Saturday, November 29, 2008

There's ego and there's EGO!

My wife, Anne, comes from a literate family. True to her lineage, Anne is a good writer, but she doesn’t write. Believe me, she’s a lot better at it than I am. That’s why I often use her as my editor before I submit a book manuscript to the publisher.

Having been earning my keep through words, it escapes me how someone can disregard his or her writing talent and so one day I confronted my wife.

“With your talent and skill,” I asked in an all-important tone, “why have you never tried for a writing career?”

“Because,” she replied lightly, “I don’t feel that I have anything to say.”

As astonishing as her answer seemed at the time, it was also illuminating.

Why do bloggers blog? Why does anyone write anything?

We write and blog because we believe we have something to say. Plain and simple, writing is mainly an ego trip. Don’t get me wrong: I view having a healthy ego as an important ingredient for survival.

Now, there’s ego and there’s EGO; the out-sized latter all too often illustrates that the writer believes to a fault not only that he or she has something to say, but that we should believe it at face value.

Take for example something that took place online recently—a post by someone who said he smelled paint in a wine and wanted to know what that flaw is. A few quickly and emphatically responded that the smell indicated the wine suffered from a case of volatile acidity (VA).

Without getting too technical, VA is essentially high concentrations of naturally occurring acetic acid in wine. One way to wind up with a wine that suffers from VA is for excessive oxygen to meet up with a population of the acetobacteria that is in wine and then causing spoilage through build up of acetic acid.

Acetic acid concentrations in wine greater than 1.3 grams per liter can be unpleasant. Federal regulations allow for a maximum 1.4 grams per liter for red wine and 1.2 grams per liter for white wine (in France the maximum is lower and in Germany it’s higher than in the U.S.).

Most people with experience would say that VA smells like vinegar and they’d be correct: acetic acid is the definition of vinegar. Does vinegar smell like paint?

High concentrations of ethyl acetate in wine smells not so much like paint but like varnish. If we assume that when the poster smelled the wine, paint or paint thinner came to mind, it’s reasonable to assume that what he smelled was ethyl acetate.

Ethyl acetate is formed as an ester when ethanol (wine alcohol) reacts with acetic acid. It usually takes high levels of acetic acid for e. acetate to be noticeable in the wine’s aroma, but that does not necessarily mean that the wine had reached the point of excessive volatile acidity, just high enough for the alcohol and acid to react.

When a home winemaker tried to point out the technical issues regarding ethyl acetate and VA he was rewarded with this post from a wine geek: “…technical correctness matters little (perhaps not at all) in winespeak. If it's bad it's VA. If it's good then it's aromatic complexity.”

Seems to me that the geek who posted the above is stating that it doesn’t matter what’s really wrong with the wine, all that matters is that someone thinks it’s bad and so that someone can proclaim why it’s bad without really knowing the reason.

Now, there's ego and there's EGO.

In my view, those who proclaim erroneously to an unknowing audience can do damage, especially if they manage to sound commanding or if they hold a position of seeming authority. Whenever he was confronted with egotistical verbal gymnastics from people like that, my drill sergeant uncle used to say, “If you can’t back it up, shut up.”

And to think that I thought that my uncle was being unkind when he was only being perspicacious.


If you like wine and poster art, look at this: wineline

Copyright Thomas Pellechia

November 2008. All rights reserved.

2 comments:

Marco said...

What color paint did he smell in the wine? Burgundy? Glad to see you back here.

Thomas Pellechia said...

He didn't say anything about the color, but he is now certain that the paint wasn't lead free and so his life is in danger.

I never left--just rested. There's only so much a small brain can come up with each week...