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Congratulations - your wine smells like bug spray

Posted by Stephen Meuse  September 1, 2008 10:39 AM

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Turn your back for one second and something interesting happens.

We were on vacation far from Internet connections, radio, and TV last week when a rumor reached us via a gossipy cheesemaker that Wine Spectator - the publication wine savants love to hate -- was the victim of a delicious little sting. Our co-conspirator on the Dishing blog, restaurant critic Devra First, offered her take on the fiasco here -- but we can hardly resist putting in our two moldy corks' worth.

As most readers know, the Spectator gives awards that purport to acknowledge exceptional restaurant wine lists. Many of us have long suspected these awards of being little more than perpetual-motion revenue generators for the magazine. Some of the places where we have seen its Award of Excellence prominently displayed are the sort of restaurants where after one look at the wine list you order a beer.

In any case, the public got a peek behind the Wizard's curtain when wine writer Robin Goldstein created a fictitious Milan restaurant (he called it Osteria L’Intrepido) and submitted its wine list for a WS award - along with the required check for $250.

As Goldstein puts it on his blog (which is also the website of the non-existent restaurant), The main wine list that I submitted was a perfectly decent selection from around Italy that met the magazine’s basic criteria (about 250 wines, including whites, reds, and sparkling wines–some of which scored well in WS). However, Osteria L’Intrepido’s high-priced “reserve wine list” was largely chosen from among some of the lowest-scoring Italian wines in Wine Spectator over the past few decades.

It's pretty hilarious to read what the Spectator itself had to say about some of the wines on Goldstein's reserve list -- the one they gave an Award of Excellence to -- including, that's right, "smells like bug spray."

As Devra notes, Robin Goldstein is the author of a new book, The Wine Trials.

About Dishing

What's cooking in the world of food.


Sheryl Julian, the Globe's Food Editor, writes regularly for the Food section.

Devra First is the Globe's food reporter and restaurant critic. Her reviews appear weekly in the Food section.

Ellen Bhang reviews Cheap Eats restaurants for the Globe and writes about wine.

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