The “Wanker of Wine” takes on Snobs

I’m not sure Matt Skinner matters that much that I should write about his opinions. However, his opinions on wine drinkers merit a response. Nay, a rant.

Listen to what this wanker has to say:

"If you think of the wine industry as a pie then the snobs are a tiny slice of it. But they’re the slice that f***s it for everyone. Yeah, they’ve got a bit of a conspiracy to mystify it for everyone, to keep the younger generation out of the club. But fortunately, they’re quite old now, so they’re literally dying out. But oh God I’d always rather serve a table of women than men. Men – your average Friday lunchtime table of w**kers – don’t want to listen, they’re competitive with me and they want to get one up on each other by pretending they know the most about wine when blatantly they don’t… Tossers."

First thing you need to know is that Skinner is a "celebrity Sommelier" a la the Naked Chef: a young Brit who’s full of himself and thinks that the community of connoisseurs who came before him just didn’t "get it". His celebrity status might explain the ignorance embodied in the above statement. But I’m not willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. I don’t think he’s just talking to advance his celebrity. I think he’s one of those new breed of "wine people" who really believe that it’s possible to love wine without appreciating and digging down into its complexity. Of course, that’s impossible.

It’s true that "snobs/hard core wine aficionados" are a small slice of the wine drinking pie. But museum-goers are a small part of the art consumer. And civil war reenactors are only a small portion of the history lovers. But they are all the same insofar as they all dig down deep into their interests and try to understand them much more completely  than the average person. And they like to talk about their interest and hang out with others that share that intensity of interest.

What’s wrong with that Mr. Skinner?

Let’s be clear. The "Wine Snob" is nothing more than a straw horse for those who would like to be considered wine knowledgeable but don’t choose to do the work to be so. The really ugly thing about Skinner is that he’s a Wine Snob. He loves the stuff. He drinks lots of it. He buys it. He evaluates it. Yet, he’s willing to bash those other "snobs" who "mystify" to "keep others out". Honestly, the wine snob doesn’t really care about others or keeping them out. They just want to be left with their single vineyard syrah and surround themselves with others who think terroir is a philosophical concept that deserves discussion and that cute animals on labels are something better left to the hawkers of Clorox and Ban Antiperspirant.

I say THREE CHEERS for the wine snob and their willingness to indulge in their interest. Skinner can obtusely bash us all he wants. But it won’t change the fact that soil composition, hang time, the history of Burgundy and the difference between Never and Allier oak barrels can be pretty darn interesting if you are a snob.

Posted In: Wine News


8 Responses

  1. Dan - September 10, 2005

    Tom, I would make a distinction. The person you describe I would label more of a “geek” than a “snob”. The geek is one who unabashedly revels in his field for the pure enjoyment of it all.
    And it doesn’t even take a geek to enjoy wine. Please don’t tell me I can’t love the wine I’m drinking just because I can’t tell whether its been aged in Never or Allier Oak barrels. 😉

  2. Gourmets of Wine - September 11, 2005

    The “Wanker of Wine” takes on Snobs

    [Source: FERMENTATIONS: The Daily Wine Blog] quoted: First thing you need to know is that Skinner is a celebrity Sommelier a la the Naked Chef: a young Brit who’s full of himself and thinks that the community of connoisseurs who came before…

  3. Jason - September 11, 2005

    He has it backwards. It’s not the snobs and/or geeks that are trying to keep younger people from enjoying wine, it’s puffed up jerks like him. Wine snobs/geeks are generally looking to share wine and information with anyone that is around. And that be as little or basic as the person they are sharing with. If someone is a d*%k, their a d*%k. It has nothing to do with their love of wine.

  4. Anonymous - September 11, 2005

    Dan: I think Skinner is talking about our beloved “geeks” as much as he is talking about “snobs”. Of course there is an irony in that considering his positiion. Furthermore, the men he talks about hating to serve because they challenge him should really be seen as an opportunity to challenge, rather than sneer at.

  5. Tom Wark - September 11, 2005

    I think you are right about “puffed up jerks.” One of the problems I’ve always had with those who say wine is made to be too complicated and too many people are snobs about it is that wine IS complicated when you choose to really try to understand it. This is what keeps our interest. But the other issue that those who hate “snobs” don’t understand is that it is very difficult to communicate this complextity to a lay wine drinker without using words, phrases and ideas without appearing snobbish. This might be no more than a failure to communicate on the part of the Geek. But whatever it is, you can bet it is driven by enthusiasm.

  6. Jason - September 12, 2005

    Tom. Well stated and I agree!
    Maybe the best way to communicate is by sharing a nice bottle of wine with a nice dinner. 🙂

  7. maggie - September 12, 2005

    I agree with Dan. Your paragraph is also a bit out of context. As a former waiter, I think what he was really railing on is the “Got any Silver Oak/2000 Bordeaux/Grange?” crowd. The kind of people at table who are more interested in letting you know what they know (ad nauseum) so you’ll fawn all over them.
    Not the geeks who know alot about wine and want to talk about it. There’s a difference. And the former do, in fact, f***in suck to wait on. It’s interesting how defensive this Brit gets people, though, isn’t it? But maybe I just like people who push buttons.

  8. Mike - September 12, 2005

    I’m embarrassed to say it but this guy is actually an Aussie (like me) who works in the UK. I think if it wasn’t for Jamie Oliver he probably wouldn’t get a look-in as a wine educator.

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