Oenophiliacs Beware: Lettie is Upsettie

Minister of Stemware

Minister of Stemware

If there is a wine title more obnoxious than ‘critic for the {terminally dull} Wall Street Journal, I can’t think of it.  Maybe being the Minister of Stemware for the Sultanate of Siak Sri Indrapura or an Environmental Commercial Flooring Hygienist in the wine aisle at Costco.

Nevertheless, I suppose it’s good work if you can get it, and better work if you can keep it, although the latter seems dependent on coming up with an endless stream of ridiculously non-relevant filler pieces to satisfy the insatiable journalistic monstrosity called ‘deadline’.  Hitherto, this feverish crusade for something—anything—to spin into column length has led to such riveting WSJ gems as ‘New York’s Best Sommelier Hails from Philly’ (April 19, 2016) and ‘The Pros and Cons of a Bike Trip Through Napa’ (June 30, 2016) and ‘Dinner and a Movie with a Glass of Wine’ (August 30, 2016). That last one was almost a thousand words about a movie theater that happens to have a bar, including descriptions of what patrons drank during ‘Pete’s Dragon’.

So be it.  I used to write wine columns for newspapers, and as I recall, among the many constraints placed upon wine journalists in a for-profit publication, actually producing interesting shite was fairly low on the checklist.  Fodder is filler, little more.  If you can stumble over the odd story or two that make people say ‘hmmm’, that’s coolabaloolies, but it isn’t necessary:

Plugging up inches in the Food & Drink section is.

For the record, for a wine journalist with chronic writer’s block, one safe bet (the same impetus that drives this piece, in fact) is this:

There is nothing wine people enjoy reading more than a wine person making fun of other wine people.

My Mt. Vedeer memories.

My Mt. Vedeer memories.

And the reason is obvious: Compared to, say, celebrity suicides, cannibal cop trials or the size of Kim Kardashian’s ass, writing about (and reading) wine minutia has a very short shelf life before the ‘grippiness factor’ inevitably and irrevocably breaks down.  If I read about a bike trip through Napa, for example, I expect a bleeding lead about some drunk cyclist pedaling off the edge of Mt. Vedeer.  If I read about the top NY sommelier being from Philly, I want the reason he left Pennsylvania to be that he had a crawlspace filled with Eagle Scouts. If it is wine with a movie, I want the theater to be in Aurora and James Eagan Holmes to bring the ice bucket.

Frankly, without a sensationalist angle, the five or six sentences I can read on line before the copy gets all fuzzy and I’m urged to subscribe to the WSJ ‘if you want to read the full story…’ are generally sufficient to ensure me that I don’t.

casually-racist-whites-bing-o-brings-im-not-up-black-3602314However, a chance to stir up a little shit within your own tribe?  Golden.  It’s like those self-effacing ‘Casually Racist White People’ memes that are essentially white people mocking other white people for their subconscious racism, thus elevating their own non racist status to ‘super not racist’ because they can recognize this foible in others.

Likewise, Lettie Teague’s recent column ‘Wine Lovers Behaving Badly: More Tales of Obnoxious Oenophiles’ allows all us (we believe) non-obnoxious oenophiles to sit back and choke on our own laughter vomit when our benighted fellows display the social equivalent of a closed-head injury.

Give the Suckers What They Want…

Check out those face spots, dear.  They could be... you know.

Check out those face spots, dear. They could be… you know.

Teague’s original column about obnoxious oenophiles (detailing such anecdotes as a stingy, teetotaling dentist who was incensed at having to share a restaurant tab with a wine drinker) so lit the bunsen burner of indignant schadenfreude among WSJ subscribers that a sequel was all but required.

The second article—which I assure you, is well worth the two hundred dollars per year that the WSJ charges for a subscription—includes a new slew of oenologically obnoxious offenders.  There is “a high-profile divorcée who regularly invites men to lunch or dinner and orders expensive wine,” and a wine drinker who was pissed when a couple with whom they were dining ‘drank half the bottle even though they said they didn’t want wine’:

“Perhaps these piggy Pinot drinkers were the same ones who as kids ordered triple scoops when someone else was paying,” whines Paul Berton Birkeland of Bellevue, Washington in a pique of puerile pig-persecuting pomposity.

And then there’s some cheap-ass prick named Robert Rosenthal who dodges paying for an expensive wine ordered by one of his ‘guests’ by announcing loudly (and falsely) to the group that said guest has volunteered to pick up the entire drinks table.

“What could he do?” says Mr. Rosenthal with detectable glee. “He had been hoisted by his own petard.”

So, let’s now take leave of Ms. Teague’s codex of passive-aggressive assholes who invite people to dinner only to publicly humiliate them, and turn our attention to ‘Tales of Obnoxious Wine Writing’, which is more in my codical bailiwick.

  1. Retard's petard

    Retard’s petard

    “What could he do? He had been hoisted by his own petard.”

Unless you are talking about retarded Peruvians, this is a word you should avoid, and probably even then. What could he do, Robert?  He could have said, “No I didn’t, you sniveling, chintzy, schlocky, felch-faced liar,” then strung you up by the petard that contains your gonads.

That’s what I would have done.

  1. “Perhaps these piggy Pinot drinkers were the same ones who as kids ordered triple scoops when someone else was paying.”
Wu hoo!

Wu hoo!

Lettie loves alliteration, perhaps more than moi, so I highly doubt that Mr. Berton Birkeland of Bellevue even exists.  But in the event he does:

“Sir, no amount of righteous indignation over a bar bill makes body-shaming fat children acceptable behavior.  Are your own children playground bullies like you?  Are they Toddlers & Tiaras models all? Your entire family should be fed to Wu’s ravenous hogs ala Deadwood and I’m just the wine writer to cry Sooo-weeee.”

  1. “…a high-profile divorcée who regularly invited men to lunch or dinner and ordered expensive wine.”

Am I that out of touch with WSJ’s demographics?  Who uses the term ‘divorcée’ in 2016?

You Are Probably All Wondering Why I Gathered You Here Today…

Okay, fess up time.  It wasn’t to groupthink tubby tykes and their tubs of Tin Roof nor to ridicule Rosenthal’s ridiculous rhetoric nor to dis dorks determined to describe disunited damsels as divorcées.

It was simply because, to me, there is no post-modern irony more delicious than an opinionated oration about obnoxiousness that uses of the word ‘oenophile’.

Mathematically, how obnoxious is the word ‘oenophile’? It is obnoxiousness raised to the power of infinity.  It is even worse that the more modern, more logical, only slightly more palatable spelling ‘enophile’, which merely reduces the obnoxious factor to the power of google-plex.

whoopi-tmntsetpic1_bigYes, I get the alliteration angle again, but really.  Have some self-respect.  I’d rather be a necrophile than an oenophile.  I would rather strap a gavage tube to ice cream boy’s throat and force-feed him three pounds of Spumoni per hour—I’d rather hoist Whoopi Goldberg’s sweaty, stanky, smelly petard than be referred to as an oenophile.

Oenophile.  Let it roll off your tongue like a pretense-flavored slug trail a final time or two.  Oenophile. Oenophile.  Get it out of your system oence and for all.

Now, go in peace, and in future, dephile not the oenosphere with that obnoxious word.


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1 Response to Oenophiliacs Beware: Lettie is Upsettie

  1. Dave says:

    Chris, what else would you expect from a wine critic so biased that she proudly posts on her own website, http://www.lettieteague.com : “Lettie loves most wines of the world except Pinotage. She has never had a good Pinotage.”

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