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Wine-anxiety phenomenon

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Max Hauser

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Wine-anxiety phenomenon

by Max Hauser » Thu Oct 11, 2007 2:35 am

Spun off from the Tasting-Group thread. Bit of memory lane on a subject still important. Verbatim with minor edits such as removing signature files and email addresses (few now valid anyway, after 20 years). This is a little long, so I used smaller text.

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From: [Max Hauser]
Newsgroups: rec.food.drink
Date: 29 Apr 87 07:37:36 GMT
Distribution: na [North America -- MH]
Subject: The wine-anxiety phenomenon
Summary: In discussions, opinions are valuable

One of the great obstacles to communicating about wine is many people's reluctance to express their own opinion. They too often fear that they lack enough experience to comment, or that others will judge them based on their opinions, or that they lack the "lingo" and will sound foolish (an unfortunate effect of all of that intimidating terminology that some people use so freely, and maybe a deliberate one). Rendering an honest opinion is both one of the most frightful and one of the most valuable contributions a person can make in a serious wine discussion.

The frightful part fades over time but the valuable part remains. Nevertheless, many people who actually have a lot to say will retreat behind the presumed safety of a published opinion: "Parker [or Finigan or Steiman or Broadbent or Hazan or Spinazola or Kramer or Prial, or Blue or Walker) says ..."

One wine-enthusiast friend who teaches at a Boston-area college belongs to a tasting group with some other faculty. He reports that one of the younger members, although knowing a good deal about wine, hesitates to give his own opinion, preferring "so-and-so says ... " The others are forever trying to put him at ease so he will share his own experience, not because they want to judge him, but because a personal view in the course of the experience is so much more significant to them. So many people have been put on guard about their tastes being judged that even in a conspicuously friendly environment they reject opportunities to make an original and perhaps enlightening contribution. This is a tragedy.

It has been said, unkindly, that one reason for Robert Parker's phenomenal popularity as a wine writer is that he boils down a complex description of a wine to a single number, so that readers are spared the risk not only of advancing their own opinion but even of interpreting someone else's.

Consider an analogous situation: a student in a humanities course. When asked a provocative question requiring original thought, many an uncertain student will answer "So-and-so says ... ," but the teacher really wants to know what the student thinks, not so-and-so. Good teachers have a way of drawing out the students' own hesitant opinions and legitimizing them, and eventually encouraging their development, this being after all a fairly important part of original thinking.

I think it's an important part of discussing wine too, and I would appreciate hearing from other net people about how hesitant participants in a tasting group or other context can be encouraged to voice their own views.

Max Hauser



From: [Tom Neceda]
Newsgroups: rec.food.drink
Date: 30 Apr 87 22:17:56 GMT
Distribution: na
Subject: Re: The wine-anxiety phenomenon

In article <18629>, Max Hauser writes:

> One of the great obstacles to communicating about wine is many
> people's reluctance to express their own opinion.

I think most everyone harbors this sort of fear: someday they will be called upon to make a judgement of a wine at a tasting party. The one called upon takes a sip, and in the most serious-of-voices says "I think it's rather flowery". The room goes deathly quiet as all faces turn towards this hopeless innocent. From the corner of the room comes a low mutter - "Why is he so stupid?" (or, hey, is that just me? :-) )

Anyway ....

The reluctance to express an opinion on "anything" is too broad a subject and should not be dealt with on this newsgroup; however, the reluctance to express an opinion on wine could and should be discussed here.

I agree with Max when he says people are intimidated by the terminology.

I also feel that many are intimidated and put off by a real or imagined stuffiness and pretentiousness involved with the "ritual" of wine tasting/drinking.

l.a. I like to keep my opinions as simple as possible .... "is it dry/sweet, fruity, full, tannic, disgusting :-), etc". If the taste invokes some mental imagery that suggests "chalky (or whatever)" I might include that also, but I doubt that my idea of chalky and H. Johnsons' idea of it are very similar. My wife keeps if even simpler - it's either "Hey, I like this" or "Don't ever buy this stuff again". We don't always agree but we do have fun.

2.a. My wine-tasting sessions with friends and with a wonderful group called "Les Arnis du Vin" are most always on an extremely casual level and always fun. The terminology is initially kept to the understanding of the lowest common denominator (usually me :-) ) to start conversation and we usually throw in a bit of silliness to enhance the casualness.

So with the simplicity of (1.a) and the casualness of (2.a) even the most subdued and introverted get caught up in the fun, get involved, and find our tasting sessions to be informative and exciting - which is what wine is all about.

Tom Neceda [Holmdel, NJ]



From: [Brian K. Moran]
Newsgroups: rec.food.drink
Date: 1 May 87 00:48:00 GMT
Subject: Re: The wine-anxiety phenomenon

> I think it's an important part of discussing wine too, and I would appreciate hearing from other net people about how hesitant participants in a tasting group or other context can be encouraged to voice their own views.
Max Hauser

Have them place their comments on a somewhat impersonal medium such as [this one] (only 1/2 :-), which is tragic)

(I will refrain from a socially redeeming monologue lamenting the inability of humans to share comfortably each other's feelings and opinions, and instead stick with the crass tongue-in-cheek reflexive.)

Brian K. Moran [Cambridge, MA]



From: [mike parker]
Newsgroups: rec.food.drink
Date: 4 May 87 18:35:04 GMT
Subject: Re: The wine-anxiety phenomenon

I think that a large part of the problem is that we (those of use who won't talk about the way a wine tastes) just plain DON'T KNOW. I try to buy good wines based on recommendations from friends and magazines and newsletters. As a result the flaws are usually slight and harder to identify. Someone more expert than I might say "gee this stuff is a little ... " or worse yet "this stuff is ...and a little ... " Now how am I to tell which is which and learn to recognize it in other wines.

So, I once had a wine that I said "tastes like there's grape juice in it". And a more educated friend said yeah "fruity". Duh, so that's what that means. Now I can recognize even very slight fruityness, and I can accurately grade the level of fruit in a given wine. I would like a wine expert to invite me to a tasting of bad wines, preferably wines with a single glaring flaw. Then I could get an accurate feel of what all of the various components taste like.

mike [California]



From: [Andrew W. Rogers]
Newsgroups: rec.food.drink
Date: 5 May 87 13:48:36 GMT
Subject: Re: The wine-anxiety phenomenon

In article <3956> mike parker writes:
> ... 1 would like a wine expert to invite me to a tasting of bad wines,
>preferably wines with a single glaring flaw. Then I could get an accurate
>feel of what all of the various components taste like.

Someone makes a kit containing pretty much what you describe above: extracts of all the wine characteristics (both good and bad). You add them to water and taste the results, thereby associating a certain taste with "oakiness", "tannin", etc. Write if you'd like me to try finding out more about it.

AWR [Concord, Mass.]



From: [Steve Pope]
Newsgroups: rec.food.drink
Date: 6 May 87 22:42:47 GMT
Subject: Re: The wine-anxiety phenomenon

I'd like more wine drinkers out there to post things to the net. Descriptions of wine are nice, but those with the aforementioned "wine anxiety" could just say whether they liked a particular wine, and the price and place where purchased if they think it's a good deal.

Knowing what you're talking about is NOT a prerequisite to posting [here], as experienced netters are well aware.

steve [Berkeley, CA]



From: [Stephen Kurtzman]
Newsgroups: rec.food.drink
Date: 1 May 87 20:34:27 GMT
Distribution: na
Subject: Re: The wine-anxiety phenomenon

In article <18629> Max Hauser writes:

>One of the great obstacles to communicating about wine is many people's reluctance to express their own opinion. They too often fear that they lack enough experience to comment, or that others will judge them based on their opinions ... ... The others are forever trying to put him at ease so he will share his own experience, not because they want to judge him, but because a personal view in the course of the experience is so much more significant to them. So many people have been put on guard about their tastes being judged that even in a conspicuously friendly environment they reject opportunities to make an >original and perhaps enlightening contribution. This is a tragedy.


As a fledgling oenophile I find it difficult to express the impressions I get from a wine. I would really welcome a non-threatening environment where people talk about their impressions. From my personal experience I find a comment like "gee, this tastes like grapefruit" more helpful than "this one was rated higher by the Spectator." I always learn more about any subject when I can discuss it with someone. But let's face it, with all the BS talk that goes on concerning wine, it is hard for a newcomer to find people with whom they can have a reasonable discussion. What I hear most often from people is not "this one is rated higher than that one" but closer to "listen to how much information I can regurgitate on the subject of Zinfandels." Those types of comments almost sour the wine.

[Los Angeles, CA]



From: Tom Neceda
Newsgroups: rec.food.drink
Date: 7 May 87 14:28:15 GMT
Subject: Re: The wine-anxiety phenomenon
Summary: a suggestion

In article <18748>, Steve Pope writes:
> I'd like more wine drinkers out there to post things to the net. [more]

I don't know whether this has been tried before but here is a suggestion anyway. I think it would be nice if once a week-or-two a selection of two or three wines be posted to the net. Your mission, if you decide to accept, would be to sample the wines and make your comments to the net. The selection should be diverse, say a red, a white, and maybe something exotic. The wines should be affordable and at least reasonably available. Comments could be verbose or just a "I liked it". No flaming allowed. Comments are welcome on one or all of the wines. If the traffic becomes excessive (which I doubt) then a "moderator" could be set up for summaries ( I would rather avoid this).

The only thing necessary would be for someone to make the initial selections. I think this would be a great way of getting a large cross-section of opinions. Onlookers could use the information when they are out making their selections and budding connoisseurs can compare other opinions with their own ("So that's what fruity might taste like!").

How about it? I will summarize any comments e-mailed directly to me.

Thomas W. Neceda [Holmdel, NJ]



From: sydow@convex... [Dallas, TX]
Newsgroups: rec.food.drink
Date: 7 May 87 23:34:00 GMT
Subject: Re: The wine-anxiety phenomenon

I'm not sure what ya'll want to talk about, but if you want to talk about wine, I'm interested. I've only been heavily involved in wine now for about 3 years, but feel that I've learned a lot. If you want to discuss wines - what kind? Bordeaux, Burgandy, California, *3rd world*, what?

The two best wines that I have had are: '45 Leoville Barton and a '53 Pichon Longueville, however, I feel reasonably qualified to discuss just about anything. I haven't been able to keep very current due to the insurance law changes, which have just about killed the tastings here in Dallas, but we still try and have small informal tastings about twice a month. I still haven't opened my '53 Haut-Brion or my '61's (La Tache and Richebourg).

Anyone out there interested in starting some good wine discussion?

Tip: Thomas Fogarty chardonnay from Calif. is about as good as any white burgandy that I've every had.



From: [Steve Pope]
Newsgroups: rec.food.drink
Date: 8 May 87 18:27:08 GMT
Subject: Re: The wine-anxiety phenomenon

>The two best wines that I have had are: '45 Leoville Barton and a '53 Pichon
>Longueville, however, I feel reasonably qualified to discuss just about
>anything. I haven't been able to keep very current due to the insurance law
>changes, which have just about killed the tastings here in Dallas, but we
>still try and have small informal tastings about twice a month. I still
>haven't opened my '53 Haut-Brion or my '61's (La Tache and Richebourg).
> Anyone out there interested in starting some good wine discussion?

> Tip: Thomas Fogarty chardonnay from Calif. is about as good as any white burgandy that I've every had.

45 Leoville Barton! Far out!

With Leoville-Las-Cases getting all the press -- and very high prices -- let's not forget this other Leoville. Historically Leoville Barton has often been held in higher regard than its more expensive cousin. Professor Saintsbury claimed that the 78 Leoville Barton was the best Leoville he ever had ... that would be the 1878, of course. Recent vintages have been good to very good, and the 85 has gotten very strong reviews. Worth thinking about at $185/case (at the Winehouse, S.F.).

Which Fogarty Chardonnay specifically is as good as any white Burgundy? I've had several White Burgundies that far outclass any Cal. Chardonnays I've encountered. I've also found that once you allow yourself to become familiar with white Burgundy the Cal. Chardonnays just don't impress like they used to.

steve



From: [Dick Dunn]
Newsgroups: rec.food.drink
Date: 11 May 87 05:21:26 GMT
Subject: Re: very upscale wines vs starting discussions
Summary: this ain't gonna help "the anxiety phenomenon"

From a recent posting which was mistakenly (I hope) left under the heading "the wine anxiety phenomenon" ---

> The two best wines that I have had are: '45 Leoville Barton and a '53 Pichon-Longueville, ...

It's nice that someone who's had some very old Bordeaux from distinguished chateaux in great vintages is willing to tell us about them ... BUT this is going to get us nowhere on (a) helping people avoid anxiety in making their first [public] judgments about wine, nor (b) getting discussion started. I won't make any negative judgments about the original posting; I don't see that he was up to anything, but it could very quickly start a sequence of one-upmanship postings. That's exactly what we want to avoid if we're going to get people interested in starting to post useful info about wines that we can go out and buy.

I can't actually lay my hands on any specific info about the chateaux/ vintages mentioned. I can get enough info about the vintages and other chateaux to make a guess that if I <<could>> get a bottle of either of the wines mentioned (which I can't from any reasonable source), they would probably set me back something in the neighborhood of $200-300 a bottle!

Is this where we want to start a discussion? =>>How many of you have ever paid more than, let's say $50, for a bottle of wine?<<=

> >...I still haven't opened my '53 Haut-Brion or my '61's (La Tache and Richebourg).

Actually, although I tried to avoid passing judgment, I confess that I did start to wonder whether the posting was a joke or an "I'll show you" sort of thing after this name-dropping. We made it out of Bordeaux OK, but we're still talking "collector's" wines, which if you can find them will cost you some $300 a bottle. Ouch. (Properly speaking, you DON'T buy such wines. Either you inherit them or you bought them 30 years ago.)

While I'm at it ...one of the responses to the above-cited article:
> 45 Leoville Barton! Far out!
>
> with Leoville-Las-Cases getting all the press -- and very high
> prices -- let's not forget this other Leoville ...

For those of us who don't have old collections and can't afford (or don't care to pay the prices for) 40-year-old wines, let's not forget the third Leoville: Leoville-Poyferre. If you're starting now to buy wines to cellar for a grand/glorious future, you might as well take a look at their 82 and 83.

Dick Dunn [Colorado]



From: sydow@...
Newsgroups: rec.food.drink
Date: 13 May 87 05:42:00 GMT
Subject: Re: very upscale wines vs starting

No, I certainly wasn't trying to start any sort of one-upmanship posting war. All I wanted to do was let people know where I was coming from.

I have just started reading this [forum] and wanted to see if anyone out there was interesting in talking about wines instead of talking about people talking about wine.

I don't imagine that I make much more money than any of the rest of ya'll, I just probably choose to spend more of mine on wine than I do much of anything else. The price of the 53 Pichon was $100 and the Leoville was $170. I could give you the names of the places where these were purchased, but as with any old wine, it usually takes a lot of luck to find any.

I am perfectly happy to discuss wine in any price range and one of my recent finds that I am very happy with is a 1984 Tommasi Valpolicella at $4.69 a bottle.

-sydow-
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Re: Wine-anxiety phenomenon

by Mark S » Thu Oct 11, 2007 12:06 pm

Hey Max, good to see old alt.food.wine folks migrating to the Boards.
(Knew I remembered the name from somewhere...)

Best,

Mark
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Re: Wine-anxiety phenomenon

by Max Hauser » Thu Oct 11, 2007 5:16 pm

Thanks Mark, that is very kind. Good to see you here.

Actually AFW is not the exact association. Old net.wines folk is more exact. The history is that net.wines started early 1982 and became rec.food.drink (visible above) in the Great Renaming of late 1986. RFD became a thriving newsgroup but such is the nature of newsgroup creation that in the early 1990s, newbies impatient with evolution to the planned name rec.food.drink.wine created rival newsgroups on the anarchic "alt." hierarchy, resulting in multiple competing wine newsgroups for a few years -- several still exist but get no traffic. Wine postings then gradually migrated from rec.food.drink to alt.food.wine, leaving RFD an empty newsgroup by about 1994, with only sporadic or hokey postings though in some official indices it remains "the wine newsgroup." AFW is relatively new, therefore. Also I've been active on the HTTP wine fora all along, I just was late to look into this one.

Cheers -- M

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