May I venture a guess? If somebody told you that you were quoted in some wine article in The Atlantic, you’d probably light up like a Buddhist monk with a gas can and a Zippo, right? You’d look for bragging rights, resumé-padding, a shareable gem from your sparkling repertoire of wine words to Superglue to your status page.
Me, I’m not that guy—primarily because I don’t have that kind of positive effect on people.
I didn’t even have to look at the piece to know that it was going to be shitty. And then when I saw the byline ‘Alex Mayyasi’—a guy I once mocked for saying ‘Wine is Bullshit’ and told him to kiss may assi—I knew it was going to be even worse than that.
Maybe I had dodged a bullshit.
But then he told me to take a closer look. Turns out that there is a link to a column I wrote, but I am referred to, not by name, but somewhat randomly, as a ‘troller’.
I’m a Steam Troller, Baby, and I’m Gonna Troll All Over You…
To understand this bizarre exchange, you have to start at the beginning, 4th of July, 2013. On this—America’s sacred bicenterceseptennial—I posted a column in which I took Mr. Mayyasi to gentle task for being the sort of stain on the wine writing mattress that shows up under a black light.
He had recently published a piece at http://priceonomics.com entitled ‘Is Wine Bullshit?’
‘At Priceonomics we crawl data, write about data, and sell data to business.’
In other words, they look for free stuff on the internet that they can sell to other people, sort of like scrappers cutting the water meter off your house and selling it to the junk yard for $20.
Yet, ‘bullshit’ is such an ugly world. Let’s call Priceonomics vaca caca.
If you want to gauge the down ‘n’ dirty on the original exchange you’ll have to crawl your own doo-doo data. Suffice to say I found Mayyasi’s Priceonomics patter to be among the most wackadoodle bits of mental gymnastics composed since the Dred Scott decision.
With The Atlantic piece, he comes off a little less demented, but The Atlantic is a rag of considerably more repute, and people in that hallowed spotlight tend to be on better behavior: You’ll recall, Jeffrey Dahmer didn’t eat anyone during his trial either.
Key to Mayyasi’s sanity defense is found in his first Atlantic premise:
“As we wrote in a more recent post, wine is not bullshit…”
…although clearly, he still suffers from Dissociative Identity Disorder, causing him to refer to himself in the first person plural, although it is admittedly difficult to know if ‘Mayyasi’ is a singular noun to begin with, representative of more than one Mayyasus.
He then goes on to suggest that people who judge wine are often saddled with albatrossi of preconceptions around their plurality of necks, and this often leads even experts to misidentify expensive wines and enology students to misdescribe white wine in terms used for red when Sauvignon Blanc is artificially dyed ( though, extra credit points go to the kid whose tasting notes read, ‘Hints of FD&C Red No. 40 , with striking overtones of Allura Red AC, C.I. 16035’).
In this, I agree. The conclusion, as Mr. Mayyasi has since concluded, is that wine is not bullshit. But maybe wine tasters are.
Not all of them, of course, and Mayyasi relies on a classic example to show that even the most distinguished doyen can be duped:
In 1983, an art dealer sold a Greek statue to the J. Paul Getty Museum for ten million dollars after various archaeologists and geologists had authenticated it. Soon afterward, a handful of art historians expressed an instinctive sense, and not necessarily an articulable one, that something about the sculpture wasn’t copacetic. It was, in due course, revealed to be a fake.
The historians could only identify an ‘intuitive repulsion’ when viewing the sculpture—the piece that Ph.Ds with high-resolution stereomicroscopes insisted had already passed the smell test.
Ironically, in the wine analogy, it was the callow students who mis-smelled the Sauvignon Blanc that played the role of the bamboozled braniacs, which is why I am less in agreement with Mayyasi’s next premise:
That Master Sommeliers, ‘through years of obsessive study and practice, can identify glasses of wine with astonishing frequency.’
I taste wine with Master Sommeliers fairly often, and I have concluded—after years of obsessively studying them—that their capacity for fact retention and minutiae maceration is astonishing , but their palate fluency is no greater than anyone else who understands wine.
My own go-to example comes from my favorite Master Sommelier, Madeline Triffon, who is too earthy an ally in this cynical world to mind me sharing the story: One time, after poetically praising the precise lemon nuances in a Chardonnay, she discovered that the glasses had been washed in Lemon Ajax and then poorly rinsed.
Ah, life. Although, don’t get me wrong—equally, I am assuming that each of the enology students who judged a wine on color alone, and not on weight, flavor or aroma, knows they have an awful lot of studenting ahead of them before they can join our club, whether we are Master Sommeliers, or everyday masters of detection and deception: Those who Mayyasi refers to as ‘lay people’.
Big Heel Keeps on Trolling…
Which brings us to my near-mention in The Atlantic. Rather than making droll puns about my name, much as I make merry over his—which should be a quick enough study for any hack—I suspect that Mr. Mayyasi understood through intuitive repulsion that childish name-calling would never pass the magazine’s editorial smell test, and instead, simply referred to me as an unnamed ‘troller’.
Now, how that slipped by the editors must be akin to how the kourous statue slipped by the meathead museum curators or the white wine slipped by the dipshit docents, because even if it applied to me, the word is ‘troll’, not ‘troller’.
Years of obsessive study and practice with the Urban Dictionary has taught me that in cyber-slangese, a troll is someone who posts a deliberately provocative message on a message board with the intention of causing maximum disruption and argument.
But in either definition, simply identifying professional bullshittery as such does not make one a troll, a troller or a bipolar assholer, and Mr. Mayyasi, like Mr. Miyagi, must learn to renounce the negativity and make peace with me, or else I will change his pretentious ‘we’ into an I.
Which (having offended me) I will then pluck out and make him Mr. Magoo.