Wine snobbery

While wine snobbery may be irritating, it certainly is nothing new. Some 2,800 years ago, the Greek poet Homer in The Iliad and The Odyssey used wine references to signal privilege. The higher in society in Homer’s day, the better wine you drank.

In the 1st century, Pliny the Elder wrote despairingly about the soldiers his armies faced who drank beverages made from cereals. Interestingly, there is no Latin word for “beer.” Pliny noted “true Romans” drank wine, while those other, lesser people, drank that other beverage made from grain crops, sometimes calling it “barley wine.”

Such a view of wine sheds interesting light on the Christian attitude toward “the fruit of the vine and work of human hands.” The first Jesus miracle did not turn water into beer, and at the Last Supper wine was literally consecrated as the blood of the Savior of the World. Whew, it is hard to get loftier than that in the pecking order of libations.

Giza Pyramids (Ricardo Liberato)

A word of caution. Likely from the beginning, wine was associated with higher levels of society. Wine can take more skills and a longer time to make than beer. The raw ingredient—grapes—are not as ubiquitous as grains. In the ancient world, workers drank beer—the pyramids were built by beer swilling laborers. Elites drank wine.

Elites also wrote histories. They are the only ones who could read and write—most estimate that only a tiny percentage of people were literate until well past the so-called Dark Ages just 600 years ago. So the upper class sipped wine and wrote about it, while the lower classes supplied the brawn to build monuments—pyramids, Roman roads, cathedrals—still admired today. Wine snobs take note.

Tasting notes:

• Backsberg Kosher Pinotage, South Africa 2017: Black-fruit-forward presentation of South Africa’s mercurial gift to the world of wine. $13-18 Link to my review

• Diora La Belle Fête Monterey Rosé of Pinot Noir 2020: light, fun, rich, fruit-forward. Plenty of strawberry and raspberry flavors. $16-20 Link to my review

• Gamble Family Vineyards Rosé, Napa Valley 2019: Crisp and clean, extremely easy drinker. Floats on your palate. $20-25 Link to my review

• Cossart Gordon Bual 10 Year Old Madeira: Superbly works solo as a dessert wine. Famously pairs with hard cheeses. $35-45 (500 ml) Link to my review

• Poliziano Asinone Vino Nobile di Montepulciano DOCG 2017: Rich, firm, delicious iteration of sangiovese. $53-63 Link to my review

Last round: Jesus sat down at table with his 12 disciples and ordered 13 glasses of water. The disciples asked “water?” Jesus winked at them and said, “Hey, guys, trust me about this.”