September 04, 2008

Wine Therapy: End of an era

Internet wine discussion lost a favorite site this week with the demise of Wine Therapy.

With its founder Robert Callahan unable to maintain the site after struggling with illness for a number of years, the decision came down early this week to shut the site down.

Callahan is infamous in some internet wine circles for his feud with the well known critic Robert Parker. Without recounting old flame wars from the 1990s, the story apparently goes that Parker responded to Callahan's contentious internet persona by challenging him to a blind wine tasting. The goal was to see if Callahan would identify wines he championed as superior to other wines he criticized mercilessly. The night apparently didn't go in Callahan's favor.

I wasn't around the wine internet then. I knew Callahan as a champion of natural, artisan wines from less commercialized regions. I may not have always liked his biting sarcasm (maybe I was jealous), but his passion for wines I've come to love was truly an inspiration for me in my wine education. It was Callahan who turned me on to wines like Baudry's Chinon and Texier's Rhones.

Let's not forget that Robert was the object of anticipation in Chris Coad's legendary "Waiting for Callahan" post.

The end of Wine Therapy was not swift. Albanian spammers wiped out the database months ago, so much good wine information lost because of poor security and an outmoded bulletin board platform. Lately there were as many posts about erectile enhancement products as wine. [editorial note: my apologies to the Albanian community and all Albanian sympathizers, among which I include myself, for suggesting that actual Albanians were the source of Wine Therapy spam issues. I'm tempted to put "Albanian" in "quotes" to signify the wrong that was done to them by spammers posing as Albanians. Who would do such a thing? However, it's been clarified in the comments below that precisely "little of the spam had anything to do with Albania." Of course, that means Albanians apparently were involved in some way. So the post remains unedited.]

Now Callahan's Wine Therapy, the nurturing service of the oft misunderstood, is gone. Another site has emerged as a haven for many patients of Wine Therapy, but it seems things have changed. The mold is broken. There's no chance to replicate the old site, if that were even desirable.

I'm partly wistful at the loss, but partly glad for the nudge to move on. I tried a few times to register for the new site, but either there are technical issues or this isn't a club that will have me as a member. It's just as well. I keep telling myself I should focus more on this site and less on wine discussion groups. Thanks for everything Callahan.


Anonymous said...

Note that the Therapy spammers were referred to as "Albanian" because of the Wine Therapy software, which allowed a member to specify a country of origin. Spammers typically selected the first country on the list, which was Albania, even though little of the spam had anything to do with Albania. The reference to "Albanians" was really an inside Therapy joke; much of the spam appeared to be the product of Russian (.ru) bots. Your post reads as if it was really Albanians who caused the problems at Therapy.

Vincent Fritzsche said...

They weren't Albanian? Really? Are you sure? Are you sure you're sure?

Thank you for explaining the inside joke. I never knew people made jokes there. Except that one poster franklin. He was boss. Totally miss that guy. What ever happened to him?

Anonymous said...

Sorry for any confusion - I knew that you (and franklin) understood. I thought non-Therapy readers of your blog might misinterpret what appears to be a straightforward claim about Albanians. And life in Albania is tough enough as it is...