Saturday, August 23, 2008


The blogosphere has lit up like a Times Square Christmas tree in the past few days with the recent sting operation pulled on Wine Spectator and their recent Restaurant awards list. The bloggers of the world, for the most part have united in their common mistrust of the magazine, though Spectator is not without its own supporters. The editors of the magazine have weighed in, vehemently rebuking the claims made by author Robin Goldstein (the man behind the sting) on their forum page.

I’ve been checking out the blogs this morning and it seems just about everyone has an opinion on the matter. For me, I have never really given the restaurant awards that Spectator doles out much credit. Though the restaurants who receive the awards for the most part are quite deserving of them, the true meaning behind these awards doesn’t hold much water. The reason I say this is not due to the recipients, but the benefactor. I’ve made no bones about my distrust and loathing of the magazine. While in the beginning they may have done a lot of good in the promotion of wine education, they have become a fat, bloated parody of itself, pompous and stodgy, with an elitism that wreaks to the heavens. Harsh yes, but unfounded? Why waste the energy in reviewing wines that virtually no one will taste? And why spend so much time reviewing wines that cost over $100? While they do review inexpensive wines, rarely is a $10 wine given 90+ points. And just how do they arrive at these scores anyway? As a wine judge, I am aware of giving 5 points for aroma, 4 points for flavor, 3 points for overall impression, etc., but Spectator, along with all the other points jockeys out there, fail to fully disclose the points allocation system that builds the 100-point scale.

I have spoken to so many winemakers over the years and virtually no one LIKES Spectator (or even Parker and the like). In fact most express deep disdain for them, yet they acknowledge that they HAVE TO USE them because of the power given to them over the past two decades. It’s actually sad because as a retailer, I see that it’s largely the retailers’ fault for enabling them in this capacity, thus putting the industry in a state of submission.

This recently divulged sting is just one more example of Spectator doing it for the money and the power. Are their greater injustices being perpetrating in this world? Without question, yes. Yet this particular occurrence, however trivial it may be to some, just serves to frustrate me more in the knowledge that I still have to pay attention to these guys, until the day when I no longer hear a customer ask, “what was the Spectator score?”

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