Saturday, August 23, 2008

Did the Wine Spectator Eat Crow Paired with a Glass of Blush from the Osteria L'Intrepido Menu?

In Portland, Oregon last week at the meeting of the American Society for Wine Economists, a presentation was given by wine writer, Robin Goldstein. Apparently, he performed a "sting operation" on the Wine Spectator Restaurant Awards. In summary:

1. A fake restaurant was created - Osteria L'Intrepido.
2. Location of fake restaurant was in Milan, Italy.
3. A website for fake restaurant - Osteria L’Intrepido was designed.
4. A wine list was built using the lowest scoring Italian wines from the Wine Spectator magazine.
5. Fake restaurant enters Wine Spectator Restaurant Awards.
6.TA-DAAAA!!! Fake restaurant wins "Wine Spectator Award of Excellence!"

At this time the Wine Spectator hasn't said much other than it was an elaborate hoax. They have only acknowledged this on their WS Forum, their chat-message board - nothing front page at this time. However, I have to rebuke a comment on the forum from James Molesworth, Senior Editor of the WS. "This is the problem with the 'blogosphere'. It's a lazy person's journalism. No one does any real research, but rather they just slap some hyperlinks up and throw a little conjecture at the wall, and presto! you get some hits and traffic..."

James, I would like to give the Wine Spectator the benefit of the doubt until all of the facts are in. In the mean time, don't bottle all of the blogosphere together with one cork. That kind of defensive response is often typical if guilt is involved. So, let's not shift blame on everybody else and let's keep with the topic at hand, shall we? Besides, if blogging is a lazy person's journalism, then why does the WS participate in the blogosphere and why am I blogging for free?

Last but not least, if Goldstein's "research" proves to be with merit, then wineries and winemakers may ponder the credibility of their scores from the Wine Spectator and especially those scores below 90 points that have influenced and turned away wine sales from the high-point driven wine consumer.

8 comments:

Andrew said...

To me - another lazy jorno with nothing but many years of training, experience and tasting behind me - these awarda are just a way of earning more cash. Plain and simple.

The blanket derision of bloggers though is painful. How do those with proper credentials rise above the swill?

Thad said...

As a wine blogger, I am truly inspired by Molesworth's attack, for it suggests the Wine Spectator (WS) is very much concerned about its future relative to the rising influence of the blogosphere.

But don't expect the WS to wage this fight against new media on its own. Those who have benefitted from the WS publication's praise or depend on its continued influence will certainly rally around it, in hopes of trying to maintain some notion of credibility.

It was only a matter of time before someone like Robin Goldstein exposed the farcical nature of these restaurant awards. I can't wait to see how these "sting operations" extend further to expose other supposed objective competitions of wine itself. And it couldn't come any sooner considering the preponderance of these types of competitions.

As I commented in my post, Why Being "Best" No Longer Matters, many in the wine industry and media continue to promote these competitions and resulting lists as a means toward generating more sales, due to the fact that many consumers depend on these for purchase decisions.

To disrupt this biased tradition toward wine marketing, it is time for wine bloggers to discard this same approach toward evaluating and commenting on wine. The approach I am referring to is the overuse of awarding wines with points or creating list of bests.

I am confident that many more consumers will be embracing wine reviewers who are not only objective in their evaluations but free from industry influence. To encourage this, I believe more transparency is needed across the board, amongst old and new media covering wine. For specific ways wine bloggers can change how wine is covered, please see Breaking the Unspoken Code.

Thad
BeyondtheBottle.com

Catie said...

Thank you Andrew and Thad for your comments. And yes Thad, O' how I remember "Breaking the Unspoken Code" oh so well.

And the plot thickens...I suppose that my biggest problem with this whole ordeal is the way that the WS has responded and in particular, that of James Molesworth. He ran offense instead of a good defense and spun the blame to the bloggers - the "lazy person's journalism." Et tu, if we are so lazy, what does that say about the paid professionals at the WS who got caught up in this "lazy person's" scam? Goldstein doesn't sound so lazy to me, he put a lot of work into this project. And why does everyone keep insisting that Goldstein's work was a scam? Who was scamming who? In my opinion, Molesworth was not the person to do any kind of damage control for the WS.

And I learned the hard way that once you go into the WS Forum to try and rebutt the comments that are being said about bloggers, you might as well be talking to yourself. Many of the members hide behind anonymous aliases and because of this anonymity they easily spew rudeness and name calling of bloggers, while claiming bloggers are not of any worth. And yet, interesting enough, bloggers on the whole, and especially wine bloggers, have more integrity than the anonymous blog-bashers hiding behind their momma's skirt...I mean the WS Forum. The majority reminded me of the wicked witch's poo-tossing winged monkeys.

In the mean time, I had some finger wagging in front of my nose by Molesworth (again, he plays offense instead of a good defense) for my provocative headline, conjecture, and for using info from other sources and all the while giving kudos to the NY Post Page Six gossip column for their provocative headline, "WINE MAG HUMBLED BY HOAX" and if one read between the lines was full of conjecture and it is extremely doubtful that the writers of Page Six were at the AAWE, where the hoax was revealed.

Molesworth continued to tell me that "I should not throw stones...yada-yada-yada-yakity-smackity"...or perhaps what he really meant was I should not throw stones at glass castles with moats full of pompous dragons and
closed drawbridges who only remain open to those that agree with their editorials.

Cheers,
C~

Joe Roberts, CSW said...

"poo-tossing winged monkeys"

Wow - you're one tough cookie! :-)

As one of the other bloggers who tried to criticize WS & ask their editors to clarify their position on the Goldstein event, I appreciate firsthand what you have to ordeal on that "forum".

http://1winedude.blogspot.com/2008/08/dont-feed-trolls-how-not-to-respond-to.html

As long as WS is using that vehicle as their means of response on this matter, it's clear they are not taking their response seriously.

Catie said...

Hi Joe, Thanks for checking in. I agree with you that the WS used the wrong vehicle as their means of response on this matter. I would like to put my faith back into the WS. I believe that if they originally said on a front page, and not that forum full of junior high anonymous slugs,and admitted they did not do their fact checking, but in the future raise the bar on their restaurant awards, this boo-boo would have already been behind them.
C~

Bradley Cooper, Winemaker said...

I read the thread over at WS forums and was disappointed when the denizens of the site met my low expectations. WS and the resident team of sycophants that contribute there created an atmosphere of conflict and self-aggrandizement. The excuses offered by site apologists for the treatment of some forum particpants suggested a kind of jungle law. Sort of like: tough it out and your reward will be the opportunity to be just like us. Truly an admirable and enticing promise.
I found it odd if not absurd that individuals supposedly not employed by WS would go to such lengths to defend its corporate reputation. Lots of name-calling, baiting, ridicule and straw man arguments but little constructive examination of the topic. Catie, you've got better things to do with your talents than butt horns with the goats. You might win, but you'll get a headache and, since they're goats, it'll never end.

Catie said...

Hi Brad,

Thanks for checking in and also for the support. Yeah, I suppose I can also be a "goat" and do a bit of head butting, but I soon discovered that I was butting heads of empty minded bullies who needed to seek approval from other bullies. Pretty sad they couldn't really grasp the importance of topic at hand. I even had one not-so-bright lightbulb with the alias of Sharkey tell me my name wasn't Catie. Hmmm...does my mother know this? I'm sure it says Catie on my voter's registration. However, if Mr. Sharkey Einstein really looked through my blog, he could find not only my last name, email and a phone number. But if he says it aint so - - he is the authoritive afterall - - in his mind. We'll let him have the last word on the WS Forum and I can have the last laugh.

What surprises me is that the WS supports and allows such behavior on their forums. WS is suppose to be a world class magazine but their forum is not representative of world class behavior. I mean, as an example, there is a guy on their board who goes by the name of "Gigond Ass" - - classeeee. If WS wanted to,they could clean it up. I belong to a few forums where anonymity is not allowed and it certainly makes a person responsible for their words. But then again, not sure why this is any surprise to me. The last time I was there, about four months ago, I had someone tell me I was stupid for suggesting Merlot with salmon. He must not have been from Washington State...

After it has all been said and done, IMO I believe WS managment knew exactly what they doing by only discussing their faux pas on the WS Forum. There's enough anonymous trolls and winged guard monkey to keep people distracted from the real issue.

Thanks again,
Cheers
C~

Catie said...

If my readers are interested there are other blogs discussing the same. Check out:
Under the Grape Tree

Don't Feed Trolls

Wine Spectator Restaurant Awards Complete Bullsh*t

Wine Spectator Restaurant Award

And for laughs, check out the forum board on eBob-Robert Parker. They are having way too much fun regarding the restaurant scam.