Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Okay, okay, I'm awake!

Well, now I am awakened. My last entry received more responses than all my earlier blog entries-some responses online, and some via email.

Generally, I have been supported, yet mildly taken to task for being cynical and giving up. An email I received this morning from another Finger Lakes-based writer made a good point about my cynicism, not to mention the relative difficulty in posting a comment on the Worpress version of Vinofictions, as opposed to the ease of doing so on Blogspot.

Unfortunately, the Wordpress version is more prone to spammers, and I am a simple writer. I don’t want to spend my time fending off spammers and various forms of sludge. Hell, I don’t even want to take the time to look into the stats to find out how many and who is reading this blog. I just want to write. So, I take the easy route. Maybe I should shut down the Wordpress version—maybe I will.

I’ve decided not to quit, but I will have to scale back my entries for the summer. My wife and I are erecting a greenhouse plus, we have various guests coming from the world over throughout the season.

For now, let me say a few words about why I made the previous entry. Primarily, it was because of the wine forum Websites. I read them in the hope of gaining information and to keep up with events, but I generally am sick of most of them. Not only are the conversations circuitous and repetitive, they are often abrasive and obsessive. But what truly gets to me about them is that the majority of their habituates seem comfortable with their myths—impervious to greeting a fact and shaking its hand.

My other problem: too many people don’t seem willing to take their own initiative, to go out and explore wine for themselves. They need one or two critical palates to guide them. Being a general “do it my way” kind of guy, I admit to finding the lemming trait offensive. But I do understand the argument that there is so much wine out there it is impossible for any one person to find them all.

I understand that argument, but I don’t buy it. In the immortal words of Dick Cheney: so what?

Once you realize that there isn’t enough time in your life to drink them all, it doesn’t mean you need to let someone else direct you to the wines, and it certainly does nothing to change your tastes, provided you are willing to trust your own taste and not the taste of the self-anointed.

Then there’s the argument that “I have only so much money, I don’t want to waste it on buying wines I may not like.”

First, a review and a high rating maybe helps, but it's no guarantee. I've never thought that I need anyone else's palate to guide mine, and I don't believe anyone else does. Anyway, consuming wine is a matter of personal taste.

Second, so much that we spend our money on comes with risk. As an example, take the Maytag dishwasher that I am throwing out the window this week.

Remember those TV commercials with Jesse White playing a Maytag repairman who sits alone most of his life because the units don’t need much service?

I stupidly bought into the Maytag reputation (not realizing that the company was sold to Whirlpool). I might as well have taken the $500 I spent on that dishwasher and lit it in the fireplace—that way I would have gotten something for my money. In other words, I took the easy path, didn’t do my own homework, bought from reputation and suggestions. What I got didn’t work (in less than four years, I had to replace the control panel three times!).

Buying anything comes with risk. High ratings and high praise do not negate that risk. In fact, if you look at it another way, they probably increase the risk by creating complacency, a sense of false security.

Sure, we’ll never get to taste every wine in the world, but we can have fun finding them on our own and trying as many as we can. In fact, sticking to one style or one place creates a stagnant taste preference. What fun is that?

I believe that with all the wines available to us, obsessing over the possibility of missing one of them means needing help, but not in wine buying…

Thanks to all who slapped me a little. You made me realize that there is an audience for my ramblings, and even if it is a small audience, it’s a fine one.

PS: To Tom Wark I have a suggestion (and to anyone else interested). Maynard Amerine once wrote a beautiful essay concerning wine quality: how to evaluate it and why it can and should be done. Try to get your hands on a copy of it. Look up Wayward Tendrils, a California organization of wine book collectors. Someone there might be able to help you find the essay, which Tendrils covers in its latest quarterly.

Copyright Thomas Pellechia
May 2008. All rights reserved.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

The SwanSong

So, I’m sitting in my chair facing my keyboard and looking at a blank screen—that’s today’s version of a writer facing a blank page.

In this case, the blank screen is because I am no longer sure what to say about wine online.

A number of adjectives describe what the online discourse about wine sometimes does to me. This week, I stumbled upon one too many adjectives, along with one too many jerks.

It saddens me that so many times those who voice their self-righteous proclamations seem to know just enough about wine and winemaking to be dangerous and not enough about humility and the general way that people need to act toward one another in order to peacefully share this planet.

In other words, a hell of a lot of wine geeks should never have been let out of high school!

How did it come to pass that people use the gift so pleasant as wine to bring attention to their status, to their self worth, and to their self-appointment as arbiters of taste? They subvert the goodness of wine. They claim they speak and consume wine out of passion. What comes through to me is obsession. Passion is an emotion of the heart—obsession is an emotional illness.

In any case, wine geeks never were my intended audience for Vinofictions. They are not my whole problem.

I aimed for the general wine consumer. My aim was to use Vinofictions to educate to the extent of my knowledge, which in wine amounts to about 26 years of study and experience in the business, from grape growing to winemaking to wine selling and wine writing, alongside decades of wine consumption that reaches back to age seven.

I am fully aware that, while I may have learned things through study, I don’t know it all, and so I also hoped that through dialog on Vinofictions I could continue to learn from others while they learned from me. But Vinofictions hasn’t really captured much attention and has generated even less dialog.

Wine writers with more than just opinions can help others come to their own decisions by giving them an understanding of the facts. But that doesn’t appear to be what gets the attention. What seems to get attention are wine writers who issue proclamations and position subjectivity as if it were information. I don’t do that kind of thing well because I do not believe in it.

I am suspending Vinofictions for the 2008 summer while I consider if I have anything left to say and also to find out if what I have to say has much of an audience. Right now, I’m of the opinion that the audience isn’t nearly as large as the time and effort warrants.

The blog will remain online so that the archives will be available to sift through and read.

A few of you have been kind enough to take part in this blog and to throw me encouraging words. I thank you. I wish there were more of you.
And to prove to you that I am not a saint, and that I, too, have something to sell: my third book is scheduled for an autumn release. Hope you all read it.
Copyright Thomas Pellechia
May 2008. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

What has this wine done for me lately?

It’s probable that every one of us has had the experience of a wine that tastes different from glass to glass over an evening. We call the phenomenon evolving, and by that, we generally mean that the wine evolves. But could it be that the taster is also evolving?

Surely, exposure to oxygen changes a wine; how much and how fast it changes I suppose is determined by the wine and the amount of oxygen to which it is exposed. But it’s highly possible that as the wine changes, so, too, does our perceptive capacity.

Maybe something volatile in the wine’s aroma that is subdued by time also hits a threshold point that subdues our aroma receptors. Or maybe what we taste first is still slightly closed; opened, it may offer more, but what if that excessive offering happens to land on a dull palate? Will it make for a good or a bad perception?

These kinds of concerns (and further myriad possibilities) may prevent from ever producing a definitive answer or an answer that even satisfies. You’d have to track every oxygen molecule and every person in the room to do it!

What about the other perception phenomenon, the one where you taste a wine today that you had tasted two weeks ago from another bottle but within the same box, and the present taste seems quite different from the previous one? Is it that the wine has changed, the bottle is a variation, or is it something about you or the conditions that causes the change in perception? Or maybe after a lengthy time span you simply can’t recall a taste exactly .

This subject came up recently on the Robert Parker Web site (see link below). Along with the usual unsubstantiated opinions that many provide about wine-related phenomenon, the thread received many considered responses, some of which come with a tinge or at least the possibility of truth.

See if you agree or not, but reading the thread reinforces the conclusion I came to a long time ago: the reasons are many that cause us to remember a past taste as different from the present taste of the same wine. I don’t think it’s either a good or a bad thing—just the way things are.

What the variance tells me is to enjoy the wine in front of me, if I enjoy it, and dislike the wine in front of me, if I dislike it. That’s another way of repeating that, “there are no great wines, only great bottles of wine.”

Looking at this subject objectively, it’s obvious that collecting wine can produce future unintended disappointments. I’m so glad I stopped collecting wine.


Copyright Thomas Pellechia
May 2008. All rights reserved.