It’s getting harder not to be a wine wanker!

1This photo was taken at the Brokenwood Graveyard lunch back in late may of last year and about 2 months before we started this whole Wine Wankers caper.  It’s probably the most wine wanker get-up I’ve ever worn and that day I did wear it with pride.  One of my very first blog posts was about how well I fitted in with that jacket!  I had absolutely no idea at that stage of the journey ahead of me.

For those of you unfamiliar with the term “wine wanker” I’ll fill you in.  It’s a term I’d heard a little bit of in the past but it wasn’t until I was invited to a wine drinking game called “wine wankers” did I really get to know of it.  This game is a type of wine options game where wine is placed into paper bags, sampled, and everyone guesses what wine is what.  In short, it’s a fun game but the idea really is to act like “wine wankers” by showing how good you are at picking the wines.  The reality of this event though was that we all just got mightily tipsy.  So my first real encounter with “wine wankers” was fun.

I’m sure that I don’t need to fill you all in on the various meanings of the word “wanker”.  I think some people have interpreted our name to mean “people who love wine so much that they stroke the bottle over wine all the time”.  LOL… I can see where that one is coming from, and I kinda like that interpretation, but no, that’s not quite it (although wine does excite us).

The term “wine wankers” has really been used in Australia as a derogative term for passionate wine drinkers, especially those who try to show others that they know something about wine, often in a way that makes others feel inadequate.  They are the wine snobs with a serious high-brow view of wine.  We like to keep each other on a level playing field in this country so calling someone a “wine wanker” is a way to bring the overly enthusiastic wine drinker back down to Earth especially if they are a bit of a “smart-arse” about their position with wine.

So, why then would we go and call ourselves The Wine Wankers?  Sometimes we ask ourselves that question, but in the end, it has been a key part of our success.  It’s a name that gets attention and is never forgotten.  It’s also polarizing in that it’s either attractive or it’s a bit scary.  Luckily, either way, it has all worked out in our favour.

We didn’t sit around and think of a name that would gain attention, it was all spontaneous.  My brother-in-law Stuart and I are both passionate wine drinkers and we’d spend quite a bit of time at family functions drinking good wine and chatting about it.  The rest of our family aren’t quite as enthusiastic so we’d joke that we’re the “wine wankers” of the family.  After one discussion last July, as told here, we decided to write a blog about our passion.  It was all in good fun and it has gained some serious legs since that moment.  Strange how things happen.

The funny thing is, as Neal wrote in “Don’t be a wine wanker!‘, by comparison to many people in the wine industry we are probably one of the least wine wanking lot out there.  And right there is my issue and the conundrum I am writing about.  Amongst my “less than enthusiastic about wine as ourselves” family, we’re wine wankers, but compared to some wine people who take themselves a little too seriously our namesake becomes an oxymoron.

Being a somewhat negative term, although I’d like to think we’re lightening its meaning up a bit, no one in wine wants to be an actual wine wanker.  The thing is, and I’ve really noticed this since we started our caper, it seems that the more knowledge about wine someone has the harder it is for them not to be a wine wanker.  There’s a lot of very knowledgeable wine people who try hard to come across as being connected to the average wine drinker, and some have even made videos on “how not to drink wine like a wanker”, but in the end many still find it hard to truly connect with the “wine drinker on the street”.  Sure, they are no doubt nice people but they can’t help but display their knowledge because not to do so would be letting themselves down.

But is it actually the display of wine knowledge that defines the wine wanker or is it when they use their knowledge to create an air of superiority that the wine wanker truly comes into being?

And here is my problem. It’s getting hard not to be a wine wanker… but I’m onto it!  We’ve been very fortunate to gain a real and proper following and much of that has been on the wing of a connection to the average wine drinker rather than on showing off our knowledge.  The thing is, my wine knowledge has exploded exponentially since we started last year and I too am finding it difficult not to describe wine in more detail because I know so much more.  This may appeal to the more knowledgeable wine person that follows us (who might be bored otherwise) but to most wine drinkers they really don’t care for too much detail.  They just want to know if a wine is good, and moreso, if we had fun drinking it.

So, my dilemma moving forward is going to be how to make sure that I keep a handle on the wine wanker monster and how to stay connected with our core readers who just want to hear our wine stories without too much wank.  If being a wine wanker is just about gaining knowledge and sharing it then I’m fine with being a wine wanker but if it means that a level of arrogance develops then I’m not up for that.  I’d like to think I’ve got the monster tamed, but forgive me if it escapes from time to time.  I vow not to use my growing wine knowledge as a weapon and I must make sure that it never corrupts…

First world problems.

Author: Conrad

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77 comments

  1. ‘To be, or not to be…this is the question!’. Hamlet I think. Personally I think you should just be you. If your enjoying it…do it. It is when it becomes a chore that your not coming from the right place and it loses its purpose.
    All your readers realise your blog has begun to come of age, and maturing into a lovely sought after range of good wine. Let it. It is in enjoying that ageing that will give you that connection.
    If you feel that you ‘have to express the wanker’, do so…but always with the balance of the journey, the expressing of the moment and what really creates all of these times…that sharing with others of something that you enjoy.
    If you become just the serious ‘wine wanker’, you will gather that following. If you just give the tour, you will gather the holiday traveler. But if you become you, as you have been, they will all follow.
    I have enjoyed your journey, and I do neither of the above. It is in your telling of your enjoyment that I feel, the larrikin in the vineyard that shows us ‘how’ to enjoy what you love to do. And in that you express it well. An interesting journey, with a laugh but with a dash of seriousness to show what is your true love. (Don’t tell your missus, you may be a homeless wanker 🙂 )
    So from me, keep up the good work. Oh, and by the way, I’m looking forward to a post on a competition or two of ‘blind’ taste testing. I think it should almost turn into a sport. NSW v VIC or WA v QLD, should get quite a following. Actually, you guys become the Chief ‘wankers’ for judging purposes. I think it would take off well! 🙂
    So my friends, good luck and blessings whatever you may choose. Just do it from your heart. Namaste

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  2. Yeah, well I’d like to say something profound. I feel the need. But don’t we all? I think your name’s terrific. Love the write-ups. Can’t afford most of the recommended bottles, but what the heck. Maybe that’s why you’re wankers… I can’t get it free, or even for $9.99 … (I buy plonk out of necessity – but still appreciate what I should be buying instead…) Thanks for following my blog, I might add. You probably don’t know which one it is, but it’s thrill to be liked by THE WINE WANKERS!! Keep going you guys!

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    • Thanks Bruce. It may take me a while to become aquainted with the more recent bloggers but I’ve been reading your stories for quite some time (although may not get to them as much as I’d like). Thank you very much for reading us!

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  3. Not too sure if I like that grey jacket…it looks a bit of a sick green colour. Maybe it’s the lighting.

    Very nice to see you guys come so far. Yes, strange things do happen. I wonder why I’ve stuck around for so long for someone who doesn’t drink – it really has been an entertaining ride learning about wine, no question about that 🙂

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    • Mabel, the guys can bag my jacket all they like but to hear this from you… you of all people… well I’m shattered! 😛

      I find it quite bizarre that we have a few non-drinkers who actually enjoy reading our blog. I suppose it’s a real honour…

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      • Hahaha, out of all my friends I don’t have any fashion sense at all. I’m the kind who’ll throw on a T-shirt and jeans and be done with decorating myself 😉

        Drinking and fine wine a part of this little world of ours, is a fact. It’s so easy to understand the writing on this blog – your wine posts read well.

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  4. I think the trick might be to continue to write just the way you are now, you make the descriptions accessible even to those who are not lovers of wine, those who don’t necessarily understand what you are talking about when describing the flavors. So this is what a ‘Wine ‘Wanker’ is? Well, could be worse, right?

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  5. I agree with Valentine! You write very accessibly, which is what gives the blog its appeal. But I want to know WHY you liked the wine, not just THAT you liked it. Don’t be afraid to educate us just a little 😉

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  6. Oh, I remember that jacket.
    Maybe you should include something like “Hyper Wine Wanking” sections, where you can go all out in technical wine details.
    Storytelling is alive, it keeps growing and changing, its natural and healthy but the marketing becomes such a terrible pain.

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  7. Well written! Enjoyment and education can certainly go hand in hand without being stuffy or looking down on others who don’t have the experience. Doesn’t matter what the subject is! Your blog is doing a wonderful job of blending real heart-felt enthusiasm for food and wine with education, taking the reader on a voyage of delight to far-away places many can’t afford the time or money to visit. A pleasure to read!

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  8. When you’re passionate about something you’re inevitably going to delve deeper than most in learning more about your passion. It’s just seems like a natural progression which is going to happen. Keep writing in the voice you’ve developed and are comfortable with! Also, no matter how wanky you get, take heart that the micro-brew beer and bourbon wankers are waaaaay wankier and annoying.

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  9. RE the Wine Wanker’s jacket – I think it’s awesome! Very classy. It put me in mind of the green sports coat they give to winners of the US Masters golf tournament – http://blog.kikigolf.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/the-green-jacket.jpg I wish they’d lean more towards the WW jacket’s colour palette, though. For your part, perhaps you could design and include a WW badge or lapel pin.

    Anyroad, enjoying your articles as usual; thanks for your contribution to the blogosphere!

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  10. An excellent in depth discussion of your concept of wine writing and your beloved nom de plume. I thoroughly enjoy a chatty discourse, rather then a lecture on wines. This way, I feel the wines are a character in the post and not just a subject to be dissected. Keep up the fine work, if it can be called work.

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    • Thanks mate for sharing that view. We’ve always tried to keep our posts about the story of the wine occasion but it is getting a little more difficult. There’s only so many occasions one can squeeze a wine tasting session into before it’s just a wine tasting. We’ll keep at it though.

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  11. There was a time in my life when wine was either red or white, tasty or not, and that was as much as I knew. Then, I started paying attention to the labels of the ones I found tasty. And trying to remember what I had enjoyed so the incidents of wasted money decreased. This guy I started dating 7 years ago would go with me to wine tastings and we would compare what we liked about the wines we tasted, buy bottles we liked and always keep some wine for special occasions and some for swilling. I married him after 3 years and this behavior continues.

    I think your posts are very similar to our conversations. “I like this one because this is what I’m tasting.” “I think this will pair well with whatever.” I don’t read you talking down to people who haven’t had your practice at interpreting the flavors that you encounter. Rather, I see you making the wines you drink accessible in a playful way. And I find your descriptions of how you served a particular wine with a certain food to be useful.

    Perhaps that’s the difference between a wanker and an enthusiast. A wanker is a snob who acts as though those who haven’t had the privilege of tasting excellent vintages are lesser beings. And an enthusiast wants to share what s/he knows about the thing s/he loves with everybody.

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    • Thanks so much Kitty for sharing that story about you and your husband. Yes, you are probably right on the difference between an enthusiast and a wanker. I suppose there’s a small degree of interpretation in there too but the main thing is we have to never become arrogant. That’s when we fall to the dark side. 😉

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  12. Now I finally know where the term comes from, I thought you made it up and it´s actually a real term, a derrogatory one but still a real term. That was fun to know. I think I´m one wine wanker too.

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  13. I love the idea of a blind wine tasting competition. I wonder that more people aren’t allergic to the sulphites in red wine, as I appear to be. The only way around it is organic wines without them, or is that kind of wine more common in Australia? In any case, I enjoy reading about the wines you like and learning. I am sure I will not stray into true wanker territory, but being a wine ‘wonk’ might be a possibility.

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    • OK Beth, you’re a wine wonk then! lol. 😉

      A lot more wine is organic nowadays so your choice should be growing somewhat. I think we had the sulphite discussion once before. I believe it’s all about the degree of sulphites and the degree of allergy, that’s why some people are more affected by certain wines than other allergic people. There’s probably a lot more people wit an allergy but they may be mild and either just put up with the reaction or don’t even notice it.

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  14. Despite my meager knowledge about wine, I really enjoy your blog and think it is awesome because it combines great writing, joy of life, and an exquisite humor. It’s only natural that one becomes knowledgable in the field he/she is enthusiastic about, so nothing to do with arrogance. 🙂 Heila

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  15. So, not coming across as a wine wanker. That’s something I might actually be able to help you with. Some rules of thumb:

    1. Don’t bust out with a bunch of technical wine language. Jargon is alienating to people who don’t understand it.

    2. If you happen to stumble into a really famous vintage and get to taste it, try not to go on and on about how Napolean drank it. Just treat it like any other wine, and talk about it honestly. If if sucks, say it sucks. If it’s the best wine you ever tasted, say that.

    3. When I come here and read your posts – every word of them, I am always wondering where the grapes came from. Especially since you’re a wine expert now (and don’t kid yourself or give in to the false modesty impulse – you are an expert at this point), grape geneaologies might add some interest to your game.

    4. I think that jacket is just fine.

    That is all. I like this post. It is shareable.

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  16. Conrad, reckon you might be a bit down to earth to really invest yourself in the upper echelons of wine wank-dom but here’s a test you can apply whenever you’re unsure how close to crossing the line you are. If someone says “Are you a wine wanker?” and you don’t immediately answer with an enthusiastic “Asolutely!” but instead have to clarify whether or not that’s a reference to your blog or your penchant for good wine, then you’ll know if the tail’s started waging the dog. Keep up the good work and I hope you guys make it in an industry full of pproper wankers…they need the balance that you bring.

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  17. Not sure I’ll ever graduate from Wine Wacky to full and glorious Wine Wanker status, given my inexperienced and fickle palate, but I’m always happy to do the research!!! 😀 So glad to have you fellows doing the more sophisticated and systematic study for me. Thanks, Conrad!
    Cheers,
    Kath

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  18. With so much wine to be had these days, there’s a lot of ‘wanking’ to be had too. Do you have Weed Wankers down under? Goes well with wine 🙂

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  19. I see you as a site in which all walks can come enjoy informal vino experience; snowboarders, climbers, marathoners, ultras, boxers, writers, physicists, and honest politicians…if they would stay honest.

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  20. I love the knowledge and adventures you’ve shared over the last year! It’s always nice to take note of wine and food combos you Aussie’s like. 🙂 (and due to your blog, I’ll never think of a wine wanker as anything, but superb)

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  21. Best gig ever. They send you the wines. You consume. You write. We read. We consume. We write. (Never consume and write…?) xo Enjoying the blog. And the wines. Would love to visit when we are in the area…would you consider creating an actual physical space for sharing wine stories and, of course, some wines? -Ret

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  22. Thanks for the full explanation of the term wine wankers, lmao! I like the fun idea of the game with the bottles covered up and drinkers guessing…very cool. Perhaps I can think of it in time for the next gathering here at my house.

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  23. G’day Boys,
    Thanks for the ‘Follow’ on Titter. I’ve just read a few of your blogs and I’ve got to say you are a breath of fresh (albeit winey) air in the wine scene. Right on with your philosophy of what constitutes a ‘wine wanker’. I’ve been quietly battling them for decades. It started about 25 years or so ago when someone (and when I find him or her they’re going to get such a smack) probably a bored wine writer, or some wine academic, decided that the wine industry needed a whole new system of nomenclature without which one could not talk about the taste and aroma of wine properly. I’m referring to the wave of silly names that says wine tastes and/or smells like everything except fermented grape juice! It started in a minor way; comparing wine to similar fruits and berries but soon it became, and remains, utterly ridiculous. I have read descriptions of wine that included “rusty corrugated iron”, “egg shells”, “rhubarb”, “pineapple”, “unripe mangoes”, “cucumber”, “green salad”, “peaches & cream”, “caramel”, “buttery”, etc. etc.
    What’s wrong with sweet, not so sweet, dry, triple sec, full bodied, shriazy, mellow, soft, mid-range…, dusty (bad corky), well, you get the idea. As to aromas I’ve got to say, unless everyone on the planet has a differently structured nose than I do: wine, godamnit, smells like WINE. Many different aromas from many different types of wine, I grant you, but wine… because it’s made from grapes. (I’m not addressing other fruit or berry wines, that’s another kettle of wine.)

    I’m a retired cook and journalist. I’ve drunk wine from the age of 16; the first bottle coming from a young Billy Chambers… (I’m now an old fogey). I’ve grown grapes and learned how to make ‘backyard’ wine. I love wine, all kinds of decent wines, yes, some wines even mistakenly put in plastic bladders in cardboard boxes. There are some wines I’d rather not drink but I’ve given them a good going over.

    More power to ‘The Wine Wankers’. Glad to know there are people out there who celebrate and revel in drinking wine without feeling the need to make the whole wonderful process boring and tedious by using a lot of artificial jargon.

    Keep up the good fight… and the good drink!

    Hate mail can be sent to Bill Halliwell. Next time you’re in Tasmania, try and find me!

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    • Thanks Bill for taking the time to write such a long reply. Exactly what you described is probably the reason why we’ve taken off… we’re not into all that jargon, but we do feel the pressure to be descriptive. Keeping it real is what it’s all about. Salud!

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  24. At dinner tonight, I threw caution to the wind and drank some riesling with my tuna fish salad. My 11 yr old son, who covets his own schmancy wine glass, declared that he would like to be a wine wanker when he grows up. Not in those words, but he would use them if he knew them. 🙂 He also likes smoking candy cigarettes.

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