Friday, February 16, 2007

Snake Oil

~More than twenty years ago, I remember having been invited to a business associate’s upper East Side Manhattan apartment for a gathering. In my usual, but unfashionable manner, I was early. I was also unaccustomed to the Upper East Side, which can be as prime in pretension as it is in real estate.
~The host knew about my growing interest and involvement with wine and so, when he telephoned to invite me to the gathering he mentioned a new gadget that he had recently acquired that made even the least expensive wine taste like a wine of a Chateau of the highest order (one way to keep your money is not to spend too much of it).
~Since I was early to the party, the host felt the need to entertain me. After walking me through the 4,000 or so square feet of the ostentatious, but impressive nonetheless, duplex apartment off of Fifth Avenue, he took me into his “library” where the wine aging gadget was being housed.
~As we approached a small oak barrel, I was about to comment over the quaint-ness of having a faux wine barrel in his library when my host pointed to the barrel and said, “Look at that, will you.”

My host poured me a sample of what turned out to be cheap, red oxidized wine that was past the point of recognition.

This man of money, this V.P. of a small ad agency, this middle-aged wine aficionado was sold a meaningless bill of goods and he didn’t have the taste buds to figure it out.

“Isn’t that something?” He asked me the question with such pride I almost couldn’t bear what I was about to say to him.

Incidentally, I never got the project that I was bidding on with my host’s company.

~These days, to rake in the dollars, the “improve your wine” scams are more technical than a mere small barrel. The scammers use magnets, ion exchangers, things with compartments, shiny objects, computerized shiny objects, and just about anything else that looks like it might make the buyer feel like he or she has been transported to the future of wine production and aging.
~Some of the modern gadgets claim to age your wine before your eyes; others claim to remove from your wine whatever the hell it is that you want removed.
~Mostly, the gadgets are probably useless, but even if they were to work as promised, I am still trying to discover a reason to buy a wine that is undrinkable and then buy a magnet that would make it drinkable. Seems to me it’s much smarter to buy a wine that is drinkable in the first place.
~As to whether or not the many gadgets do indeed perform the function they are intended to perform, I can’t speak from first-hand knowledge, since I don’t buy gadgets.
~I learned as a child from my father that buying from scam artists through the mail will only get you things like Christmas tree ornaments that glow in the dark. The ornaments performed as promised, but in order to enjoy them we had to wait until dark and then turn out all the lights in the apartment—even the ones we painstakingly hung on the tree the day before Christmas!
~I have many friends and associates in the wine business. I know of not one who thinks anything more of these products to improve your wine than that they are scams. A few of my colleagues host and operate a wine forum or two on the Internet. When these fellows questioned the inventors of some of the “improve your wine” products the answers to their questions have been laughable. They avoid offering tangible proof, and they quote a variety of supposed scientists or wine people who, it often turns out, are part of the scam.
~I suppose there are some people who would prefer Christmas tree ornaments that glow in the dark over a string of lights.
~I also suppose that many of these people are quite content remaining in the dark—that’s their prerogative. But you wine drinkers out there know that the only way to tell if the wine in your glass is red, white or pink is to turn on the light.
~In my view, the only way to make sure that the wine you have is properly produced and aged, is to turn on the light of knowledge, and not to rely on light bulbs that have been darkened with a thick coat of snake oil.

Read these sites. Some of it is funny: snake, oil, snake, pit,

Copyright, Thomas Pellechia
February, 2007. All Rights Reserved.

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