Text Size:-+

The Trainwreck of an Online Wine Community

I don't know a lot of things, but during my short time on this earth, I have observed what I believe to be some predictable tendencies of the particular animal we call human beings. The males of the species are arrogant and proud, yet they have the most tender of egos. They swell with self importance, and rage when insulted. Both males and females are born defensive and only become less so through careful conditioning. When they collect in the groups we know as communities they have a tendency to squabble, opine, piss off, and otherwise make fools of themselves with occasional utter abandon.

Online communities are fantastic microcosms of such behavior, and because posting electronically is such a "low stakes" game, all the issues of human society become amplified and accelerated in the small petri dish that is a bulletin board or forum.

These online communities also provide the ultimate succor for yet another typical human trait: our fascination with social misfortune. Humans also love disaster. We eat it up on the news. We slow down to watch the car accidents. We both bemoan and secretly crave the largest of tragedies. And the smallest. But especially those of a social kind.

There's just no substitute for the enjoyment of watching people behave badly, and there's no better place to do it than online community forums.

If you ever needed proof, I've got it for you right here.

Witness, if you will, the degeneration of a single dissatisfied customer of eRobertParker.com, posting his criticism of the service, into an eight page, 632-post free for all. For those who don't have the patience or the desire to wade through the epic monstrosity, one of the highlights most certainly includes Robert Parker referring to some of his customers, and specifically the one who started the thread, as "point pimps and whores" -- sort of the online forum equivalent of the Zidane World Cup head butt.

I don't have the time or energy to participate in most online forums like this one, but even more importantly, I've seen too many dissolve into rancor again and again. But they certainly do make for entertaining (and instructive) reading sometimes....

Comments (11)

cv wrote:
07.18.06 at 11:59 AM

Online communities scale very, very poorly. Sadly, one of the prevalent characteristics of the Internet is the odd predisposition to haughty indignation, something that is far less common in the real world.

Lamentably, these online trainwrecks happen everywhere. It is both unsurprising and depressing to see this sort of behavior on a wine forum.

Lance wrote:
07.18.06 at 12:08 PM

A wine blog is no safer than a discussion on the crisis in the Middle East. Any social network whether be offline or online can lead to interesting and informative discussions with reverence for each other or lack there of.

I would like to speculate that wine connoisseurs would tend to shy away from the banal conversations which demean each other but I would jaded in thinking that.

But none the less conflict brings a passion to any conversation which I think can be well worth infusing into any social setting; corporeal or otherwise.

Courtney wrote:
07.18.06 at 12:30 PM

WOW - Alder, thanks for pointing out the online meltdown happening over at eBob. It would've been a shame to miss out on it! - CC

Kevin wrote:
07.18.06 at 4:09 PM

Some of the outbreaks at the Wine Speculator forums are even funnier.

I love the point giver himself laying the smack down, "point pimps and whores"...though I think Bob missed the point that he is the Point Pimp himself, doling out scores on a scale that he popularized. I'd love to see him publish an April Fool's edition of the WA, with tasting notes and no points at all. That would really fan the flames of the mob.

That or adopt my ratings system: Drink, Spit or Cellar.

Alder wrote:
07.18.06 at 4:14 PM

Actually from my select few conversations with him, I'm fairly certain Bob would LOVE to publish the Advocate with no scores, as he believes his tasting notes to be far more important than the numbers. At this point, however, that's sort of like Consumer Reports doing away with the Harvey balls they use. There's just no way that people would stand for it.

Whit Stevens wrote:
07.18.06 at 4:40 PM

Like reality TV w/out the commercials.

St.Vini wrote:
07.18.06 at 5:09 PM

I, for one, love to read the "Serge" threads in the WS boards. This guy is single-handedly destroying one of the web's greatest gatherings of wine elitists. A truly awesome spectacle, and I'm totally jealous.


Eric wrote:
07.19.06 at 8:48 AM

What's most interesting about this particular reality show is that Parker felt the need to interject himself into the mix. I don't read the group so perhaps Ron (see even I remember his name - he's famous now) posts ad naseum about the same subject but when someone like Parker feels the need to respond and then resorts to a nasty personal attack of someone who is free to voice their opinion, it makes him look far worse.

It seems to me that the fact he could not help himself getting in that last dig, that caused the whole subject to blow up the way it did. And while I have never subscribed to RP in any form, it seems as though the debate is a valid one, even if policy doesn't change as a result.

Don Strickler wrote:
07.19.06 at 9:41 AM

The man from Mammoth has for years needed to get the final say. His posts there and under an assumed name on other wine boards was a leading cause for me to move from bboards to just buying what I like and ignoring the rants. I have found more than enough fine wine via mailing lists and reviews that I don't even have any more money to chase new ones all the time. Some people believe that they are entitled. More power to them. I am entitled not to pay any attention.

Rob Cole wrote:
07.19.06 at 1:00 PM

I must say, I'm loving that thread!

jon o wrote:
07.19.06 at 9:14 PM


Last night I had a Washington Roussanne made by this guy Cameron who has a vineyard overlooking the Columbia River in Central Washington. I met Cameron late on a Sunday afternoon at the tail end of a weekend of tasting. When we drove up to his vineyard he was trying to figure out where to plant a cactus. The cactus was the size of a wine glass, no bigger. Cameron staggered through his vinerows, trying to find the perfect spot for his little cactus. He was drunk as a loon. We had a long chat about his space along the Columbia valley, him yelling about soil and climate while digging a little hole for the cactus. Finally he got the cactus planted and took my mom and I inside to pour a few glasses of his wines. His Roussanne tasted like unripe peaches and took me back to my childhood when my mom would buy a bag of peaches and set them on the counter to ripen but of course I couldn’t wait so I’d tear into a peach and chew up that starchy, mealy flesh, enjoying the faintest of peach essence amid all that dry chaw. My mom and I talked about it and laughed like we hadn’t for years. Last night I called her after a few glasses and pretty soon we were laughing like mad again.

I guess I get the obsession with scores, but kinda I don’t. I get my fill of quantitative analysis at my 9-5, thank you. I’m into wine for feelings, emoition and passion – all aspects that the alcohol in the wine accentuates anyway.

Keep it real Alder,

Comment on this entry

(will not be published)
(optional -- Google will not follow)

Type the characters you see in the picture above.

Buy My Book!

small_final_covershot_dropshadow.jpg A wine book like no other. Photographs, essays, and wine recommendations. Learn more.

Follow Me On:

Twitter Facebook Pinterest Instagram Delectable Flipboard

Most Recent Entries

Tallying the Damage from the Napa Quake Vinography Images: A Sea of Blue Vinography Unboxed: Week of September 14, 2014 The Taste of Something New: Introducing Solminer Wines Vinography Images: Swift Work Social Media Answers the Question: Where Did Australian Wine Go Wrong Hourglass, Napa Valley: Current and Upcoming Releases Drought Problems? Just Have an Earthquake Vinography Images: Just One Vinography Unboxed: Week of September 1, 2014

Favorite Posts From the Archives

Masuizumi Junmai Daiginjo, Toyama Prefecture Wine.Com Gives Retailers (and Consumers) the Finger 1961 Hospices de Beaune Emile Chandesais, Burgundy Wine Over Time The Better Half of My Palate 1999 Királyudvar "Lapis" Tokaji Furmint, Hungary What's Allowed in Your Wine and Winemaking Why Community Tasting Notes Sites Will Fail Appreciating Wine in Context The Soul vs. The Market 1989 Fiorano Botte 48 Semillion,Italy

Archives by Month


Required Reading for Wine Lovers

The Oxford Companion to Wine by Jancis Robinson The Taste of Wine by Emile Peynaud Adventures on the Wine Route by Kermit Lynch Love By the Glass by Dorothy Gaiter & John Brecher Noble Rot by William Echikson The Science of Wine by Jamie Goode The Judgement of Paris by George Taber The Wine Bible by Karen MacNeil The Botanist and the Vintner by Christy Campbell The Emperor of Wine by Elin McCoy The World Atlas of Wine by Hugh Johnson The World's Greatest Wine Estates by Robert M. Parker, Jr.