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The Joy of Dopey Discourse

This morning, a wine writer friend IM’d me about another writer who he finds to be a bit of a pariah. The offender has the tendency to complain and attack more than praise, and mostly seems to like the sound of his own voice. I usually shrug, sigh or laugh this sort of thing off as a hazard of the trade. But not this time.

As I write this sentence, entitled, ironic-moustache- and trust-fund-endowed hipsters have spent the better part of two weeks protesting against corporate America on Wall Street. While there’s no question that large corporations have hijacked the American political system and economy for their own benefit, it seems that relatively few of the protesters have the first clue about the activities of the institutions they’re trying to disrupt with civil disobedience. A better place to protest than Wall St., for example, might be outside the apartment building of David Koch, but that’s just my opinion.

At the same time, I have to thank Wall Street’s temporary population of unshowered and unshaven – though, I’m not sure how that’s different from their normal lives in Williamsburg – for reminding me how to feel when I get my own knickers in a twist over something another has scribbled about wine and raised the ire of many a Wine Berserkers participant. That wine – and life in general, really – is much more fun with healthy debate constantly refueled and recycled by those who have only the faintest idea of what they’re talking about.

Take, for example this NY Wine Salon event coming up next week, local-versus-global debate being led by Alice Feiring and Tyler Colman. Tyler has done research on the subject, calculating the carbon footprint of wines shipped around the world…and Alice, well, is probably on Wall St. right now. She’s famous for her regular commentary advocating for natural wine (organic, biodynamic, etc.), including the belief that “natural” is always a better alternative to “tastes good.”

But I’m not just talking about a specific subset of wine writers (and I actually appreciate that Alice stands for something, even if I disagree with her) or a particular event. I’m talking about everyone. How many wine bloggers have worked in the wine business, whether at retail or in restaurants, or done the hard work in the vineyard rows and in the cellar? How many on the Wine Spectator masthead? Or on the Wikipedia page of wine personalities that, for some reason, contains my name? Actually, I couldn’t even tell you who most of these people are, and most listed on this page probably haven’t the foggiest clue that I exist, either. But I digress.

Even though I’ve long found vitriol and negative banter among wine writers and bloggers to be especially distasteful, I’m changing my tune a little here. While I still do believe that real-word wine experience is the best measure of one’s ability to make insightful or authoritative commentary on individual wines and the industry at large, the hipsters who took the L to the 4 train south for the first time in their lives have me rethinking my opinion about all the undereducated and uninformed voices regularly participating in wine commentary. (Here’s where I say to myself that I can’t believe I’m about to write the sentence that follows this one.) It’s good that they’re all taking part and, in some cases, leading the discussions, no matter how misguided or uninformed their notions or beliefs about wine might be.

There’s actually value in it. The advantage of (fatuous) wine discourse is that the end goal, virtually and in actuality, is to laugh about it all over a few glasses and swallow enough of the product in question so as to forget what got us all in a snit in the first place. (I bet you that’s exactly what will happen after the Colman-Feiring debate on Oct. 4.) The product that bloggers and critics argue about is the very same one that cures, though temporarily, all the strife. Sure, the next day everyone wakes up not so fresh as a daisy and start the banter all over again in some sort of Sisyphean silliness. But that’s the fun of it.

In a day or few, the Wall Street protesters will go back to their lofts on Bedford Ave., realizing they just can’t stomach another weekend without the Smorgasburg – and that Susan Sarandon is annoying and Radiohead just isn’t that good. And they, along with corporate America, will have learned relatively little from the past two weeks about themselves or the entities and issues they claim to detest.

The educated and uninformed about wine may have the same problems but, despite any negative banter or bitterness, wine-geek debates always end with a glass of the good stuff and a few laughs.  And that’s just the way it’s supposed to be.

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