Jerks, Wine, and Conversation

Calvin Trillin has a very funny article in Slate in which we learn that wine geeks figure prominently on an index of some importance:

The man at the end of the bar nodded in their direction and said, “Among people who think of themselves as wine connoisseurs there’s a 61 percent ACI.”

I was puzzled. “What’s an ACI?” I asked.

He lowered his voice a bit, as if he was about to use somewhat offensive language and wanted to make certain no women (he would have said “ladies”) were in ear-shot. “Asshole Correlation Index,” he said.

I said, “You mean that 61 percent of people who talk a lot about wine are—”

“Correct,” he said, before I could finish.

Admittedly, that is not nearly as high as the score for “…a guy who’s wearing a blazer over a sport shirt, and the shirt is unbuttoned nearly to the navel” who earns a 93 ACI, but to point to that as a relevant contrast in this context would be rather faint praise.

My question is: Why is wine conversation uniquely pretentious? People engage in all sorts of conversations about sports, music, film, economics, politics, etc. which are far more speculative and ill-informed than discussions about wine. Yet conversations about these more opaque topics do not earn the opprobrium visited upon wine enthusiasts.  [Conversations about visual art are similarly frowned upon, which I suppose is evidence that winemaking is an art.]

I don’t really have a hypothesis about this so readers help me out. Why are wine geeks so despised?

Of course it is not obvious what conclusion we are supposed to draw from the “data” Trillin’s interlocutor is using. On my view, human beings in general score about 60% on the index. So perhaps the ACI just shows that wine geeks are human—faint praise indeed.

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