Most people, even those who have been lucky enough not to encounter one in their natural habitat, know that wine snobs are the most insufferable people in the food scene. Sure, craft beer bros are just as obnoxious to listen to half of the time, but at least beer still, at the end of the day, has that sort of salt-of-the-earth, working class connotation. Every word out of a wine snob’s mouth is so dripping with elitism and superiority that millions of Americans still consider the world of wine to be inaccessible, even at its lowest price point.
So it’s probably no surprise to anyone that American sommeliers got together to form a secret club. And it’s probably no surprise to anyone that the men at the top are abusive assholes about it.
Since the inception of the American chapter of the Court of Master Sommeliers (nice name, jackass) in 1997, only 24 of 155 people to be named a Master Sommelier have been women. 21 women came forward recently to describe the sexual harassment and assault they experienced at the hands of Master Somms, most of whom had been serving as mentors to the women. Women were often pressured to perform sexual favors to earn leverage and favor within the court, and were belittled and called “sommsuckers” for doing so (Which? Isn’t even a clever insult? These guys are really shitty at naming things). Several Master Somms have since stepped down or been suspended, but many women within the organization still say that they no longer wish to achieve the title of Master Somm or associate with the Court for enabling them.
(Even if it may not technically be a secret society, from the creepy sex to the hokey names and lapel pins it might as well be.)
Unfortunately, I don’t think this is a problem that we can #girlboss our way out of. Even if sexual harassment goes down, the system of power and privilege still stands. The whole thing is a bunch of pretentious clowns trying to assert dominance over each other, regardless of gender.
Is this a problem with wine as a whole? Absolutely not. When I took a wine class in college, the professor was in it solely for her love of the drink (and also maybe for the love of day drinking). And, of course, pretty much every other wine-producing country, while still having their own snobs, largely still sees wine as a drink of the common folk, with a bottle on the dinner table every night.
A friend of mine tipped me off to the fact that virtual wine tastings were becoming a thing, which immediately struck me as just a new vehicle for sommeliers to condescend to people, since they weren’t getting their usual fix under pandemic restrictions. But, between things like that and the countless number of bespoke wine subscription boxes, the key to ending wine snobbery may be to bring the wine directly into people’s homes (so long as the sommelier in question putting the tastings together is doing so out of love for the wine, of course). On the other hand, even with those kinds of decisions being made for you, these kinds of services take time and money to enjoy, things that most people nowadays often have one, but not the other.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the world is ending, the wine snobs have outlived their usefulness. Grab your twist-off caps, crack open those boxes. Eat, drink, and be merry!
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