While I’m on the subject of shibboleth’s in the wine world, I might as well take on another.
In the press and among the majority of people who are not avid wine drinkers, the idea that the appreciation of wine is primarily about snob appeal and showing off one’s cultural capital is still widespread. This is a great example of how ideas once in the public arena continue to circulate and get reinforced despite the absence of any evidence for them.
Of course at one time, wine was about social class and wealth. Good wine has always been expensive, especially back in the day when the only way to make it was low yields, hand harvesting, and long aging. But modern technology has brought down the cost of decent wine to where it’s affordable for much of society. Yes, there are investment grade wines that are out of almost anyone’s price range but there are perfectly good substitutes for a fraction of the price.
Good wine is now something that most people can enjoy at least some of the time. And so wine consumption is no longer a marker of upper class tastes. It’s as middle class as beer and baseball.
Furthermore, the kind of wine knowledge required for appreciation, formerly available only in arcane manuals of difficult-to-pronounce French Chateau or through participation in expensive tasting groups, is now readily available for anyone with a smartphone, and extensive classes are available for a modest fee.
If you want to study wine even from most of the great vineyards of the world you can do so for the cost of a night out on the town. Forgo dinner and the theatre, buy a bottle and spend the evening in vinous bliss.
And almost everyone has the sensory equipment and cognitive capacity to appreciate wine. It takes some practice and experience; not special abilities.
There is no longer anything exclusive about wine. People who appreciate wine and have extensive knowledge of it do so because they want to; people who don’t appreciate it haven’t invested the time or lack the inclination to do so.
The whole social infrastructure of wine as a marker of class has collapsed. It’s time to retire the idea that it’s pretentious, snobbish or only for the beautiful people.