wa2.gif (4241 bytes)

abut9.gif (3095 bytes)

abut12.gif (3207 bytes)
abut10.gif (3636 bytes)

abut11.gif (4039 bytes)

Taking wine appreciation too far: a spot of amateur psychology
Go into your local bookshop and you'll find the shelves bulging with self-help books, all pointing out just how dysfunctional we are -- and, of course, offering us a seven-point plan to help us out of our difficulties. In a similar vein, as a free service to the internet wine community, I thought I would offer my own contribution to the amateur psychology literature. So here's a brief run-through of the various dysfunctional personality types sometimes found among wine lovers.

The Niles and Frasier Crane syndrome
You've met them before: fine wine freaks basking in their snobbery. They stop enjoying it. Every glass of wine is subjected to intense criticism, and, as in most areas of life, if you look for something wrong you'll inevitably find it. I know a wine nut like this who lists among his profound dislikes 'anything with the word Chardonnay on the label'. It's a symptom of a deap-seated disease that denies the sufferer from enjoying the pleasures of a modest but tasty wine.

Psychologist's report: Probably raised in a too-strict environment where their every act was subjected to intense scrutiny. Rearing environment may also have lacked warmth and affection. As Niles once said to Frasier, 'A handshake's as good as a hug, as our mother used to say'.

The 'I'm special because I'm different' syndrome
A subtle variant on this is the sort of one-upmanship that comes from restricting your wine enjoyment to obscure, often hard-to-appreciate wines (such as Loire reds, high-end Gruner Veltliner, Savennières, wines from the Jura -- you've got the picture). These troubled but often knowledgeable souls often like to stand back and deride those with more mainstream tastes. I've encountered individuals like this who'll dismiss joy-filled, popular, new world wines as being 'fake', before slinking back to their 'authentic' mean, hard, miserable but exclusive fare. These people are often very concerned with what the rest of us like and appreciate, and spend a great deal of time telling us we're wrong.

Psychologists report: This is usually a simple case of insecurity: people feel insignificant and unappreciated, so the way they elevate themselves is by putting others down. Having their own wine appreciation 'niche' helps to make them feel special.

The acquisitional syndrome
My three and four year old boys have a problem when it comes to playing together. Whatever toy Danny is playing with, Louis wants to play with too. Then, as soon as Danny stops playing with the toy, Louis loses interest in it. It also works the other way round -- and it's enough to do your head in. But there exist wine lovers like this, especially in the USA it seems. Let's face it, there are an enormous number of excellent wines out there, but the masses seem to be chasing just a small subset of them. This demand pushes the prices up to almost silly levels, but still people will buy them. Apparently, in the USA the situation is such that if a producer prices their wines too cheaply, they'll sell less well. Conversely, some wineries have seen sales soar when they have increased their prices steeply, simply because the American market suddenly takes these wines more seriously. Then, once people have these wines, the acquisitional types will hoard them. It's common to find 'collectors' (as they term themselves) with cellars containing many thousands of bottles -- in some cases more than can be drunk in a lifetime. How depressing.

Psychologist's report: Hmm, a more tricky diagnosis. I suspect that the roots lie in childhood, when these individuals were spoiled to the extent that they have since grown into selfish, greedy, materialistic adults. They never learnt that one of the keys to happiness was being content with what you have.