By Darren Scott
In my line of work, there’s nothing that disappoints me more than a booze snob. I see them at trade shows, meet them at facility tours, and even guide them through the products that I stock at my store. Stubborn as mules, they are the type of drinkers that fixate on one or two kinds of alcoholic beverages and expound their personal philosophy as to why those drinks are the best around to anyone that happens to be within earshot. Once they put a product on their pedestal, nothing will ever take its place. I sometimes feel sorry for them because they truly cannot see the forest through the trees.
It’s one thing to educate ourselves fully to understand a product’s origin and culture, but there should be a genuine curiosity to start it all. For example, it would seem really awkward if I held a firm opinion on what types of motorcycles were the best in the world before I ever learned how to ride one. Furthermore, if I tried to push my opinion onto even a novice motorcyclist, my critique would be contrived and unnecessary. I’m sure you’ve met people that do this at some point. It’s always easy to tell the difference between one person’s education that was driven by passion from another who basically schooled themselves into snobbery.
It’s because the world of beer, wine, and spirits is so expansive that the desire for exploration should be inherent in all of us that choose to imbibe. I think I would be miserable if, for instance, I believed that the only worthy bottles of Cabernet Sauvignon come from the Napa Valley and that only a fool would invest in ones that come from South America. Also, someone please stop me if ever I choose to only research bourbon from Kentucky because I’ve read countless articles declaring it the “true” expression of American whiskey. If we want to call ourselves connoisseurs, shouldn’t we strive to possess a portfolio that is expansive enough to stand up to even the slightest changes in seasons or personal moods that come up throughout the long year? Isn’t that what makes it all fun in the first place?
So my advice is this, say you love pinot noirs and know someone else that does too, throw yourselves a paper bag party and blindly taste ones from California, France, Oregon and New Zealand. Take notes on the ones you gravitate to and then do your own added research on the areas that they came from because native soil content and micro-climates do play a great role on the finished product. Also, say you and your friends enjoy beer but in the past have always bought only those 1 or 2 beers. Give this a try: If you enjoy Pilsners then get a couple of Pilsners and do a blind taste test with you and your friends. You just may be surprised. If you keep an open mind throughout the process, you’ll learn the real reasons behind what you like and don’t like, discover new wine regions that’ll blow your mind, and (most importantly) you’ll drift further away from the influence of the dreaded booze snobs.
Always fight to never be complacent with one or two types of libation. Strive for diversity and always let your passion drive you to your next level of education. Unless you are trying to be a certified beverage specialist, school is always in session and there are no final exams for you.
Darren Scott has been an Athens, Ga resident since 2002 and is the owner of Village Wine & Spirits on the eastside of town. He has 15 years of experience in the beverage industry but is always thirsty for more.