A long time ago, before I started writing about wine and food for a living, I was a newspaper reporter. I covered everything from fatal car crashes to rock concerts, and interviewed everyone from movie stars to murderers on death row.
A lot of the beats required little more than fearless interrogation skills and the ability to type like an AK-47, but some called for specific knowledge and experience, and that's when I learned that the line between passion and snobbishness is razor thin.
Silly me, I thought it was OK to like paintings by Grant Wood and Jackson Pollock or listen to bluegrass one minute and Wagner the next. And isn't it possible for Black Swan and The Avengers to be two of your favorite movies in recent years?
Despite all the snobs I met while covering music and movies, visual art and theater, none compare to wine snobs. The world already thinks wine lovers are snobs in the first place. If you Google the phrase "snob definition," the first result reads: "A person who believes that their tastes in a particular area are superior to those of other people: 'a wine snob.'"
You can't make that stuff up.
Obviously, there's a difference between the average guy believing all wine drinkers are snobs and the über-snobs who are just insufferable? Most wine snobs don't know they're snobs, of course, and they will argue and deny if confronted. (They can be violent when cornered, so stay alert.)
There's an easy way to tell when you're dealing with snobs: They spend more time telling you what not to drink than offering ideas on what you might like.
A good example of that are the extremists in the natural wine debate. When they tell me about the wines they're passionate about and why, they've got me hooked, but when they demonize the wines that don't fit their worldview, they're snobs.
The same is true with the debate over ripeness and alcohol levels in wine. Talk to me about the wines you love and the special place they're from, but when you start blathering about how Cabernet Sauvignons or Pinot Noirs shouldn't taste this way or that, you're a snob.
There must be something in the human psyche that triggers the need to take on "an offensive air of superiority in matters of knowledge or taste," as Merriam-Webster defines it. I have to admit that I just don't understand it, and yet I'm sure there are people who consider me a snob.
To me, it comes down to this: if you're comfortable with your passions and opinions, you shouldn't feel the need to convince other people that they're wrong.