typically act as nothing more than mere bullies. Whether overt or covert, it does not matter, if someone doesn’t like what you or anyone else had to say, they are the first to jump on their blogs or Twitter, try to intimidate at the dinner table, or trash you on a message board. Ironically, this rebellious lot has become the one thing that they despise, elitist. They have the secret knowledge and you don’t, so you must be wrong.
The issue I have with a lot of their positioning is that they largely do not try to be constructive in their criticisms, but rather dismissive and disrespectful. Their mantra? Established wine critics are bad, the 100-point rating system is worse, Robert Parker is Satan and sommeliers are dirt (or some variation of this). This part of the revolution I have never understood. What is so wrong with tradition, recognizing and appreciating outstanding wines, education, offering ratings as a consumer tool, social graces and appreciating who got us to this point? In their eyes, a lot!
To me, wine is about fun, friends, dreaming, appreciation, experiences and history. Drinking wine is an everyday act that consciously can bring us back hundreds of years or turn a dinner into a feast. In general, it amplifies life. Thus, in many ways I do have an issue with those who buck tradition and establishment just for the sake it. You are more than welcomed to have your opinions, but don’t ruin things for others. It is nonsense and self-serving, nothing more.
However this mindset goes a lot deeper, with some of the most popular figures in the modern wine world feeding off of this dissention. What this leads to, in my opinion, is a diluted pool of knowledge that does little to educate and uplift, two of the key elements of wine. I hope that this trend dissipates, as life is too short to think that you are better than others. Instead of tearing down be constructive, let’s educate and show what the gracious life that Robert Mondavi expounded is all about. The more we do this, the more people will join our ranks as wine lovers and the more people we will have to share tremendous experiences with moving forward.