Shock at award for made-up wine list

It’s been amazing to see the reaction to the “expose” of the Wine Spectator awards system. Journalist and author Robin Goldstein put forward a wine list for an imaginary restaurant to the WS magazine which claims to help Americans “learn more, drink better”.
He paid the entry fee and provided all the necessary documentation – then won an award despite having neither the wine or the restaurant.
The magazine’s executive editor Thomas Matthews has publicly denounced Goldstein’s actions as a “publicity-seeking scam.” He also denied that the award of excellence was designed to generate revenue for the magazine.
While unlikely to directly affect many reader’s in the UK, the credibility of awards for food or wine is a jealously guarded business and what Goldstein appears to have done is call, not just the Wine Spectator’s scheme, but all such gongs into question.
And the reaction on his blog has been incredible.
Here’s one typical response; “Thank you for doing this! For a long time I have been wondering about these awards, since I have had some pretty disappointing experiences with wine lists all over the country in restaurants I had chosen because of the Award of Excellence,”
and more;
” Any other decent publication would fire their editor over an incident like this. What happened to journalistic integrity?”
And so it goes on (and on, and on) in that vein. There is a small amount of criticism of the writer’s methods but on the whole this false entry (whether it’s a prank or a serious investigation is open to question) seems to have shocked the wine drinking sensibilities of those readers who considered the publication to be a fair and balanced guide.
And quite right too. Consumers should demand more transparency in these areas – anyone can put a certificate on the wall or send off for a “diploma” online.
What’s more, everyone knows that. So while it remains to be established whether this was some sort of cash-for-awards system in operation, even the fact that such a reputable publication can allow itself to be brought into question in this way drives another wedge into the level of trust reader’s invest into the established media – and that’s bad news for all.


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