Our last post was about the don'ts you should do centered around summer drinking and enjoying yourself. Today's post is going to go in the opposite direction. Let´s go over some of those snobby things wine people do and why you should care about them.
Swirling: Does it look pretentious to swirl a glass and smell the wine repeatedly? Evidently yes is the answer according to many of my non wine geek friends. I think it is not appreciated by some people because it isn't understood. Swirling the wine in the glass releases the aromas (what the grape naturally gave the wine) and the bouquet (what the winemaker did to it, such as malolactic fermentation and oak aging). This action allows the wine to reach further up in the glass so that you can stick your nose obnoxiously deep into said glass and detect more nuances from the wine as you smell it. Now why are you smelling it in the first place? Because your nose informs your palate and while your palate has the basic sensory evaluations, your nose can pick up 250 different scents giving your wine experience far more depth and enjoyment.
Spitting: I know, it IS gross. It also does seem to convey a snobby flare, usually since that person is also taking notes like a dork and asking nerdy questions. I am that dork. The reason for it is to evenly compare wines. If I am going to go to multiple wineries in a day, I am the designated driver, or I am formally critiquing a wine, I need to spit. When you swallow wine, your senses dull and your ability to decipher subtle differences between wines wanes. Now, ideally the person spitting should be respectful of those around them and ask for a personal cup or dump bucket so that they are not spitting directly into the group dump bucket.
Decanting: One of the most common snobby wine impersonations I witness all the time is someone, with their face exaggerated into a form of distaste, announce "shall I decant this?!?" It usually gets a laugh from the group. There really isn't anything snobby about decanting except that it indicates you may know more about wine than your neighbor, or you know the party hack of putting a cheap wine in a decanter so no one will know what it is and assume it is expensive. Some ask if every single wine should be decanted. The answer is no, not ALL wine should be decanted. So, if you have been using this to try and sound like you know about wine, you actually outed yourself as not knowing what you were talking about. Decanting is great for a wine that is older and has sediment in it, but is most often used to speed up the aging process. A wine built to age shows a softening of the tannins and a taming of the fruit over time. A wine meant to age, but you simply can't wait to drink it, will benefit from decanting it. Another tip, don't get one of those fancy art looking decanters, they are tricky to pour out of (especially the more you drink) and are a real pain to clean.
Now there are some wine snob things that no one should do because, well they are an a$$hole move. For example, correcting someone just is plain rude. If someone says they smell or taste something in the wine, they get to have that opinion! If the server screws up information about a wine (aside from bringing you the wrong bottle of course), don't correct them in front of everyone. If this is important information for the table to know, then share the correction after the server leaves. Also, don't put people on the spot demanding someone analyze a wine just because you like to do so. A great way to ruin the experience of drinking a nice glass of wine is to force someone that is insecure about their wine vocabulary or knowledge to speak up. And one of the rudest things wine snobs can do is serve one wine to a group while hiding the "good" wine for the serious wine drinkers in the kitchen or behind the bar. You never know who might be about to have their big ah-ha wine moment, be the person that helps them have it, not the person that keeps them from it.
In the end, it is all about enjoyment! If you have a question, ASK. Wondering why someone is doing something? ASK. Don't know about an area or grape? ASK. The server is there for exactly that, especially if you are at a winery or wine bar. Unsure if it is a cool move or a snobby one? Rule of thumb is to just be nice. If whatever you are attempting to do with the glass of wine in your hand can be done respectfully, politely, and without causing a scene, then by all means, swish the wine in your mouth, hold it up to the light, tell your friend who asked you about the wine all the fun facts you know, but if you start lecturing the entire room, ask people to move so you can get to the window for better light, or gurgle so loud it grosses out people, you are not being a snob, you are just being a jerk.
-Cheers from the Vivác Winery Family!
Written by Michele Padberg, co-owner of Vivac Winery. If you enjoy this blog, check out her personal blog Wine First Adventures www.WineFirst.net