How Do You Express Your Knowledge of Wine?

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Snobbish: “an offensive air of superiority in matters of knowledge or taste.”

Modest: “humble, unassuming, unpretentious.”

These terms have been applied to wine consumers for many centuries, and have become even more in vogue since the beginning of the present century.

The term snob has many applications in life. In my wine circles, it is an especially derisive term. Who among us needs to know how superior a fellow wine consumer may be, especially if we are constantly reminded of this by his or her highbrow attitude of unequaled wine knowledge and impeccable wine palate?

But what of that modest wine consumer who has a similar encyclopedic knowledge base but taps into it only to aid and assist others? To my mind, this individual is the ultimate resource and sounding board. Friends and family learn by osmosis as they drink side by side and are showered with tidbits of wine knowledge – all the while asserting their individual palates and preferences.

In my travels and encounters with readers and fellow wine consumers, I strive to be informative and unpretentious. At times I am successful and am told so. On other occasions I perceive a glazed stare or a painful wince as I regale my audience with the broad and deep knowledge I’ve acquired over decades of exposure to the foibles and delights of diligent wine consumption. Snobbery or modesty? I take the fifth (of wine?).

Allow me to pose the same question to you, my reader. What is your reaction to those presenting themselves as informed consumers?

Are you a reluctant consumer? Always considering alternative wines recommended by a sommelier or friend, but just not willing to divert from the tried and true? “No thanks, I know what I like and I’m staying with it.”

Are you an explorer? In the appropriate circumstances, always willing to rely on a recommendation from a trusted source, be it a professional or a personal friend or family member? “An alternative to Pinot Grigio? Sure, I trust your judgment and may find my next favorite wine.”

Or are you perhaps an evolving oenophile? Starting out with a $10 California red blend; then, with the aid of a trusted/modest wine expert, you trained your palate to enjoy the next wines to which you were exposed. Red blends from France, Bordeaux and the Rhone Valley? Then, this same knowledgeable individual guided you in singling out a particular grape, which led to a quest to find suitable representations of this varietal. Cabernet Sauvignon? Syrah? “I started out investing a Hamilton, and then I moved up to a Jackson and now I’m deep into Grants.”

I consider myself a modest, unpretentious oenophile; quick to offer advice, but withdrawing if I sense that my audience perceives an offensive air of superiority.

But alas, there are repercussions as I ply my knowledge and increasingly sophisticated palate. Not all of my dining mates are willing to dole out increasing numbers of their Jacksons when they dine with me. I find my wine budget getting stretched each time I dine at a restaurant with a deep and broad wine list. When I visit one of my favorite wine shops I walk among those aisles where I am the only customer.

There is other evidence of wine snobbery. You know you’re over the top – at least in the eyes of those around you – if you won’t drink a wine unless it is presented at the perfect temperature, in a Riedel crystal glass, in the preferred shape for the wine at hand. I attempt to avoid these situations but must admit to increasingly succumbing to these practices.

In which category do you place yourself? I encourage you to be “humble, unassuming and unpretentious” in your pursuits. My unwavering advice to all who seek it: Continuous experimentation results in discoveries that lead you down the path to enhanced appreciation of wine at any, and all, levels. I must say, I’m enjoying the experience myself.

Nick Antonaccio is a 45-year Pleasantville resident. For over 25 years, he has conducted wine tastings and lectures. Nick is a member and program director of the Wine Media Guild of wine journalists. He also offers personalized wine tastings. Nick’s credo: continuous experimenting results in instinctive behavior. You can reach him at

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