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There’s a wine called Just Fucking Good Wine. The name is supposed to help democratize wine—their marketing says “No [to] wine snobbism.” I imagine it would be a fun one to order off a wine list (though the joke probably gets old pretty quick), but I don’t believe it does a thing for sticking it to the world of wine snobs—mainly because there is no such thing. And as for the maker’s claim that “We mean to be like a sort of Robin Hood giving back wine to the wine lovers,” I call bullshit.

The 'wine snob’ is a significant figure within marketing departments. In these scenarios, “wine snobs” dominate the industry, making it a bad place for anyone else to hang out and have fun. It’s a useful foil for brands wanting to polish their populist credentials.

While I admire Underwood wine company’s attempts to demystify Dundee Hills-based winery Alit wine, their slogan “pinkies down” (even allowing for some tongue in cheek) is clever, but silly: It creates an artificial “us” versus “them” setup (the good-time, straight-up, cool kids versus the snooty, effete, fun-destroying snobs).

The inventors of blue wine (yes, it’s a thing) revel in their rule-breaking status. To quote one of the founders, “We thought about how it would be to have real people making wine for real people, not a wine made by experts to pseudo-connoisseurs.” Ah, real people. Two Buck Chuck must have been selling their wines to mannequins all these years. And it’s not just cheaper brands: Alit sells Pinot Noir close to $30, but wants you to know they make “Wine for people, not critics.”

This wine snob/expert/critic is one and the same thing, an evil entity calling the shots and regulating what everyone should be drinking. But it’s a construction, a straw man that makes for an easy target. Take Underwood’s YouTube videos, which take aim at wine pretensions. Exaggerated and out of context, the snobby drinkers’ behavior looks ridiculous.

But the swirling, sniffing, sloshing and spitting they send up are rituals utilized by wine professionals in order to their jobs—there’s a good reason for each part. They don’t set out to obfuscate wine drinking (presumably the winemakers at Underwood also spit while tasting, unless they’re drunk at work all the time).

But just because pros do it, no one is expecting the rest of the world to comply—the waiter at Olive Garden doesn’t stand over you sneering because you failed to swirl your glass correctly. (Though it’s something you might want to do if you crack a wine that has been over-sulphured and stinks of bad eggs. Just saying.) If you’re at a house party you use whatever receptacle is available in the cupboard without worrying about whether people will laugh at you because you’re not using Riedel lead crystal.

One reason for the wine world’s bad rep is that it’s complex, especially compared to something like beer (unless you’re sitting next to an IPA bore)—the terms are unfamiliar, there are dozens of regions across the globe, too many grape varieties to remember, and lots of tongue-twisting foreign words. It’s totally understandable not to feel confident in that milieu, which makes it all the more easy to sustain the idea of the bogeyman wine snob in pop culture.

But wine can be as simple or complicated as you want. You don’t need to know anything to enjoy it, just as you don’t need to know how gin is made to enjoy a cocktail. At its simplest, it’s alcohol and it gets you wasted—red, white, rosé is all the vocabulary you need. If you want to know more, there are plenty of avenues: Portland is blessed with winemakers who love to talk about their craft, and any decent bar, bottle shop, or sommelier will point you in the right direction. (Shameless plug: I run wine classes at Sunday School.)


Wine can be as simple or complicated as you want. You don’t need to know anything to enjoy it. At its simplest, it’s alcohol and it gets you wasted.


Wine doesn’t need to be democratized because there already is something for everyone. Good wines ranging from $ to $$$$$$$$$$$$, Jersey bros sipping on rosé, Drake rapping an homage to Moscato, and restaurants serving glass pours from wine boxes. Take your pick, there’s a niche for you.

Sure, being the underdog, the rebel, helps shift product. But by going on about a wine world that’s dominated by snobs, brands risk inverted snobbery. Worse, they perpetuate the very thing they are denouncing. They create a distinction—based on fear—of saying you’re welcome and safe here, with our product, but the rest of the wine world isn’t for you. And that’s limiting and disingenuous.