Tuesday, February 23, 2010


The five or six of you who follow vinofictions may have noticed the absence of a post for a few weeks. What used to be weekly, slipped to every other week, and then to “post when I feel the urge.” Lately, the urge has been usurped by my activity reading and commenting on other wine blogs. Luckily for my real life, I don’t read all the wine blogs out there, but the ones I do read hold me fast at times: some for their humor, some for their glibness, some for their good writing, and some for their ability to raise the hairs on my back and motivate me to vent.

The other day, after I bemoaned my personal blogging fate, a wine industry colleague asked me why I don’t review wines. He knows me well, but obviously not well enough, as he believes that I have a decent palate for wine. Before I snapped back at my colleague with my standard quip, “why should anyone care what I like?” He said, “And don’t give me your standard response. Wine reviews are what people want from a blog.”

Little did my colleague know, but I had long ago come to that conclusion. It was in fact partly behind my choice not to write reviews. My whole life has been accented by an attempt to tweak prevailing wisdom or, with any serious good luck, to maybe change things.

Such hubris needs to be guarded against. The person who sets out to make change likely isn’t going to be the one to effect change—that happy fate often falls to the humble who plod along doing what they love, and doing it well.

Still, my colleague made me think.

Wine became part of my life as early as age seven in Brooklyn. Over my young years, I helped the next door neighbor who hailed from Napoli, as most of my neighborhood had. We loaded boxes of grapes into his cellar for him to press and I helped him move things around and clean up in the cellar. With my first sniff of just emptied barrels of wine that he had bottled, a lasting fume took residence in my soul. Later, I drank some of the wines (cut with water, of course) at our dinner table—they were all red wines, and they each reminded me of what we called tar beach, the smell of an asphalt rooftop in mid July. And they tasted like earth, and not really the Good Earth!

How curiously stimulating wine was to this seven-year-old.

Later, I became the only 19 year-old on the block that owned a corkscrew, used during those times when, flush with cash, I could forgo Thunderbird for a Monsieur Henri Selection to go with that tube of airplane glue. Hey, it was Brooklyn, circa 1960s; what did you expect?

As the years went by, I shed the glue and sundry bad habits and built a relationship with wine. Later still, my horizons opened during my military service in the Vietnam period, as I met people that had life experiences to teach me, and then by my own travel abroad after I got “back in the world,” as we used to say.

In the 1970s, I lived in Iran for two years around the same time as Cat Stevens, but neither for the same reason nor in the same place. My trip was for work and for education. Drinking Iranian Riesling and a red wine named 1001 began a thirty-plus year infatuation for me with the connection between wine and civilization. Then, it was on through Europe, with parts experienced along the soon-to-vanish last stops of the Orient Express. From Holland to Greece and many points between, I learned about food and wine, not to mention that I found cultures other than the American form—that actually work.

Soon, I found myself studying the winemaking process; then, I practiced at home what I learned; then, I was licensed to make the stuff commercially; then, licensed to sell it; and then, licensed to wax philosophic over it. Not really. There is no license for that. There’s also no license that gives you the privilege to tell others what a wine should be or taste like, and that was okay with me. I didn’t want the horns that I believe it takes to “know” the unknowable, what Lucifer promises but always manages to extract a price for in return.

It was always a mystery to me the way wine grips people. Today, the only thing that I think I know is that wine is elemental—like blood. Too often, however, instead of viewing wine as part of our id we place it squarely in the part of us that is ego.

With the launch of vinofictions about four years ago, my intention was to wade through the PR and the crap that surrounds the subject of wine and then try to tell things the way they are. It’s not only painfully clear that few people want to hear it, I am painfully aware of how egotistical my intention was.

Therefore, I’m not so sure when my next vinofictions post will be or if a next one materializes what the subject of it will be, but I am sure of one thing: I have no intention to review wines.

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
February 2010. All rights reserved.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Wine and the health care debate in congress

This might be a stretch, but wine and the health care debate in the USA seem to have something in common.

The sad state of affairs for wine producers has been written about, interminably, especially the ones who’ve been used to charging high prices for their products only to find that at the slightest mini-economic meltdown that wipes out retirement accounts, home ownership, venerable corporations, and more jobs than there are cockroaches in New York City, these producers can’t move their over-priced plonk. They have been forced (some of them) to charge closer to what the wine is worth.

The situation is enough to make one wonder what it is that motivated buyers to lay down all that cash over these past few years. Maybe it has something to do with the concept, “I’ve Got Mine (IGM).” To interpret: my income from derivatives and bonuses is so great, who gives a rat’s ass if you can’t afford to pay an unreasonable price for 750 ml. of fine-tasting alcohol. I will pay it—until I can’t.

In Massachusetts recently, voters seemed to respond to the IGM message that they have their state health care system and it works for them; why should they send a senator to congress who would force them to help the rest of us gain such a system?

Yep, it's IGM: a mantra that pervades the right tilt.

Notice that wine drinkers didn’t stop drinking wine when their incomes tanked; they simply lowered their standards. That fact caused one wine blogger to claim that it proves wine drinkers are in it for the buzz—hmmm, maybe so.

Notice, too, that Americans (well, a majority of us) haven’t stopped buying health insurance as the price of premiums surpassed the value of the insurance. The credit card industry seems the only one to have kept pace with the cost of health insurance; banks get away with interest rates that used to send to prison the mobsters on the corner of a particular Brooklyn neighborhood with which this writer was intimate.

In fact, as a side parallel between health care and wine, the government has reversed the definition of the word “usury” from bad to good while the feds at TTB have changed the definition of the word “ameliorate” in reverse order. But I digress…

Why haven’t we stopped buying expensive health insurance and why have we stopped buying expensive wine?

The answer is so simple it is often missed. With wine, we have choices.

There’s a lesson in the fact that as people stopped buying expensive wine, expensive wine producers were forced to respond by reducing their prices. We can probably end the sorry state of affair in the health insurance situation by doing the same thing.

Tomorrow morning, every American with a health insurance policy should cancel it.

By taking that step, we would all lose our health care, but no doctor or hospital will be able to make a living either. How long do you think it would take the idiots in congress (and the idiots who claim IGM) to understand what we are saying through such an action?

If it weren’t for the volume of drinkable cheap wine available on the market, I’d probably have trouble sleeping at night, wondering how to raise the next million to send to the health insurance bureaucracy. Still, I have to hand it to the insurance industry (an industry that I believe was invented by Italians—mea culpa for my ethnicity). Long ago, the health insurance gangsters devised a system to sell a product based on fear and also to make sure that there is no competition, which is the exact reverse of the wine industry.

Wine is in trouble today because it sells a product based on joy and there’s too much competition.

Wow, instead of proving that wine and the health care debate have things in common, I’ve lurched uncontrollably into identifying a truly skewed American lifestyle. Better stop now, before I look for a sharp razor…

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
February 2010. All rights reserved.