Monday, July 14, 2014

You, Sir, Are A Wine Snob! Slap!

I've been called a "wine snob" before, but the intended insult came from a surprising source on Saturday: Eric Levine, the founder of CellarTracker, which is a website where people review and rate wines.

Bizarre, right? I know people love a good Twitter fight, it's like watching an ugly person sing bad karaoke in spangles on Youtube, so let's get right to it.

First, the prologue. I tweeted this on Tuesday:

Just after noon on Saturday, Levine finally got to the item marked "Insult Winesnob Blake Gray" on his to-do list.

I realize I'm losing much of my claim to adulthood by posting this here, but the more I thought about this conversation, the more noteworthy it seemed.

First of all, the source. Levine, as stated, makes his living through a site where people say this wine's a 92, and that one's an 86.*

* (By the way, fellow bloggers, don't let somebody use the phrase "terms of use" to try to overturn the "fair use" provision of copyright law.)

But look at the way he wields the term "wine snob." Just in case I didn't understand the hashtag, he made it a complete, definitive sentence: "I am actually calling you a wine snob." I could practically feel his leather glove whistling through the air toward my cheek.

And then, as I sink to the ground, tearfully humiliated, he says, "It's amusing that (grammatical correction) is all you can latch onto ..." Oy vey, I can no longer drink in polite company. Children mock me from their windows, dumping their privies in my path as I shuffle through the streets in chains.

I already wrote an entire column for Palate Press on reclaiming the term "wine snob," it's the one I linked to in the last tweet (sorry, the link in the image won't work.) So I don't need to go back over the same territory.

But in this case, the insult goes beyond wine. Go back and look at my tweet that inspired this slapping match. I don't even name the wine. I found the review amusing enough to share with my Twitter followers, but I didn't say anything about any wines, good or bad. Levine uses "wine snob" like people use "Nazi" or "hipster" -- pejoratives that don't need to be literally true -- and he apparently expects it to have the same devastating social impact as "racist" or "child abuser."

I guess this explains how Levine feels confident publicly using an insult that, by a layman's definition, would include his entire customer base (see some definitions here). It makes me sad, the thought of a community of enthusiastic wine lovers -- people who catalog their collections and discuss whether the latest vintage of a certain Gevrey-Chambertin is up to snuff -- trembling at being outed as a "wine snob." It must be like being gay in the 1950s. "No, I'm not a wine snob. I just ... have a lot of wine."

Well, I'm stepping out of the wine closet. I like wine and I think some wines are better than others and I am not ashamed. You're right, Eric, I am a wine snob. And maybe you ought to rethink using that term as an insult.

Follow me on Twitter: @wblakegray and like The Gray Report on Facebook.


Patrick Frank said...

Hmm. I agree that Levine was over the line, calling you a wine snob. People shouldn't bandy about terms like that, as you said. But I would also like to know why you bothered to tweet somebody's CT review of a wine. It did seem as though you were ridiculing somebody's lesser level of expertise.

W. Blake Gray said...

Patrick: I thought the review was an amusing comment on wine scores. I don't know who the author is, because it was a pen name, but I believe the author was well aware of that. So not only do I not think I was ridiculing anyone, I thought I was sharing something that was witty enough to make me laugh.

W. Blake Gray said...

By the way, thank you for asking, I'm glad somebody did. Everybody rushes to condemn ... read that review again. Look at the terminology. That writer is no novice.

Matt Mauldin said...

There's probably one thread a month on Wineberserkers making fun of cellartracker reviews... not sure why your tweet would raise to much ire...

Andy said...

If the CT reviewer felt that an 88pt wine nearly made him sick....then I'd hate to try a wine he rates 87 pts!

Bob Henry said...

If CT comments rose to the level of James Thurber prose, I might actually waste some time on the website.

The caption of his famous (dating back to 1944!) cartoon:

"It's a naïve domestic Burgundy without any breeding, but I think you'll be amused by its presumption."

Give the image a few seconds to load:

Cited just within the past week in this Washington Post book review:

Bob Henry said...

Transcription error on URL:

Jamal A Rayyis said...

Oops, I'm a month late to this party. Your post reminds me of a CT reviewer who gave 90 points to a wine he felt lacked charm. Though he didn't identify himself by name, it just seemed obvious by his comments and low score, that the poster must have been Robert Parker writing incognito (for free nonetheless!)