Few things irritate me more than wine snobbery. Near where I live in Mokotow there is a wine bar, perfectly decent in itself with a well chosen but overpriced selection of wines (I prefer the range and prices of Marks and Spencer so I rarely buy anything there apart from the odd glass of an evening when loneliness becomes intolerable.) The maitre knows his stuff and so does one member of his staff. The rest leg it. But that hardly matters. Almost all of the customers know nothing about wine at all. Yet the poor staff feels duty bound to go through the motions of treating them as if they do: presenting the bottle, the sniffing, the nodding of the head in approval (though not always: sometimes someone, if a girl friend is sitting opposite, will take a macho stand and send the bottle back, but not very often). Usually, it’s a matter of pearls before swine.
Yesterday in The New Yorker there was a marvellous piece which blew the whole facade apart. French and American experts were unable to tell the difference between the best Bordeaux and a New Jersey plonk. Because the wines were dished up in tinted glasses, some of the “masters” could not even tell the difference between red and white wines, which I should have thought was pretty basic.
Apparently, when buying wine our brain plays tricks with us. If we know it’s expensive, with a fancy label, nicely served, we are more likely to like what we taste. If we know it’s cheap we are programme to be critical. If it is served up to us in a bottle without a label and we have to make up our own minds without any aids, then, invariably we get stuck. We don’t know what to think. Of course, the more sensible of us will listen to our taste buds, if we have the nerve!