Here’s how you know if you’re a wine snob


Wine snobbery is a possible side effect of being a wine lover — as you’ll see in these answers to recent email questions I’ve received.

I generally get the food references you use to describe the smells and flavors of wine, but what exactly is cassis?

Cassis is the French name for blackcurrants, and also the shorthand reference for crème de cassis, a sweet, dark red liqueur made from blackcurrants and is a specialty of Dijon, France. Add a little crème de cassis to white wine and you have a Kir cocktail. Add some to sparkling wine and you have a Kir Royale.

A reference to cassis in wine typically describes an intense, ripe, concentrated blackcurrant character. Blackcurrants are not especially fruity as dark fruits go. I’ve heard them described as a sort of a dark berry crossed with a pomegranate seed — like a tangy blackberry.

Because of this concentrated, not-so-fruity, dark fruit character, cassis is often invoked to describe the seedy, almost gritty character of the blackcurrant. Because of the association with crème de cassis, some wine writers might also have in mind the associated taste characteristics of that liqueur, which includes something like licorice with a hint of Cuban cigar and a bit of cherry cough drop.

Using such descriptors is pretentious, and adds to the unfortunate air of stuffy snobbishness that gives wine appreciation a bad rap, but it’s an occupational hazard.

Is Prosecco a wine, a grape or a wine region?

Prosecco is a sparkling white wine in the Veneto and Friuli-Venezia Giulia regions of northeastern Italy. The wine is thought to have originated centuries ago around the Italian village of Prosecco, near Trieste. The use of the village name for both the wine and its primary grape is thought to have developed around the end of the 16th century.

Although prosecco was associated with regulated geographic village names, outsiders were able to cash in on the wine’s popularity because prosecco was also the name of the grape itself, like chardonnay or merlot, and so could be used by any producer. It was only in 2009 that the name of the primary grape from which the wine is made was changed from prosecco to glera so that the general name Prosecco — free of additional village designation — could be registered as a protected wine region (a DOC), and its use on a wine label could be made exclusive to the wines produced within the region. There are several excellent kosher proseccos on the market.

Am I being a snob when I correct people who claim to be wine lovers when they only drink sweet wine?

Yes. Debating an opinion is fine, but correcting an opinion has the whiff of thuggery about it. Nothing wrong in encouraging folks to expand their horizons and try something new, of course, and this should be easily achievable without being gauche. But correction is something else. There is nothing incorrect in drinking one sort of wine over another, and nobody’s declaration of love for wine should be second guessed just because of a particular focus. Have a drink, and relax instead.

What’s good this week?

Golan Heights Winery, Mount Hermon, Red, 2016 ($11.99, though often found for less): This pleasant medium-bodied blend is fresh, flavorful and fruit forward, with ripe red and black fruits, and just enough of an herbal backdrop to vaguely anchor it in Israel’s Galil. It makes for a nice everyday table wine. L’chaim!

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