Friday, August 22, 2008

Another Nuance to the Specator's Black Eye

What I find most interesting about this week's Wine Spectator Restaurant Award debacle is not that WS was duped or their very defensive response. No, the most interesting part to me is the outright shadenfraude most people seemed to react with upon hearing the news. Its been known for a while that the WS Restaurant Awards are not only a huge source of revenue for the magazine (4,500 applicants x $250 each is a cool $1.1 million, with what we can now see is obviously minimal overhead to administer!) but also an opportunity for restaurants to advertise under the guise of an award, which many seem to hang right in the lobby area, so diners can see it as they wait for their table.

This symbiotic back scratching has gone on for years, and many of us just chuckled over it, particularly if we visited one of the award winners and saw a truly disappointing wine list - we were then reminded the WS's diligence did not seem particularly thorough. Now, Mr. Goldstein has brought this into the public eye, the story hit MSNBC, The NY Times, The LA Times and just about every wine blogger in the universe. One can only speculate on the damage to WS's reputation, and while I don't defend Mr. Goldstein's methods, they seemed to have served their intended purpose by bringing this issue to daylight.

The real bit of interest here though is the sheer joy many bloggers and posters have shown at the black eye given to WS. I've taken my own pot shots at the magazine (and that one got me a similarly defensive and pointed email from Thomas Mathews), but its surprising to see just how much smug glee people showed over this. I'm frankly a bit surprised by it. Other than the sycophants on the magazine's own message boards, there seems to be limited support for WS's position, particularly given the now-widespread coverage of how much they really profit off this single issue. I can only surmise that there is some strong resentment over WS's position, either as the iconic industry leader everyone aims to topple or as the industry's stuffed shirts, emblematic of everything elitist and off-putting about wine.

So what does it mean for WS going forward? My guess is that those that supported the magazine before will continue to support it (perhaps more ardently), and those that disliked it before will use it as a rallying cry, proclaiming the downfall of the magazine. The damage will probably be done with those that held no opinion on WS. They'll skim the surface or see the MSNBC coverage on TV and think less of the magazine, but I doubt circulation will be affected materially.

Will this lead to a changing of the guard via Wine Blogs or other media? James Molesworth of WS doesn't. He says "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..."

What makes me laugh most is Molesworth's comment about bloggers being lazy, particularly given the context in which he makes the comment. Goldstein went to enormous lengths to perpetrate his deception (an answering machine in Italy, a website, phony reviews of the restaurant, etc). Dismissing him, and other bloggers, as lazy is not only delusional, its flat-out wrong!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

What I like about the replies on the Wine Spectator's site is the frustration of all the regular posters saying "get these new people out of here! I don't like contrarian opinion! The cognitive dissidence burns...oh how it burns..."


August 22, 2008 12:58 PM  
Blogger ReMARKable Palate said...

And did anyone else notice how disgustingly self congrastulatory the WS response was?

"There is no doubt that more restaurants offer good wine lists today than back in 1981. We would like to think that this program has contributed to that development."

Yeah, YOU'RE the reason, NOT the countless wineMAKERs who have worked their asses off to produce great wines, and the millions of people who have educated themselves about wine without the sanction of the holy triumvirate.

Get over yourselves, WS!

August 22, 2008 4:00 PM  
Blogger caveman said...


what happened to everyone? Hope all is well.


February 15, 2009 4:35 PM  

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