Posts Filed Under commentary
Every once in a while, when I tell people what I do for a living, I get a sort of snickering question along the lines of “does it bother you that part of what you do is total bullsh*t?”
These folks are usually referring to the studies, quoted by lazy media outlets ad nauseum, that purportedly debunked wine tasting as bull honkey when “expert” wine folk were given white wines with red food coloring and tricked into thinking that they were tasting red wines.
But what those snickering folks fail to realize is that wine criticism and professional wine tasting are no different than every other form of experiential criticism – movie reviewing, restaurant critiquing, you name it – in that they are the attempts of fallible humans to garner expertise and disperse helpful opinions to the best of their abilities while trying to overcome the ingrained perception wiring that helped us evolutionarily, but hinder us when it comes to consistent, robot-like precision.
To wit: my friend Alder Yarrow recently blogged about a study featured in the New Yorker, in which participants were tricked into thinking that fake tongues were their own, taste perceptions and all. Yes, seriously. Read it, the results and implications are fascinating.
I doubt we’ll see much lazy media attention on this study, however, because it would logically require those same lazy media to start asking people like Alder and me what wines pair best with crow sandwich…
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1WD reader Matt (that’s all your getting, as I don’t have permission to print the person’s full name here) recently wrote to me via an email with a title so intriguing, it sparked the first-ever “reader mailbag” style post on this site in its seven-some-odd-year history:
“Trying New Wine Is A Pain In The Ass”
There’s much juiciness to be squeezed from Matt’s email, so I’ll first reprint it here before addressing Matt’s questions in detail:
“Let me rephrase that… Trying new *quality* wine is a pain in the ass, literally in the wallet. Its all a gamble really and I’d bet that the average person, let alone the active wine drinker wants to bet on a $50 bottle. We are not all in your position where nice wines may be shipped to us for tasting purposes in hopes that you blog about it.
So… My reason for contact is this. Today I read the article, ‘Wine execs are scared of the craft beer and spirits growth.’ You probably read it since its well circulated. Following the gambling terminology, beer and spirits have a relatively low buy-in. If that bet pays off and I like it, then I can opt for the higher price points. Quality wine, on the other hand, does not have this low cost of buy-in. It’s all or nothing and if you get burned once, then you will likely never go all-in on a 50+ bottle again.
I’m curious, do you have any opinions on opportunities of low buy-in options for higher priced wines? The tasting room is the only opportunity I can think of and that is not exactly mass market. When exactly does the average person opt for that $50 bottle cab? marketing fluff? friends advice? impressing the boss? Do wine drinkers randomly buy expensive wines that they have never had before? If not, when are they exposed to them that creates a buying opportunity? I’d love to hear your comments and what your readers may think. I’ve never met a wine I didn’t like… to try. Thanks Joe! Matt.”
Talk about food (or drink?) for thought! And Matt seems to want to hear your responses to all of this as well, so it’s giving us a nice opportunity to argue in the best internecine fashion that is the hallmark of modern wine discourse!
Well, Matt, following are my responses. I hope you don’t mind the delay, I just wanted to share the dialog with a (much) wider audience!…
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Because… well… THIS:
Wine geeks and wine pros are taking it on the chin right now (for a hilarious and totally NSFW example, have a listen to this podcast by Internet comedy icon Maddox). We are accused of just about everything uncool, from being fond of snobbery to displaying nepotism to having bullsh*t jobs to engaging in major douchebaggery.
The image problem, though, is understandable, particularly when we have things like the Lalique “100 Points” leather briefcase by James Suckling and Salvatore Ferragamo, available for $8500 USD. At least you get a couple of bottles of wine with it. Go ahead, watch the video on James’s website. And if you order one, do me a favor and unsubscribe from my blog, okay?
James, why are you doing this to us, bro???
Fellow geeks, please make a good name for yourselves and other wine nerds by not carrying personal stemware around unless there’s a life-changing wine drinking experience expected that evening.
Also, please, please, please don’t wear scarves inside the house!
[ Warning: This post has very little to do about wine. But, it might just help to make you a millionaire. Your mileage may vary. ]
Back in March, when I let the cat out of the bag on my personal financial situation, I got a lot of interesting reactions. Most of them were of the attah-boy! variety, but since that time there’s been no shortage of questions coming to me in private about it.
Most of those are some variation on the theme: “how the f*ck did you do that?!??”
I am here today to tell you everything that I know about investing. Interestingly, I learned the most important aspects of it from tasting wine, though I am not trying to fool anyone that one will lead to the other in any meaningful way.
The bottom line is that after spending some countless hours delving deep into the pits of wine and tasting knowledge, I emerged in nearly the same place where I began, which is to approach the topic humbly, simply, and with a plan that lets me tune out the “noise” of scores or similar attempts at taste-making / gate-keeping that purport to tell me what is “right” or “wrong” to drink. When it comes to personal satisfaction, 90% of what we see in terms of wine coverage is more or less “wine porn.”
And after spending the last two years delving deep into the pots of investing and finance knowledge, I’ve come to the conclusion that successful investing requires almost exactly the same approach: ignore the porn.
Ah, simplicity, thy name is investing!
Here’s the skinny on how (in my somewhat learned opinion) 90% of those reading this can find success and wealth through investing…
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