My husband and I socialize regularly with a couple he has known since college. We have argued over this subject time and time again and now we put it to you for your advice: is it OK to point out to the husband “Bill” of the couple that his wine snobbery is affecting the quality of time we spend together?
He hasn’t been such a snob all the time we’ve known him, but he started taking wine classes about a year ago and now he considers himself an expert on all things wine-related.
Every time we order a bottle at a restaurant or we are opening one at a dinner party he feels compelled to lecture us on the wine, the region, the dirt, etc. He lectured me the last time we had dinner with a group of friends that for years he had watched me hold my glass “incorrectly” and he just had to say something because I was warming my wine or some such nonsense.
His wife cringes through each such episode.
I don’t give a damn about all of the nuances of wine, I just want to enjoy it without making a big production. To tell you the truth, the more time I spend with him the more wine I need!
I’ve put up with this for a long time but recently he did something that was very embarrassing: he sent back a bottle of wine that I had chosen at a restaurant and not because there was anything wrong with it, but because he didn’t like it and described it as “flabby” and “tight.” What in the holy hell is that supposed to mean, anyway?
The waiter was clearly upset and I was angry. I’ve asked my husband to speak to his friend but he thinks I should let it go. We have a dinner party coming up at our house next month and he has asked to bring the red and “share his knowledge” about it but I am done with his lectures.
What’s your advice, oh wise one?
Dear Simple Drinker:
You have come to me at a perfect time, as I just returned from my people’s homeland France (rhymes with “taunts,” not “dance,” merci beaucoup) where much of the book on wine was written. Therefore, I am now an expert on everything vinous, including les wine snobbes.
The irony of the modern wine snob is that prior to the Renaissance, wine was conceived not as a highfalutin beverage to be analyzed and savored but as a safe alternative to the often contaminated and dangerous water and dairy products of the time.
Unfortunately your wine snob friend has made the drinking of wine a socially unsafe thing, as Bill strives to lord his knowledge over others and turn a happy event like a boozy dinner party into an opportunity to elevate himself above the other guests.
Nobody likes a know-it-all, unless that know-it-all is me, bien sur.
When I emailed you you confirmed that Bill seems to enjoy the subtle humiliation of people who don’t know much about wine and a variety of other subjects as well. For example, he also considers himself an expert on politics, and you described him as “insufferable” during the last presidential election during which he lectured everyone on who to vote for and why. He sounds like a real peach, this one!
People like this deserve a dose of their own medicine. I have written before on the subject of public shaming and the issue you raised is a good one for this approach to eradicating a social disease such as the oneupmanship mentality of your friend.
You have a dinner party approaching – a perfect time to address Bill’s wine-related superiority complex. He has given you some excellent material, after all, because while you can certainly describe your faithful blogger as “flabby” and “tight,” those two terms are contradictory when it comes to wine.
I know, you see, because I have the google machine AND I asked my favorite wine snob (my dad) and he confirmed this to me.
Even better than that mistake, your last dinner with him illustrated just how little he knows about wine and the accompanying etiquette of the restaurant tasting process. One does not send a wine back because they don’t like it, they send it back because something has gone very wrong with the bottle, such as it was corked or “off” in some way.
His rejection of your selection (rated at 92 points by Wine Spectator) was absolutely improper and made even worse by the fact he insisted on being the taster of the wine in the first place – a wine which you ordered because you had enjoyed it recently at another restaurant. That was presumptuous and rude.
He didn’t even allow the wine to breathe, which while inconsequential to the issue of sending it back without a good reason goes to the argument that Bill is a wannabe, otherwise known as a wine dick. I’m amazed the server didn’t crack him over the head with that bottle instead of taking it back to the kitchen and enjoying it with the staff while toasting to the Ignorant Asshole at Table 12.
My advice is that you let him bring his wine to your party and when he begins lecturing all you worthless heathens on his offerings, take a table poll. Table polls are fun, and yours can go like this:
“Before we proceed, I want to take a poll on how many of you think it’s OK to send a bottle of wine back simply because you don’t like it. Raise your hands if you think that’s appropriate.”
Unless the rest of your guests are idiots, their hands will remain un-raised. Next, you say:
“More important, how many of you would just like to pound this stuff and get your buzz on so we can play a rousing game of Cards Against Humanity?
“Let’s save the lectures for the next presidential election when Bill can once again explain the difference between Muslim terrorists and Christians who bomb abortion clinics by citing Fox News and the new discovery by Right to Life that conception begins at the unbuttoning of the woman’s blouse.”
Perhaps this approach seems a bit harsh, but your friends will thank you for it in spades, as will every future server who has the misfortune of taking a wine order from Bill.
Don’t ask your husband to do it, Simple Drinker, do it yourself. Best of luck!