01438 741177         thewinesociety.com

Wine and Elitism


#21

I know (and indeed have gifted membership to) many members who would strenuously deny being elites or elitist. They like wine and correctly identify that by and large the best value for money purchases come from TWS.

I also happen to know several people who previously avoided wine clubs (and even TWS!) because of a preponderance of ‘wine wankers’ to be found at wine bars, tastings and clubs. I’ve spent a lot of time trying to dispose of those myths but you only need a few idiots to confirm bias.

As for qualifications like WSET I am often really surprised by the number of people doing them. The early levels I would regard as very simplistic and really only worthwhile if you are making wine your career. WSET level 1 sample info can be found online and amounts to little more than pop trivia. If you’re trying to get a job selling wine then it helps to be certified to know that Rioja comes from Spain, but if you enjoy wine quizzes there are more amusing and testing questions on Decanter.com!

Most wine sold in this country is in the affordable category. ‘Finewine’ may be based on a form of elitism, but there are a load of folks making an awful lot of money selling cheap wine in enormous volume to a lot of people.

I’m with @Prufrock on this. It strikes me to be a gross generalisation of poorer or ‘sub-elite’ and mixes social drivers with ‘intent’. It is probably fair to say that because good wine is often expensive fewer poorer people have opportunity to get into good wine. Saying that the reason is because they just want to get as drunk as possible for as low a cost as possible is in my opinion incorrect and extremely uncharitable.

Ha! That’ll launch some discussion I’m sure! FWIW I like to know the story about wine including all those things, but my wife loves good wine, has a super sharp palette and is really into tastings etc. Start droning on about how houses were handed down or the presence of rocks trapping warmth in the soil and she’ll glaze over in seconds.

I guess there is a kind of universal balancing act when gripped by passion for any subject or hobby; there is a thirst for exploration and knowledge, joy of sharing and communicating with like-minded individuals, and immutable peril of becoming a tedious blowhard. If one becomes a tedious-blowhard it then it is a nice little shield to just say that you’re part of an elite instead of reflecting on ones behaviour.


#22

I do think this could be read slightly differently that the economic class one. I have quite a few friends who are in the ‘professional’ classes and are certainly only engaged in the wine category from the point of view of it as being a different vehicle for consuming alcohol(though in at least one case he has a clear appreciation and discernment when it comes to Whisky).

I’m not sure I wholly buy this - and I can only reflect on my personal journey in that too much knowledge can be counter-productive and can form a barrier to the simple hedonistic pleasure that wine offers. I quite often wish I could just appreciate wine for what it is rather than simultaneously thinking about all the baggage it carries.


#23

Slight problem with this theory is that I never mentioned, nor intended to mention ‘poorer people’. Poorer that whom? Indeed in a follow up post I specifically countered that point noting that I personally know quite a lot of people, who are pretty comfortably off but who won’t spend more than £x on wine, where x is not a high number, because they just want to get p*ssed cost effectively! One or two have explicitly told me this!


#24

Regarding the elitist argument, if ‘received wisdom’ were to be believed, I must be a very endangered species, being a wine loving, cricket loving salmon fisherman!

The only slight problem with this stereotyping is that my cricket club has always been a working mens’ club, my salmon fishing is done in part at least on local club water costing £60 a year to fish, and there is a limit to what I will pay for wine, albeit a fair bit more than £6!


#25

Having come from a background where wine was generally Hardy’s, Banrock Station etc with a bit of nice Zin at Christmas, my interest was probably a combination of travel to places with wineries, and three years at a pretty old fashioned college of one of our more traditional universities with the resultant access to a more demographically diverse social circle (and the college cellar) than I might have otherwise been exposed to. Through my 20s my friends and I consistently drank well and just occasionally you would turn up for lunch or dinner somewhere and something really nice would appear. Unfortunately being knowledgeable about wine has massive cultural baggage, not helped by the demographics of the wine industry and the fact that even friendly indie merchants can be intimidating places to walk into just to browse. I don’t spend more on my ‘hobby’ than people who are into cycling or high end audio equipment but I would be less likely to talk about it down the pub (ironically). To be honest as someone who spends their professional life engaged in some of the more extreme consequences of inequalities and barriers to social mobility, I see this one as a bit peripheral.


#26

Fair point, a re-read maybe highlights that I read more into your comment than I should. I just read your other comments and think maybe I go the wrong end of the stick.

@Oldandintheway can you re-quote the original posts? It makes it look like those are my comments and not a quote.


#27

Will do. Sorry I’d missed that.


#28

Having just looked at social demographic groups I come in as a C1 ( lower middle class ).

If you’re lucky enough to have some disposable income once life’s essentials are paid for you may well chose to spent it on something that gives you pleasure. That could be anything, holidays. meals out, a nice car, a TV for the bedroom or, indeed, an expensive bottle of wine. It’s just how you as an individual choose to spend it. If you’re lucky you may be able to afford all of those things but for most a choice will have to be made.

Personally, I’ve foregone most of the ‘luxuries’ mentioned to indulge my love for wine. I guess it also helped that I spent my working life doing shift work. Whilst my friends were out spending money and enjoying themselves at the weekend I was at work earning and spending very little. Unsurprisingly, I’d buy a bottle, or two, to indulge myself with when I had some time off.

The more you try, the more you learn, and it has to be said, the more habitual those ‘posh’ bottles become. Whether you choose to go down that road is your choice alone. Most wouldn’t make the choice I have but for me personally it’s worth it for the joy it brings.

I would hate to think I’m in anyway elitist by the way !


#29

Oh crap, just realised where I’ve been going wrong… :grimacing:


#30

I think this is an excellent point and in fact we are really unique in that fact. The diversity of available wines and styles to us is second to nowhere else in the world. We are so very lucky to be in this position and maybe I’m just wishing the impossible and being fantastical about the whole affordability about wine wanting everyone to enjoy it as much as I do.

I have a friend whose partner has recently left her with two small children. She is well educated and has a good job. She would love to drink better wine but because of the financial situation she now finds herself in with her ex demanding equity out of the house. (Her and her children are still living there). She has decided good wine is a luxury she cannot afford .
But she wont drink the cheap plonk either because she appreciates the difference.
I think its probably her situation which got me thinking about all this.


#31

When I was growing up in Wales, the son of a miner, in the aftermath of the strike I remember times where my mother wouldn’t eat to ensure there was enough food for my sister and I. My dad was a beer drinker in the men’s bar at the club he frequented. We often had wine at Christmas. Not because it was the only time we could afford it as often dad won a bottle in the raffle or something but that’s just when it came out as we seldom sat at the table to eat as a family.

They don’t, sadly, It’s the case that priorities are different when you’re closer to the bottom than the top.

My dad made it clear to us that not everyone gets to have everything they want - however unfair that might feel. It’s just the way it is. It’s not something that can never be changed but it’s something that’s universally true.

While my school pals were going to Florida on holiday we were in a tent in France. I dare say we enjoyed our trips as much, or maybe even more, than those flying to the US. Great adventures and memories that will stay with me forever.

He desperately didn’t want me to be like him, doing manual work five and half days a week. He saw it as something dreadful. And yet he is my hero. Stupidly it took me twenty years to realise that. He went a did a dangerous job to put food on the table for us. Not always as much or as nice as he would like but it was there. If he didn’t work hard there would be nothing.

Today, through luck (and a lot of a different kind of hard work) I can afford any wine course I want. Only I have zero wish to do any of it.

Means does not always equal desire.

Join a local wine club or form a tasting group with likeminded people. Go to any number of free tastings at merchants, befriend the manger at your local majestic, shop smart from TWS… borrow books from the library, read any of the myriad sites online, listen to podcasts… lots of ways to taste broadly and learn economically.

Maybe this is what you feel you need to appreciate wine but you’re highly unrepresentative.

One of the most enjoyable wine experiences for me of the last few months was with some friends at Christmas. One of my pals, someone who might be considered uneducated by academic standards really liked one of the wines. I asked why and we talked about what he tasted in the wine and how it was different to another that was open and why he preferred it. It feels softer and less drying? Lower tannin. You taste caramel sweetness? Oak. More intense? That’s the blend. Just like that. I shared a bit about the winemaking decisions that were reflected in the glass. He massively appreciated what he was tasting for the very first time yet didn’t even know the wines were made in the same country (Hey! Malbec and Vinalba Cuvee Diane were the wines). Now I get photos of his snags at Lidl and Majestic.

His appreciation was perhaps even more magnified as he’s at a different place in wine.


#32

What a wonderful post, Matedw, thank you.


#33

We sleep in a tent in France for 3 weeks every summer , I wouldn’t change it for anything … (except when it’s raining) ! My kids love it so much & so do we .

I hope you’ve told him , he sounds amazing and a wonderful Dad .


#34

That’s wine appreciation divorced of any extra knowledge - a pure aesthetic experience. However, the fact that you had the knowledge to understand (and explain) why he was experiencing what he did (tannins, use of oak etc.) perhaps helped him take his knowledge further - and expand upon it for future enjoyment.

I, personally, don’t feel that knowledge I gain on this journey is something to be ashamed of. There will always be those who know and understand the nuances far more than me, those know less and want to know more and those who don’t mind just enjoying the pleasure without seeking further knowledge.


#35

Here’s a funny wine story about him. After he left the mines he went on to become a driver for Spar delivering stock all over Wales and the West Country. When he left that job he got given an apparently very nice bottle of St Emilion Grand Cru. I don’t know what producer it was but the coveted nectar was ever described thus: The St Emilion Grand Cru.

As a toddler I got into this wine for some unknown reason. Must have thought this precious object standing in the dining room was something I had to have. I opened also a Cinzano a Galliano and mixed it all with blackcurrant cordial and necked a good amount of it. When I was discovered by my mum, splayed out on the dining room floor she put her fingers down my throat to make me vomit the evil concoction back up and sent me to bed “ratassed” as she still calls it.

When dad got home he was APOPLECTIC and remained so for a good while.

Some 35 years later, my parents came to visit us when we moved into our new house. I served, with a very straight face, Ch. Dassault 2011. A seminal wine in my own journey and one I love very much. it comes with a very simple label that says, in big letters at the top: SAINT EMILION GRAND CRU.


#36

OMG!! This is the BEST story ever !! I had visions of you sprawled out like a drunken 3 year old :joy::joy:! Bet your Dad didn’t miss the irony in that bottle served ! Well done :+1:


#37

Yes, that’s the exact point I’m trying to make.

None of that required or demanded an interest or knowledge of geography, history, agriculture or politics even.

At most it demanded the ability to recall some basics of wine making you could pick up on Wine Folly in no time.

I guess I’m trying to point out that appreciation is a scale for us all. You said one is required to know and understand those topics to appreciate wine. I’m saying I don’t agree it’s required for anyone to know that stuff to appreciate in one way or another.

Quite right too. I hope you didn’t think that was what I was suggesting. I frequently find myself finding out something new from your posts.


#38

I completely agree! And yet you wouldn’t describe your guest as a ‘wine enthusiast’…? He was someone who had a pure moment of enjoying wine, without the narratives surrounding it. I would hazard a guess though, that if this weird wine bug infects him - he may wish to know where Mendoza is, or why Malbec from there tastes as it does. Perhaps not, of course - but the distinction I was trying to make related to Leah’s original post about why wine as a hobby (rather than as a passing inteterest) feels a bit ‘elitist’.

Maybe I should add that I don’t for a moment think that wine appreciation requires expertise or knowledge to start with. Only that it’s an inevitable by-product of learning about this very unique drink. Aesthetic pleasure in and of itself is totally democratic and open to anyone who cares to take the time.

You put it more eloquently than I ever could! Sorry if my original meaning got lost somewhere. I blame it on typing using a Hebrew keyboard :smile:


#39

He appreciates the long con, as do I!


#40

This whole issue is difficult and complicated . I am well off because i purchased house when prices were low. my first house cost £18000 and i had a morgage of £ 13000. I paid that off early and i havnt had to have another. Today people have morgages of £150,000 -£200,000 or they are in rented accomodation with high rents. So even if they have a high income They wont have much left over after living expences. So its not surprising that many people cant afford good wine.
I think this country is heading for serious social problems . We are the most unequal country in Europe . When ordinary people realise too late the economic results of Brexit . We will all be in a dreadfull mess economically and socially.