For years I've suspected the uber snooty, elitist-driven Wine Spectator Magazine of nefarious and economic-driven activities, with great wine reviews ("95 points! Stellar!") mere pages away from the same winery's glorious, full page ad spread. But those exceptional write ups have never been proven purchased... but this scandal is almost juicier. Robin Goldstein, writer and obvious WS non-believer, tested their venerated "Award of Excellence" program for restaurant wine lists around the world by entering a fictitious restaurant name, wine list and menu. He also sent in the required $250 to enter the ring. Goldstein's fake wine list featured loads of low WS rated (80 points and under) wines as well as hundreds of others. In the August 2008 issue, his fake restaurant — Osteria L'Intrepido — was awarded the Wine Spectator Award of Excellence, one of 22 in Italy. When faced with the embarrassment, here's what WS had to say:
"Wine Spectator learned yesterday that, for the first time in the 27-year history of our Restaurant Awards program, a fictitious restaurant has entered its wine list for judging. To orchestrate his publicity-seeking scam, Robin Goldstein created a fictitious restaurant in Milan, Italy, called Osteria L'Intrepido, then submitted a menu and wine list to Wine Spectator's Restaurant Awards as a new entry in 2008. The wine list earned an Award of Excellence, the most basic of our three award levels. Goldstein revealed his elaborate hoax at a meeting in Oregon last week. He is now crowing about the fraud on his own Web site. The story has been picked up in the blogosphere, and now Wine Spectator would like to set forth the actual facts of the matter." Read the extent of their squirming.
I find this banter simply fabulous... even though Goldstein's elaborate hoax may have taken some liberties and poked a little fun at Wine Spectator's expense. But it does prove that $250 goes a long way.