And so it begins… Jay McInerney, wealth porn, and the WSJ

dom perignon gold The Wall Street Journal formally introduced their new duo of wine columnists, Jay McInerney and Lettie Teague, on Saturday (even though rumors had been flying on the internets for months). They replace John Brecher and Dorothy Gaiter who left the paper in December after writing the column for 12 years.

McInerney files his first column and it is about Prosecco rosé Champagne. Not only does it contain a sidebar with $635 of wine recommendations, but the piece also compares Dom Pérignon to both the Porsche 911 Carrera and the 911 turbo! There’s talk of maxing out credit cards to buy bubbly! The piece also justifies the price of one bubbly by comparing it to the tasting menu at Joël Robuchon in Las Vegas! The only place he really leaves the reader hanging is whether the pink bubblies taste better out of a white gold encrusted Jeroboam.

He has met Hugh Hefner, natch. And he just saw “mature” Julianne Moore on the street and the rosé Champagne made him think of her again!

In February, we noted that McInerney’s punchy House & Garden column had a predilection for bling and wondered whether it would keep up in the leaner times of 2010. But the reader could be justified in thinking that he is the only person in America unfazed by the recession. What’s the Dom Pérignon in a Prius analogy instead of Porsches? And what’s the conversion rate of Joël Robuchon in Vegas to Shake Shack? If the WSJ editors wanted wealth porn, they got it! At least so far. It will be interesting to see if he eases his Ferragamo loafer off of the throttle in future columns.

What do you think, will this play in Peoria in 2010?

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41 Responses to “And so it begins… Jay McInerney, wealth porn, and the WSJ”


  1. That was the first piece of wine writing I have read that mentioned Hugh Hefner. And that was when it occurred to me that the article is not actually about wine.


  2. Doesn’t play in my neck of Manhattan in 2010! But then the WSJ has been going downhill for a long time. Unfortunately, I think the number of subscribers has been going up.


  3. I was beyond disappointed. The Tastings column was one of the reasons I came back to being a WSJ subscriber after a long break, and its replacement is no replacement. I am now that much closer to dropping my subscription again.


  4. McInerney can cram his name-dropping and bling fetish where the wine don’t flow.

    For my part, I don’t need to spend $75 or more on a bottle of bubbly. Larry Mawby’s fine sparklies out of Sutton’s Bay, MI make me far happier.


  5. I read McInerney’s A Hedonist in the Cellar and this does not surprise me at all. The guy is all about crashing tastings with famous people and wines and name dropping. He is to wine journalism what E! is to journalism.


  6. Just bring back Dottie and John!!!!!


  7. This is so disappointing and confirmation that budget was the driving reason for dumping Tastings. John and Dottie were expensive because they didn’t accept freebies, so the WSJ was paying for a lot of wine, albeit in a more reasonable price range. McInerney is drinking wine that only a tiny number of people buy, but is likely not paying for any of it. Wealth porn is exactly the right label. There was so much value in the Tastings column and it served a real niche in the market – their column got me very excited about wine. It’s good for consumers and good for the wine industry to have objective wine journalists highlighting a wide range of grapes, countries, labels and prices.


  8. Several criticisms of this piece:

    First, it’s dog-bites-man writing. Nothing surprising here. Dom Perignon is a great wine? Shocking! Who would have thought!

    Second, it’s “wealth porn,” yes, and it’s loaded with pretentious name-dropping. Which is fine for the Robb Report, but perhaps also for the “new” WSJ. The editorial leadership has decided that they want to focus on aspirational fantasy wines rather than real-people-in-a-store wines. Have at it. There’s nothing wrong with that, per se. Vote with eyeballs and just stop reading the WSJ wine column, then. (I don’t expect I’ll waste my time on it, if this is the direction they’ll be taking.)

    Third, dare I ask: What’s the WSJ’s policy on free samples, trips, etc.? Did Mr. McInerney taste these wines at an LVHM tasting, or did they send him a few bottles? Or maybe Julianne Moore and Hugh Hefner stopped by with their friends Madonna, Barack Obama, and Heidi Klum, each bearing a magnum of LVMH products.


  9. […] Jay McInerney, wealth porn, and the WSJ […]


  10. The Wall St. Journal has many fine columnists and informative articles. This, however, was not one of them.

    If I was a has-been hack novelist like Mr. McInerney I might have thought better of this “it’s all about me” drivel. Since I’m only a never-was rather than a has-been, I thought it was moronic and pretentious.

    Remind me not to buy Dom Perignon Rose or a Porsche.


  11. I’m certainly no fan of the WSJ (or Fox) but I think this criticism here is bordering on silliness.

    Someone is going to write about the best and the expensive. Why not Jay? Why not in the WSJ?

    Not everyone who drinks wine in 2010 is a dirt poor coupon cutter. Not everyone thinks that wine is expensive. And even though I cut coupons myself, I’d like to know what’s up with Rose Champagne too. Are we not even allowed to fantasize or be entertained? Without being shouted down by the PC waving their box wine and bargain prosecco around that is?

    Since when is the WSJ the “people’s paper?”


  12. “The PC”? Really? You can’t do any better than cry “WAH, PC!”? Please.

    My gripe (and apparently the gripe of others) is the WSJ jettisoned a useful column, one that sought to actually educate, and replaced it with crap.


  13. Exactly the point, Missy. Dorothy and John not only wrote an educational and useful column, but they were passionate about making wine friendly.

    And yes, I too like to read about (and drink) luxury wines, but Jay McInerney’s column was more about Jay McInerney than it was about wine.


  14. OK Missy, take it easy… we’re just talking here…

    Maybe it isn’t Jay’s fault that DG and JB were released. Maybe Jay just wants to keep writing somewhere so he can afford a 911 Turbo. You can’t begrudge the guy a job and call him a “hack” and offer to cram wine someplace on his person just because you disagree with the editor.

    There’s lots of places to go to get an education, not just one paper. I think everyone knew the WSJ would start turning “yellow” when Fox took it over. This isn’t shocking.


  15. Yes, precisely. If I want to read about Jay McInerney, I’ll read his blog. Since he doesn’t have one, Jay should get a LiveJournal to get his apparently much needed validation.

    Also, the idea that we are somehow not permitted to criticize the WSJ, on pain of being labeled “PC”, is just plain nonsense that makes my teeth itch. I have no problems fantasizing about fine wines – and I even buy them from time to time! – but I don’t need the dubious “help” of McInerney’s gratuitous name dropping to do it. There are dozens of wine blogs that actually discuss fine wine, instead of the author’s delusions of grandeur.


  16. My comment here is directed at Larry, by the by.


  17. You can’t begrudge the guy a job and call him a “hack” and offer to cram wine someplace on his person just because you disagree with the editor.

    I calls ‘em likes I sees ‘em. And McInerney’s writing? Is crap.


  18. Amen.


  19. Geez, who’s more pathetic, Jay McInerny, or us for writing at length about his style of writing about wine?

    For one thing, he’s Jay McInerny – what the heck did you expect? That he would start writing like his predecessors? Or like us? He’s him — brand names and razzle; that’s what his angle is.

    For another – he writes about Dom, admits it’s expensive, and argues for why it’s worth a buy once in a while – what’s so shocking about that? What is our conventional acceptable upper price range to mention these days–I must have missed the memo.

    Third – Nobody will ever replace John and Dottie, or ever could. I’d miss them no matter who replaced them. We’re taking it out on their very (very!) different replacement. What are we, little kids?


  20. I’d hardly call it pathetic for people to express their opinions on a piece of writing, wine-related or not. Some people are interested more in wine, and less in brand names and razzle. Nothing wrong with razzle. But if some people don’t want it here, why not say so?

    John and Dottie also wrote about expensive wines at times. These wines have their place in columns and on tables. But if a thoughtful wine column is replaced by one where wine is merely an adjunct to one’s dazzling life, then people can, and should if they choose, complain–and loudly too.


  21. WSJ, on the downward spiral :(


  22. I too was disappointed in the article. More because of the writing style than the chosen subject. Even though I rarely (once in the past 5 years) buy wines over $200, I am still interested in someone’s impressions of these wines. Unfortunately, the WSJ chose this author to do it. I don’t know anything about Mr. McInerny, but if this article is truly representative of his style, then I hope the WSJ reconsiders. But folks, let’s give him a chance before jumping all over their case. It’s only 1 article.

    And, getting all worked up about ‘Fox taking over’ and wishing their subscriptions fall says more about you than it does about the article.


  23. The coma baby is still asleep.

    Blow and Dom for…all the right people! My friends!


  24. Someone gave me a copy of McInerney’s “A Hedonist in the Cellar” and, as someone who did not like the style of “Bright Lights, Big City”, I was intrigued. I started to love his references: drinking CA Viognier makes you long for Condrieu just as watching Magnificent Seven makes you long for Seven Samurai. And the cult Napa Cabs are to Hemingway to Sonoma’s and Santa Barbara’s Pinots are to Fitzgerald. Unless it is Hermitage is to Hemingway as Cote Rotie is to Fitzgerald. Or Amarone is to Hemingway as Valpolicello is to Fitzgerald. And that was all before page 50. Over the last few years, I have gone in and finished the book, one essay at a time.

    I found his opening review somewhat silly, name-dropping and pretentious which what I felt about his collected essays. I always wondered where Faulkner fit in his Hemingway/Fitzgerald dicotomy. But no matter what else he writes, I will have a soft spot for a man who could bring Kurosowa and Sturges into a wine review.


  25. Now, Now,
    How am I going to sell all my Dom P. Rose :)!!
    a disappointing start, but who knows- it might be interesting with other columns.
    Cheers,
    B.


  26. How rare it is that something delivers exactly what is expected. JM certainly did in this instance. It was the first time I ever associated Dom with barnyard.

    What a complete bunch of BS…unfortunately it fits right in with many of the other opinion pieces in WSJ. John and Dottie spoiled us.


  27. It’s not like McInerny is pretending to be other than what he is. He’s genuine in his love of The Good Life (I guess that’s what he’s writing about…I’m not nearly as familiar with this subject as I’d like to be). As for why the Journal hired him…the question answers itself, no? Compared to John & Dorothy, McInerny is Cheap Thrills personified, in every sense.


  28. Name dropping and Enquirer-ish? Yes. But it’s entertaining. If I can’t afford the wines he’s talking about, at least he delivers a lil’ chuckle.


  29. Really? It’s a surprise that the Wall Street Journal has a wine columnist who writes about expensive wine (and reviews several far less expensive alternatives)? Will you be equally surprised when the Robb Report names a luxury car as its Car of the Year, rather than the new Chevy Volt? Perhaps Bon Appetit will run a story on pasta that is made by hand rather than reviewing instant Ramen noodles.

    The more interesting story here is the failure of the Wall Street Journal wine blog. McInerny, Lettie Teague, and Will Lyons are also writing a wine blog. They’ve put up 11 posts since the introduction, and have only 39 comments. Half those comments were either calling McInerney an idiot, or wishing John and Dottie were back. It is a complete failure.


  30. Maybe the WSJ should have Turd Blossom write political editorials.


  31. I think the point is the dramatic drop-off in value of the contribution in this area from this publication. JM is simply more elitist BS while John and Dottie somehow managed to transcend the usual snobbishness associated with both WSJ and mainstream wine writing — and still provided quality insights. It’s just a shame — not the end of the world.


  32. Bring back Dottie and John! A travesty for them to have left. Open That Bottle Night – Long Live!!


  33. A nauseating column. As obsessed with money, status and image as his novels. But not surprising given who’s running the WSJ now.


  34. Is this really that bad? I loved Dorothy and John too, but I thought this article was worthwhile. I, for one, never heard of Rose Champagne so I found the article informative.

    Name dropping? Definitely! And I agree that can seem pretentious.

    Let’s also not forget that Dorothy and John did a column each year about the Bordeaux premier grand crus. Not exactly cheap.

    And I also agree with Jim — the WSJ isn’t an everyday people paper. Ads for Maserati, Tiffany, and watches that cost I don’t want to know. You won’t see an ad for Target there.


  35. Too many people are missing the point here. The criticism is not of the choices of wines. It has nothing to do with the WSJ being or not being a “people’s” paper.

    It has everything to do with the fact that an honest and down-to-earth wine column that went out of its way to make wine friendly was replaced by a column that is pretentious and egotistical.

    Wealthy people who can afford Dom Perignon Rosé are entitled to the same honesty and straightforwardness as anyone else.


  36. THANK YOU, Larry. Sheesh.


  37. I want more columns before I make a decision (at which point I will probably like it).
    Regardless, this is a move away from the niche – think of wine as artists, auctions, and atmosphere. Will he go to the NV wine auction? I hope so. It takes a clever gate-crashing writer to do the scene justice. If he doesn’t, then I will be disappointed.
    (Not only do I not have 2000 Dom rosé on this beautiful Friday afternoon, a Porche in the barn or a paper subscription to WSJ but I won’t be at the NV wine auction…again.)
    I do have wifi and can read all about it.


  38. […] for WSJ drawing suspect comparisons between Rose Champagne, Porsche Turbos, and Julian Moore to mixed reviews. [WSJ, Dr. […]


  39. @Larry you said it beautifully and without the commentard snark and bad vibes that are all I have to offer. So, let me just say AMEN. And bring back Dottie & John!

    What is their next move? Anyone?


  40. Jay has jumped into the rarified air of the extraordinarily wealthy with his marriage. He may have forgot from whence he came and that we all came to admire his writing when wine was an epiphany to him rather than a trophy!


  41. Bring back John & Dottie. The new wine reviewers are awful!!!


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