Saturday, January 31, 2009

Moronic me

Recently, I came to the same conclusion that my colleague, Lyle Fass, came to about wine-centric forum Web sites. There’s a major level of futility connected to the many discussions that take place over and over on those sites.

As a result, I find myself gravitating more and more toward commenting on blogs, which, it turns out, isn’t always smooth sailing either.

A little while ago, one of the columns that I write for a newspaper’s magazine managed to migrate to the newspaper’s Web site—this happens not with all the columns, but with a few columns that the editors seem to think worthy of Internet exposure.

The column was about pairing dessert wine with dessert. I didn’t know that it was online until one of those Google Alerts came to me to tell me whenever my name is mentioned in an online post. The alert sent me to a blog by Kathleen Lisson, who talks about wine and food pairings. In her blog entry Ms. Lisson referenced my column and so I clicked on the link to see where it appeared online.

I won’t go into the extent of the column; you can read it by clicking the link below. But I was struck by the one comment to the column that appeared right under it.

People with nothing constructive to say often post anonymously or with a fictitious screen name. In this case, the reason for hiding one’s identity likely has to do with the nature of the name calling, not to mention the general vacuous nature of the overall post.

The writer starts by calling my column moronic and then proceeds to point out myriad misunderstandings, lack of knowledge, and general lack of civility not displayed by me but by the writer’s rebuttal.

Just in case this person follows this blog: they are called dessert wines because they often ARE the dessert and because you don’t consume them until the end of the main meal—get it?

At first, my heart raced when I read the inane comment. It’s that instinctual fight or flight reaction that so often takes over our sense of reason. I made ready to post a heated response, but then I stopped to do what matters—to think.

Over my lifetime and especially ever since I started to teach wine classes, I’ve learned that one’s efforts at educating have the best effects on those who seek to learn. You can’t teach those who already know everything. Ego makes no room for rationality. Of course, this particular writer’s dripping sarcasm makes a feeble attempt at covering up a lack of knowledge, but isn’t that what making noise is all about?

In my view, one of the hallmarks of intelligence is a sense of irony and humor; in a reference to something I wrote about Port, the writer could not have been any clearer about his or her lack of either. Therefore, I chose not to engage the recalcitrant know-it-all but instead to vent here, where I use my real name and invite the comments of real people unafraid to tell me who they are.

I do wish that those interested in spewing venom would turn to talk radio where it belongs.

You can make your evaluation of both my column and that person’s response. If you want to comment here on the matter, tell me who you are and I’ll engage in the conversation—the same goes to my secret admirer, should he or she be reading this blog.



Copyright Thomas Pellechia
January 2009. All rights reserved.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Just the facts, please

I’ve said this before, but after a recent experience I had on someone else’s blog, it’s worth saying one more time: opinions are fine, as far as they go, and we all harbor opinions. But my wider interest is in the facts.

I can’t count the many times over the course of my life when my opinion on some situation was shot down by the truth of the matter, or a small fact that I did not know existed. Over time, I learned that an opinion without accompanying facts isn’t of much use to others.

I recently had the experience of questioning the opinion of a blogger concerning pairing wine with chocolate. The blogger’s opinion is not only that red wine and chocolate do not pair well together, but also that a winery trying to persuade consumers that the pairing works is guilty of scamming.

The blogger’s opinions would at least seem credible if some evidence of a universal nature were provided to support the universal criticism. But the blogger provides none of that.

Other than chocolate is sweet and red wine is not, the blogger says nothing enlightening about the pairing—and of course, not all chocolate is sweet and not all red wine isn’t.

Even still, it would be nice to know what there is to stop a sweet chocolate from pairing with the right dry red wine? Wine and food pairings rely on texture and components. In my experience, the fruit in wine and the tannin in chocolate are often the key to whether or not there can be a marriage of the two. Blanket condemnation is off the mark.

In addition, the blogger accuses wineries of scamming consumers when they pour red wine with chocolate in their tasting rooms because consumers have been drinking. Following the logic, one can make the claim that wine tasting rooms are a big scam, because consumers are drinking and that is why they like the wine that they buy.

The blogger admitted to not having tried some of the wine and chocolate pairings that some mentioned in their comments. In my book, that doesn’t lend credibility to the blanket opinion, and I hope the blogger tries some of the suggestions.

When posting my comments on that blog I did something that I have never done before: I posted under anonymous. When I called the blogger on the assumptions of the opinion, my motive was questioned. Coming from this particular blogger, that’s an interesting allusion:

I posted anonymously because the blogger does not divulge his or her identity, claiming that the opinions might get the blogger into trouble at work.

I’m sorry to say, but the blogger's defense for anonymity does more to raise suspicion than to build confidence; the blogger proves that by suspecting my motive for commenting anonymously (which was my way of making a statement about the blogger's anonymity).

Aside from what I think of the red wine and chocolate opinion that comes without factual back up, a person must take responsibility for his or her words. If for whatever reason that isn’t possible, then that person ought to re-evaluate the leap he or she has made, and the reader ought to take the opinions with a grain of chocolate—and a glass of wine!


If you are reading this entry anywhere other than on the vinofictions blog, be aware that it has been lifted without my permission (and without recompense), and that’s a copyright infringement, no matter that the copyright information appears with it.

Copyright Thomas Pellechia
January 2009. All rights reserved.