The 5-minute guide to wine snobbery

If you haven’t already, you simply must make the trek through California’s wine country.

If that trip seems overly ambitious, how about Oregon? Whether it’s a side trip on your way to or from the coast, the picturesque Willamette Valley offers some wonderful tasting opportunities.

There’s just nothing like some good bread, a hunk of your favorite cheese, and an award-winning Oregon Pinot Noir.

And if we are inclined toward loyalty to our own great state, Washington has become a major wine producer of course, with a number of wineries offering some excellent values.

When considering wine, it’s important to understand the basics:

• Red wine is good.

• So is white wine.

• Wine and food go well together — though it’s easier to get drunk on an empty stomach.

If a particular bottling has been given a Wine Spectator rating of “98,” you needn’t take it off the shelf. In fact, you should back away carefully, so as not to knock the bottle off the shelf and be forced to pay for it.

Knowing anything more makes you a bona-fide wine snob.

Wine snobbery marks a noble status in society. Today’s wine industry needs the snob in order to maintain its credibility and further the mystique surrounding the fermented grape.

This doesn’t mean we can’t all become wine snobs. Indeed, there are a few simple steps one can take to achieve some measure of snobbery. These can be practiced at home in front of a mirror or, if we are feeling bold, at our favorite restaurant.

Here are the rules:

• Look at the bottle. Mention casually to the server, “Higher than normal late summer temperatures resulted in a most impressive bottling.” Or, if you really want to be a snob, ignore the server altogether.

• Sniff the glass. Nod with interest.

• When describing the taste, use the words the snobs use such as astringent, herbaceous and ponderous. Utilize vague ideas — even words that don’t seem to apply. In fact, you can even get away with making up your own words since those present will not want to seem ignorant by questioning it.

• The more inebriated your audience, the more liberties you can take. Try discussing the soil and drainage at the particular vineyard, and its role in the health of the vines. Important: In the event that someone who knows a great deal about wines has been listening and calls your bluff, point out that it’s all a matter of taste in any case. Then change the subject…or leave.

I have a confession. I am currently in a dark beer mode. I love dark ales, and enjoy trying what imports I can find.

But this doesn’t afford me the opportunity of snobbery. Beer and snobbery don’t really go together. When one is in a biker bar, beer is spit out for reasons other than “tasting protocol.” A fight usually ensues.

I wonder if we’ll ever see the day when a group of overweight, bearded men sit around a table, peering through their mugs and commenting on the subtleties of hops, malt, barley and yeast.

Federal Way resident Dave McKenzie is an award-winning writer who can be reached at

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