|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.
Niles and Frasier Crane syndrome
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'.
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.
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