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E-Mail: How to Level-Up Your Wine Snobbery

Hi Ben

Once again I've dipped into your wonderful site.  This time I dug further and found your wine page and having read it I felt compelled (?) to add a comment. 

Now, being a European wine snob I have to take issue with the phrase "Everyone has a favorite grape, but I'll also go ahead in this section and throw out a little something I've learned in my time as a budding pretentious cock.  It seems to me that most wine snobs tend to prefer Pinot Noir".  If you really want to be a pretentious cock you will dismiss the varietal and go solely on terroir i.e climate and soil where the grape is grown, how it's made, the finishing etc because as all discerning Euro snobs know, this has a far greater impact than the grape alone.  A Chardonnay grown in the Napa will taste substantially different from one grown in Burgundy (in fact there is a huge difference between Chablis and Meursault which are the same grape from the same region).  Closer to your home there are good areas which taste very different despite using the same grapes..  Incidentally it is a lot easier to sell a wine by variety because the uninitiated can recognise a single fact rather than having to remember how each region differs.  It's a shame because it's as misleading as selling cameras purely on the number of pixels in the sensor.

You mention "Generally speaking, the trendy wines to hate are Merlot and Chardonnay.  I don't really know why, but those are the two that a lot of people harbor some random malicious contempt towards" I have a theory.  Back in the 80's there were a group called the "Flying Wine Makers" who went to areas where wine making was unknown and encouraged the planting of new vineyards.  Some of these areas already had wine but it's potential was underdeveloped.  To get things up and running quickly the group went for safe tried and tested varieties and this usually meant Cabinet Sauvignon, Merlot and Chardonnay.  Now, these are the classic wines of Bordeaux and Burgundy and some of the worlds greatest wines are made from these grapes but as I mentioned above the terroir is everything.  What appears to have happened is that these wines became ubiquitous, often as cheap badly made imitations.  The market became flooded with cheap wine from Australia, Chile etc to the exclusion of finer older more traditional wines.  As so often happens the public got bored with the same old stuff and the once proud grapes, now associated with plonk were passed over for "newer" more exciting varietals.  The bizarre thing is that over the last 20-30 years since the first attempts by the Flying Wine Makers things have improved dramatically, more interest has been generated in indigenous wines, there is greater choice, more acceptance and understanding by Joe Public but the concept of terroir has been lost to the marketing machine that is advertising.

Hope the above makes sense and is perhaps of interest.

Tom







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