While I was in New York last week, someone from the wine trade was so rude to me — on the floor of a hopping Manhattan restaurant no less — that my dining companions were left speechless by his ill manner.
And so I wrote and recorded a song about it (click, listen, watch, and grab below; for those who don’t know me through music or who didn’t attend my high school, my nickname is “the Jar”).
Snubbiness and snobbi[sh]ness have been since the advent of the modern era. As industrialization reshaped Europe and a new governing “management” class emerged, wine became an emblem and ornament of the haves and the other-halves and their supposed superiority.
In recent decades, in Europe and perhaps to even a greater extent here in America, wine culture has become increasingly demotic. Not only has wine become more accessible and more appreciated by a broader and more diverse group of people, it has also found its way into workaday parlance (that’s why the word demotic is so apropos here).
Despite the wider, however commerce-driven, reach and embrace of wine, a new form of elitism has emerged over the last ten years or so. And sadly, this new snobbiness and snubbiness has also spilled over into the world of wine writing and wine media.
Some have even exploited this newfound aloofness as a marketing tool — and in the name of a faux proletarianism no less!
Who can forget the bully and internet troll who endlessly harassed and berated wine bloggers and social media users who didn’t kow-tow to his party line? His disingenuous, cliquish tactics were a savvy form of marketing: he used snubbery and snobbery as a means to build visibility for his brand.
In the wake of the episode last week, I was inspired to write the song (a “love letter” to the high and mighty among us) and to write this post: it’s time to stand up to bullies and assholes.
After all, hospitality is at the heart of our trade. We live in the post-multi-cultural era, where diversity, pluralism, and inclusion are the bywords of social interaction.
Have you ever been to the famous Subida restaurant in Friuli a stone’s throw from the Slovenian border? As soon as you enter the restaurant, the owner offers you a slice of prosciutto and a glass of wine. It’s an expression of a centuries-old tradition of restauration (in both the etymological and literal sense of the word).
And even when petty competitiveness trumps collegiality (as it did the other night on the floor of a bustling Manhattan restaurant), wine professionals need to remember that the driving force of the trade is the will to embrace our fellows — just as Josko Sirk of La Subida teaches us. If that’s not the reason that you’re in the trade, then you are in the wrong business.
If you’d like to join me for asshole-free tasting next week, I will be pouring what I believe is the largest selection of Franciacorta wines ever presented in the U.S. at the weekly meeting of the Houston Sommelier Association. All are welcome and the price of admission is polishing a few glasses at the end of the tasting.