Whilst the phenomenon of the “wine snob” has been recognized for some years, particularly in the public imagination, the active use of wine “snobbery” to promote sales by retailers, particularly high street chains, has been avoided. This article discusses an apparent change in this policy, where the branding strategies of the major high street chains have developed the concept of “consumer as professional” in an effort to symbolically include some consumers in the mystique of the wine trade. This has been achieved by encouraging a process of consumer education, involving trade examinations, and using the symbols of wine production to merchandise wine in shops at the fine wine end of the market. The result of this strategy is to create a small but loyal group of highly knowledgeable (invariably affluent) customers, at the expense of excluding other, less knowledgeable, consumer groups who are targeted by less heavily branded shops.
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