Wednesday, March 19, 2008


The first time I went sailing as a crew member for a friend who owned a schooner, I did everything that I was told to do—everything that I understood, that is. By the end of the day, before I passed out from overwork, I had dubbed sailing talk as “jiberish.”

Every hobby has its own language, acronyms, initials, and probably a secret code or two. But I swear, after reading the language of online wine geeks I wonder if many of them have any fun at all drinking wine. The language that ranges from the pompous to the unintelligible speaks to obsession. But to joy? I don't know.

It seems as if many geeks are in the game for a pleasure other than the sheer joy of a solid, subtle, “perfect with my food” wine. They want to be blown away, not only by the wine and its unreasonable price, but also by reaching a level that eludes mere mortals—indeed, that mere mortals may never understand.

A geek dissects, analyzes, splits hairs, argues, confuses opinion with fact, jumps on others who disagree, demands some sort of special treatment—especially in restaurants—and all around seems to revel in obvious self importance. It’s no wonder that us regular folks find something elitist about wine geekdom; as the saying goes, where there’s smoke, there’s fire.

Good luck to anyone with a subjective opinion about a wine. There’s always a geek to disagree and challenge. But challenge what? The only kind of person who challenges subjectivity is someone too cocksure for me to want to get to know well.

A gathering of wine geeks, with its talk of tannins and integrated oak, of calibrating palates, of intensity and power seems always to come with an edge. The conviviality may at times even seem contrived, as if you are being set up to say something others lie in wait to challenge.

Sitting around a table with a bunch of geeks greedily tasting and spouting off often reminds me of my Brooklyn neighborhood, when the mobsters shot high stakes dice on the street corner.

The mobsters knew the game inside out; they spoke insider’s language, too (a hundred says he fours or eights, it’s a snake, I’ll cover him, etc.). These guys hung out together, robbed together, and some of them even killed together. They were a dysfunctional family. When they gambled with great intensity, it was like a contest of the fittest, a challenge to the top dogs.

The crap game produced a great degree of noise but, win or lose, you’d have been hard-pressed to identify as joy what the players expressed—obsession, maybe; desperation, to be sure.

Copyright Thomas Pellechia
March 2008. All rights reserved.


  1. Well said!

    The Ratings Game and the Fancy Pants Wine Word Game seem like inventions of men intent on one-upping each other...I know more than you, I'm more of an insider than you, I'm on top and you're not. It's boring. Wine is supposed to bring people together!


  2. It gets worse: many geeks on a few Web sites seem to think they are philosophers and that wine is the perfect vehicle for obfuscating joy with hundred-dollar words and concepts, not to mention a strong blow of piping hot air!

  3. Bravo, Thomas. The geeks seem to keep geeking out more and more. Their own effluvium is what counts not the wine. They don't see and taste what is in front of them. I try to read reviews and sites that are succinct and not peppered with jargon.

  4. After a long time of reading and studying them, plus spending time selling to and with them, I've come to understand that wine geekdom is like any other collector hobby-- having trumps enjoying, and the geek trumps the wine.

    I suppose being self centered is in the nature of hedonism. But hedonism doesn't necessarily have to come with pomposity and pseudo-scientific analysis; those parts are there to feed self importance.

  5. An over-the-top case in Point ?

  6. Jay,

    That link didn't come through right.

    Is it the impression/pleasure thread? That one got me thinking...

  7. "La Paulee San Fran - The Heavy Lumbers

    Just returned from La Paulee, where we had lunch (thanks to Eddie and Wilf) and dinner thursday at Minna (after having Daniel cook for us on the plane on the way out - thanks Eddie), auction at Minna friday night (great job by Zachy's), dinner at Aquarello on Friday (again thanks to Eddie and Wilf), and then the heavy lumber Paulee itself on saturday.

    The Crushin IT crew of Eddie, The Dr., Jk, Big Don, Wilf, Eric, Tommy, Neil and I drank more wine in 3 days than most people drink in 3 months. We had some amazing wines - far too many to list, but some which were exceptionally memorable. The REAL HIGHLIGHTS included:

    73 Salon Magnum
    52 Pommery Magnum
    74 Cristal Rose
    59 DP Rose

    93 & 96 Cros Parantoux Jayer both in Magnum - only Eric would bring a lumbering duo like they were a dime a dozen, as well as 93 LEroy Richebourg and about 10 other Jayers and Leroys.

    52 Ponsot Clos de la Roche, 52 de Vogue Musigny Mag, 88 Roumier Bonnes Mares Vieilles Vignes Magnum, 86 Ramonet Montrachet Magnum - courtesy of the world's greatest burgundy collector - Big Don.

    71 LaTache Methusaleh, 62 Roumier Bonnes Mares Magnum, 89 Ramonet Montrachet Magnum, 64 La Romanee Conti Magnum, 62 de Vogue Musigny and about 20 80's and 90's superstars from Airplane Eddie.

    The Dr was kind enough to bring 64 Ponsot CdR Mag, 49 of the same, 34 and 49 Roumier Bonnes Mares, 78 LaTache Jeroboam, 62 La Romanee Conti Jeroboam & 62 Chambertin Rousseau.

    Neil pulled out some lumber white burgs and a phenominal bottle of 71 Roumier Musigny.

    We also had 70 La Romanee Conti Methusaleh, 49 Rousseau Chambertin Jeroboam, 66 DRC Grands Echezeaux Magnum, 71 LaTache Magnum BEFORE the Methusaleh, 78 LaTache bottle before the Jero, 62 Rousseau Clos de Beze - both thursday and saturday night, 59 de Vogue Musigny VV TWICE, 45 de Vogue Musigny VV Magnum, 59 Rousseau Chmabertin Magnum, 71 Rousseau Clos de Beze Magnum, 49 LaTache Jeroboam (that's right - Jeroboam), 49 Roumier Musigny, 1919 de Vogue Musigny, 1919, 23, 26 and 43 La Romanee Conti....

    And someone said there weren't alot of great old burgundies, and large format old burgundies are fake ??? LOL

    Wine of the weekend for me is easy - the King sits on the throne, and never descends - 23 La Romanee Conti. Period. 45 de Vogue Musigny Mag was INSANE as well. Loved the 34 Roumier Bonnes Mares and the 93 CP Jayer Mag was incredible. 71 LaTache Meth was unreal... 52 Ponsot CdR was singing when i had it, as was the 88 Roumier VV Mag. Jk brought a bunch of great Mugniers and drouhin musigny(s).

    Course of the weekend was even easier - Daniel cooked for us chicken done inside pig bladder. Everyone made fun of me, b/c i thought when they brought the cooking dish out with the two pig bladders surrounding the chicken, we were gonna have to eat the pig bladder, and i was quite sure i wouldn't participate, but clearly that was a ridiculous notion, as they were simply used as cooking bags. This was easily the best chicken course i have ever had, and Daniel proved yet again that when he's in the Kitchen, YOU BETTER BE in the dining room.

    Genuinely incredible weekend."