How to Fake Oenophilia

I don’t drink. I did when I was a teenager, but that was mostly for show. I never really acquired a taste for alcohol. Plus, I’m kind of anhedonic. I’m not a teetotaller–go forth and drink up–it’s just not for me.

At various people’s urgings, I have, on occasion, tasted an alcoholic beverage. They mostly taste bad, but nothing tastes more foul to my virgin tongue than wine.

Of course, nearly everybody else loves wine. And that’s fine. I do find the snobby celebration of all things vino quite farcical. The frequent bollocks from wine producers, sellers and consumers gets kind of grating. Plus, I find that anybody who takes a single wine appreciation course becomes a confident assessor of the grape juice, and can hold forth at length about its ‘oaken, fruity frankness’ or whatever.

I’ve always imagined that it was just a twist of fate that made wine the most examined beverage in our society. Why not, say, orange juice? “My, the pulpy tang of this Valencia 2002 really sneaks up on you, doesn’t it?”

I can’t remember where, but I recently read a fantastic article about the moral superiority that now accompanies discussions of food and wine. Like, we’re better people because we eat organic chicken.

That’s a long, ranty introduction to this blog post entitled “How To Be A Snob: Drinking Alcohol” (thanks to Waxy):

Do not speak. Scent is pretty easy to verify, so if you guess wrong then everyone will know what a yutz you are. If someone ventures their own review as to what it smells like, frown as though you’re too busy concentrating on this intense bouquet to interrupt it with stupid words. This automatically gives you the edge, since as a conneisseur you know enough not to discuss anything until the full tasting is over.

I could follow these instructions, and just skip the drinking step.

UPDATE: Boris rightfully points up that this would be the perfect opportunity to pimp VinoCamp at UBC Botanical Gardens. He assures me that “it’s like wine tasting minus the snobbery…or something.”


  1. I’m with you on the inability to enjoy alcohol; I never could get past the taste. But it’s incorrect to pin snobbery on wine. The same behaviour can be found amongst drinkers of Scotch, Port, Bourbon, Tequila, and even Rum.

  2. I’ve often noted that the terms winey types use when describing their drinks are remarkably similar to (and equally arm-wavy as) the words that type-nerds use when discussing the character of their favourite fonts.

  3. I looooooooooooooooooooove wine. It must be because I lived in France, because I have a hard time NOT having a drink with my meal.

    Having said that, I like red wine and I like all sorts. Sure I can tell my Pinot Noir from my Shiraz, but I can’t guess the year or where it comes from and I won’t go and spend crazy amounts of money on one bottle.

    It’s funny you should mention orange juice. When I lived in the UK, I used to love watching Jilly Goolden on the BBC. She was totally wacky and outrageous. She could taste a wine and tell you what it was, where it was from and what year. She could do that to with orange juice, apple juice, bubbly, port, anything drinkable. It’s was pretty fun to watch her describe “orange juice vintage”.

  4. I’m not a wine snob at all (I’m not an anything snob, to the best of my knowledge). I think why wine snobbery (and liquor snobbery in general) is more pronounced than, say, orange juice snobbery, is that wine is fermented. When you’re fermenting things, there’s a lot going on, and various subtleties can pop up. This applies to cheeses, vinegars, liquor, etc.

    Because there’s such a variety, it doesn’t hurt to have a common language to discuss the attributes of a wine. This doesn’t mean that people that talk about “the aroma of strawberry gum, stuck to a shoe, walking across hot asphalt” aren’t bullshitting, but being able to talk about something you like isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

    Speaking of variety – if there were several hundred different types of orange juice available to me (like there is for, say, chardonnay), I may come up with some descriptive terms to talk about orange juices I particularly like.

  5. Don’t forget about coffee! Another acquired taste (that I believe you never acquired!)…Coffee might be the new wine…coffee sommeliers?

  6. Actually, I did take a few wine tasting classes and what I learned was that there was no “right” or “wrong” scent (that is, bouquet for wine drinkers) that can be verified. You’re better off to just smell it and say honestly what it smells like. The wine doesn’t actually smell like apples or pears or whatever, its just a chemical effect of the fermented grape’s aroma with your nose anyway. So if someone says what you honestly smell is wrong then they are the ones who are wrong. They aren’t smelling what you smell.

    Are you sure your finding wine tasting as snobbery isn’t really your own fear of being wrong? Don’t worry, there is no wrong tasting.

  7. Ok, time for me to be honest (I always am, but this will be a total embarrassment). I’m a trained bartender yet I don’t like drinking wine. Worse off, up until 2007, even though I’m trained as a bartender, I had NEVER opened a bottle of wine.

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