Yeah, the world of wine is intimidating, and yeah, when we’re intimidated, sometimes we try too hard to fit in. But lest you go too far and pull some kind of Sandy Dumbrowski shameless self-abnegation makeover, we’re here to stop you from total surrender. Not to Danny Zuko, but the world of wine snobbery.
Once you know a bit about something—wine, Star Wars lore, the 7-Day forecast—it’s really, really hard not to share it with everyone. But with wine especially, the path from novice to snobbery is actually a pretty slippery slope. If you’ve already caught yourself dropping wine-savvy with reckless abandon, you should definitely check our list to make sure you’ll never again be found guilty of these most snobiferous acts.*
*To keep things entirely scientific, we’ll grade things on a level of 1 to 10 monocles, the universal symbol of snobbery.
Over-Swirling Your Glass
This is an easy, and early, kind of wine snobbery—swirling your glass like you’re a Whirlpool on the Spin Cycle. Beyond danger of splashing, there’s the needlessness of it all. A simple swirl will do just fine. Snob Factor: 2 monocles
The Silent Sniffer
You know those commercials where someone makes a cup of International Café or Maxwell House, closes her eyes, and sniffs with a subtle, but richly gratified, smile? If that’s you when you taste wine, stop it, you’re creeping us all out. Unless you’re having a Proustian Madeleine moment, no need to keep your eyes closed while inhaling for a weirdly long amount of time. Same goes for eyes closed while swishing wine in your mouth. The only good thing about it is you might miss your friends giving you the finger. Snob Factor: 4 monocles.
Passive Aggressive Wine Taster
Someone finally ventures that they taste blackcurrants in their Zinfandel, but you don’t, and you make sure to say it. “Huh. Funny, I’m not getting any notes of blackcurrant at all…In fact – ” Except, don’t. He or she is trying, and you’re just sitting back waiting to smash their efforts with the undiscerning mallet of snobitude. Snob Factor: 5 monocles
You’re hosting a party and you keep the good wine in the kitchen (to be consumed by you and your fellow wine snobs), and you keep the plonk in the general area for the plebes. Not cool, brah. How else are people who may not know about good wine going to learn about it? Also, if you huddle in the kitchen over some Pet-Nat, you’re basically surrendering control of the playlist. Fine. Snob Factor: 8 monocles
Competing with the Waiter/Sommelier
You know a lot, and that’s great, and you should call your mom later and tell her so. But if you’re at a restaurant with a trained professional, don’t get into a debate about the Barolo he or she selected. Let your snobbery muscles relax for a night. Snob Factor: 4 monocles
Correcting the Waiter/Sommelier
Same principle applies. Sure, there may be cause here and there, like if the sommelier brings you a $2000 bottle of Burgundy instead of the Spanish Tempranillo you ordered, but if it’s a matter of meticulous detail (“They’re actually grown in volcanic soils, my friend..”) or subjective taste (“Well, I’ve never heard anyone describe it as having notes of lychee…”) maybe let it go for the night. Snob Factor: 6 monocles
Like to go around the table and ask everyone what they thought about the wine? Well stop. You’re not a kindergarten teacher, and you’re not Oprah. You don’t need to interview each of your companions on how they felt about the wine they just drank. If they’re drinking wine, and they want to get verbal about it, maybe tear up over it, they will. If you still want to be able to annoy people, just keep asking them about their jobs or relationship status. Snob Factor: 5 monocles.
Self-Anointed Wine List King
It’s nice if you know enough about wine to choose a good bottle at a restaurant, but don’t always be the guy or gal who grabs the wine list immediately, as if saving everyone at your table from the mistake of not letting you choose. Not only will you be helping your buddies learn about wine, but you can do a wine snob’s second favorite thing: give backseat wine selection directions. Snob Factor: 3 monocles.
Refusing to Order from an Average List
The restaurant you’re at isn’t a marquee wine destination, fine. But after looking over the list for 5 minutes, you hand it back to the anxious sommelier and order a Martini. Snobtastic, my friend. No, you don’t have to order wine you hate, but don’t shame a list for not having Grower Champagne by the glass. Snob Factor: 4 monocles
Yeah, you know who you are. You can never order a wine without mentioning the score. “You know, Parker gave this one a 96, and that’s almost unheard of.” Great, you know what should also be unheard of? Your score-dropping. It’s like whispering critical reviews to your friend during the movie. Does not increase enjoyment. Does increase annoyance. Snob Factor: 5 monocles.
The Neverending Taster
Everyone’s gone on to enjoy the party. In fact, your cousin Sophie has stood up with her “big announcement.” But just as the words “Phil and I…” come out of her mouth, you erupt with “have chosen an admirably supple wine, and I’m proud of you for these reasons…” and proceed to deliver a 10-minute speech on it. Think deeply about wine, sure, but if non alcoholic chit-chat erupts, save the sauvignon soliloquy for your journal. Snob Factor: 7 monocles.
Declaration of Wine Independence
Whenever someone is serving, ordering, or even referring to wine, you make sure to announce to any and all gathered:“I only drink [fill in the blank]!” with as much fervor as Patrick Henry asking for liberty or death. (Announcing you’ve narrowed the wide world of wine down to one region, varietal, or style also isn’t the best way to seem wine savvy.) Snob Factor: 7 monocles.
Don’t be an Esoteric Eric (or Erica—and yes, we made up that term because it rhymes). Your knowledge about the wines of the Jura or the relatively small world of orange wine is wonderful, and should help guide you to many a delightful bottle. But going on and on about it amidst company, especially when you force people to admit they have no idea what you’re talking about, is one way to lose friends and influence, well, no one. Snob Factor: 7 monocles.
People mispronounce things all the time. Just ask John Travolta. But when it comes to wine, or quinoa, correcting someone’s honest-mistake-mispronunciation comes off as annoying. In fact, even if it’s well meant, it’s hard to correct pronunciation without seeming like you’re giving your 110% jerkiest that day. So unless someone’s going in for their Master Sommelier exam, let Pinot Grigio keep its hard “g.” It’s adorable. And the wine is still good. Snob Factor: 6 monocles.