Is Wine a Social Status ?

Have you ever heard a wine drinker commenting ostensibly on the “Wine Leg’s”?

Have you ever heard: “This wine bouquet is so intense”?

“This is a really round wine”, I am often told, makes me imagine what a "square" red or a "triangular" white could be…

Indeed wine can be snob.  A book reviewed all the most snob ways to talk about wine.

In the 16th century the wine color indicated the social class of the drinker. White wines were dedicated to those “who live delicately”…

Nowadays wine is often considered as a money proof and wine taste as the triumph of display. Buying a very expensive bottle that will never be open is sacrificing to “commodity fetishism” as explained by Karl Marx.

Wine as a social status

If wine has very ancient roots brought from the Persians by the Romans centuries ago, it is mainly known for coming from France. In English, French “etiquette” refers to lots of snob clichés. In some parts of the world, even speaking French is seen as being snob. A lot of the wine vocabulary has been directly transposed from French to English.

Vineyards have been the properties of kings and lords for centuries in Europe, labeling wine as the elite beverage. However each culture has its own customs regarding beverage. Why is wine so deeply considered as a social status?

Maybe wine is a mysterious beverage, blood of the Christ, complex to elaborate, and hard to taste. But beer, whisky and brandy as well no ?

Perhaps a good explanation might be the price. Indeed until the 60s rare Bordeaux wines were very expensive while the rest of the population was drinking cheap wine. After the increase in quality during the 70s (the production of protected regional names in France and other countries tripled while cheap wine production decreased by 50%), anybody could access better wine for a reasonable price. However since the late 90s top notch wines have dramatically increased, leading to a very large gap between the top 10 and the rest of the production. Rich people have more and more a tendency to invest on wine: first as a social status (most bottles will never be open) and a solid investment.

The wine ceremony might also be part of the explanation. Wine needs a proper environment to be full tasted. A carafe, a paired meal and dedicated rhythm. We open a bottle of wine when we invite friends over for a dinner. Glasses are important, each wine accompany each part of the meal and the host telling a story about the beverage.

Last but not least, wine is often considered as a male drink (especially for red wine). Recent studies have shown that men wanted to get a wine knowledge mainly to impress their dates.

 

Wine is a social status

What if wine was actually a social status? Like every complex thing, it takes a bit of time, but also a proper experience to be apprehended. People loving nice cloths master fabrics and the art of matching cloths. It is the same for the wine.

Wine taste show that you have taken time to understand complex things, this is a social proof. In a restaurant for instance, a place where all wine snobs start with, as described here. Somebody showing-off with wine illustrates on the contrary, a lack of willingness to learn.

“Tell me what you eat and I will tell you what you are” once said Brillat-Savarin (one of the first gastronomic writer). We often have a tendency to describe people by what they like or not. Wine is the same. However it requires being able to explain what you like or not.

Therefore we recommend here 4 simple steps to master your wine taste:

  1. Slow down, try to recognize the wine flavours – Educate your palate
  2. Discover new wines – Get a broad wine culture
  3. Get a bit a theory – How is wine made?
  4. Create yourself a wine memory – Write down and come back on all wines you tasted to mentally illustrate the difference

However we always find some people that only “drink wine labels”. For your own safety drink the wine first. Then only look at the label. This is a good exercise to try to concentrate on the real taste and nose of the wine (again, slow down, swirl and smell) without being trapped into a scheme like: this is Bordeaux so it should be tannins above all...

Regarding the wine label after will lead you to rethink about the wine taste and see what matches with what you know (or want to know) about the area or the grape variety. This is a fresh start for a wine memory.

If you end up with snob people around you can deal with them by engaging them into a conversation that is non-sense or close the discussion by saying how old dated is this topic you are discussing. You can learn more about fresh wine snobbism here.

I don’t recommend you (but I’m sure you’ll love it) reading this step guide on quick and dirty pieces of advice to be a wine snob. Nonetheless it is a way to unmask false wine discussions on wine culture or wine tasting.

Besides the 4 steps described above, you can start by sharing wine with friends. Wine worth sharing, that’s a fact. But real friends make it fun and challenging, without the social pressure.

Then it is about you being able to describe the wine with your own words. To learn about wine and its ceremony I recommend you the following steps:

  1. Go to a wine tastings session (we offer some of them in Switzerland) to get the basics and a bit a social tips
  2. Keep on experiencing with wine regularly. Our monthly wine box is a good way to start
  3. Keep a memory of your wines on three aspects only: The eye, the nose, The Taste (Two words for each)
  4. Play with your friends and try to smell anything you can to strengthen it (almost anything I said…)

 

You’ll see the confidence will come after few months. Then you can start talking about wine with a larger group, but keep in mind not to do it quick and dirty. Social status is a matter of taste after all.

This month's wine selection

Ultimate wines for summer evenings on the terrace

Loire Adventure

  • Domaine JF Merieau, L'Arpent des Vaudons, 2016
  • Domaine JF Merieau, Le Bois Jacou, 2016
  • Domaine Fabrice Gasnier, Chinon Pierres Chaudes, 2017

From 39 CHF /Month