A certain ‘je ne sais quoi’

“The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, Bertrandbut wiser people full of doubt.” – Bertrand Russell (left)

Wise words, these, and I recognize their wisdom more and more as I age. The phrase I have adopted is “Certitude is the enemy.” And it applies to much of life. For starters, throughout history, most wars have been wrought by cocksure buffoons but fought by others. The Dick Cheneys of the world, whether dodging the draft in the 1960s or goading his boss’ Daddy Complex in a war of choice in Iraq, stayed far away from the real fray. The same with most of the religious zealots and power-hungry progenitors of past conflicts.

And while the stakes tend to be decidedly less serious, a similar arrogance often creeps into the wine world. The inimitable, indispensable HoseMaster of Wine skewered the our-way-or-the-highway forces brilliantly in a post packed with masterful puns and splendiferous satire just yesterday.

The problem is not the wines that are championed by these forces. I’m a big fan of many of the In Pursuit of Balance vintners, and of many of the wines garnering megapoints from Msrs. Parker and Laube. As in most endeavors on this mortal coil, it’s the people mucking it up. Millions of would-be wine enthusiasts have been turned off by wines snobs, people who seem to believe that the more strongly held their views, the more viable those views are.

I count a few folks who have these tendencies among my friends, mostly because I admire and value other aspects of their personalities. I wish they wouldn’t be so dogmatic and didactic about wine, although it often provides an opportunity to make light of these tendencies.

DrinkersNot all wines need to be “natural,” whatever that is, nor must they have massive fruit or perfect harmony to be worthy of our attention. Plenty of imperfect bottles are perfectly enjoyable.

Basically, I wish the dogmatists would find the ability to give their high horses a day (or a month, or a lifetime) off. I’ve certainly had to learn to do that, to stymie the predilection to be the smartest guy in the room. I was discussing this internal battle with a woman at a holiday party last year. Her response:

“I like to say, ‘if you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room.’ ”

Not sure exactly what it means — several interpretations are possible — but it has the ring of truth. I’m fairly certain of that.

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