'I'd rather be just a plain wine lover, an enthusiast, or even an aficionado -- one who likes his wines, but not to the point of being a bore or, even worse, a snob,' says Alok Chandra.
Illustration: Uttam Ghosh/Rediff.com
There's a great deal of snobbery associated with wine.
Everyone has, at some time, had to endure that know-it-all who carries on about the 'right' way to taste a wine, and about how the wines he (it almost is always a he) quaffed were so 'right'.
Actually, I would categorise people involved in wine into several segments, in ascending degree of being afflicted with the wine mania.
The Wine Geek: He compulsively swirls the wine after pouring, even at an informal dinner with friends, sticks his nose right into the glass as if diving into the deep, and tastes making loud slurping noises.
He will carry a small notebook, and adds notes on every wine ever sampled.
He seeks out obscure grapes and wine regions, and receives newsletters from wine-related sites like Wine Folly, Wine Enthusiast, Sommelier India Wine Magazine and, of course, Wine Spectator.
Being a Wine Geek is actually a good thing, so long as your involvement with wine is likeable and does not translate in your becoming a Wine Bore.
The Wine Bore: The Wine Bore will obsessively talk about the wines he or she has recently tasted, and the wineries he or she visited "in my last trip to The Continent", even when it's clear that nobody else is interested in the subject.
Wine Bores tend to pontificate about wine, showing off their knowledge about the soil and climate a particular vintage was produced in, and try to demonstrate their 'expertise' even to genuine wine experts.
They often talk about the great wines they have in their cellar ("Unfortunately, they're not ready to drink as yet") and how they've discovered these "beautiful but unknown wines that are really good to drink".
Wine Bores are found in upwardly-mobile gatherings where pretentious new-money types are trying to prove how cultured and socially-desirable they are.
Stay as far away from them as possible, for they will generally bore you to to tears (perhaps even create an aversion to wine).
The Wine Snob: Quite simply, the Wine Snob is a Wine Bore with money to burn, and is not shy of letting everyone know the cost of the wines quaffed -- never mind if these were from poor vintages.
Convinced that he has a great palate for wine, he will carry on about a wine's provenence as well as quality.
The Wine Snob is convinced that the pricier wines are always better, and that imported wines are better than the "plonk" produced in India -- never mind that in a blind-tasting situation, he often cannot differentiate between the two.
Wine Snobs seek out knowledge about expensive wines so as to garner bragging rights.
Of course, most of them would never actually buy the same wines for consumption -- that would be a wasted opportunity.
All said, I'd rather be just a plain wine lover, an enthusiast, or even an aficionado -- one who likes his wines and is reasonably knowledgeable about the subject, but not to the point of being a bore or, even worse, a snob.
Alok Chandra is a Bengaluru-based wine consultant.