Wine Spectator Gets Had – Gives Fake Restaurant Award

In what may be one of the best publicity stunts in the wine industry this year, Robin Goldstein, Author of The Wine Trials ( recently pulled a fast one on the editors of Wine Spectator magazine. Goldstein created a fake wine list that included wines the magazine has given horrible reviews to in past issues, set up a website using the free blog site, posted reviews on a food forum site- Chowhound, set up a phone number with an answering machine, and sent in the required wine list and $250 fee to be listed as a recommended establishment. The result? The editors granted Osteria L’Intrepido with an “Award of Excellence“, a title that over 4,000 restaurants around the world covet. Goldstein explains the whole process on his blog and highlights how he made his menu:

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.

Goldstein said he wanted to expose the magazine for their lack of foundation granting these awards. He hypothesized that Wine Spectator merely uses this as another profit generating medium, which brings in an estimated $1 million every year.

Thomas Matthews, Executive Editor of Wine Spectator, defends the publication in a posting on the Wine Spectator Forum saying that the company did their best to contact the restaurant and felt that there was enough evidence on the web that this was a real business. Matthews asserts that, although the wine list contained some obvious bad wines, the majority of the list contained wines that fit into the award of excellence criteria:

Our basic award, for lists that offer a well-chosen selection of quality producers, along with a thematic match to the menu in both price and style.

Goldstein’s actions could be looked at in different ways: Here is someone that wanted to hurt the credibility of a magazine while promoting himself. Or, perhaps he had been to a few of the restaurants in the recommended list and felt like he was the one who was had by the magazine and wanted to expose a flaw in the system.

I think a bigger question arises, one that has been on the minds of many wine lovers: Does this lack of diligence spill into other areas of the magazine, where ratings and awards may be bought and aren’t necessarily earned?

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Review – Cameron Hughes – Hughes-Wellman & Lot Series – 52,66,68,71,73,79,91

2005 Cameron Hughes - Hughes-Wellmen Cabernet Sauvignon

The following are my tasting notes on the latest wines from Cameron Hughes.  You can read more about Cameron and my past reviews here.

2006 Rockridge Chardonnay, $<10 – Magnum
Score: 82pts – Notes: Not a bad value – hints of melon, pear, and pineapple, beats 2 buck chuck anyday!

Full disclosure: The wines rated below were all press samples.

Lot 52 2006 Valle De Uco Malbec (Argentina), $13, 14.5% ABV
Score: 90 pts (A-) – Notes: Dark Fruit Characteristics, Food Friendly

Lot 66 2006 Veneto Pinot Grigio (Italy), $10, 12% ABV
Score: ? – Notes: Glycerin, Post Bottle Fermentation, Hot and Astringent. Bad Bottle, planning to retaste

Lot 68 2006 Margaret River Chardonnay (Australia),  $13, 14.2% ABV
Score: 90pts (A-) – Notes: Citrus, Melon, Mineral, Rock

Lot 71 2004 Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon (California), $15, 14.5% ABV
Score: 82pts (B-) – Notes: Cherry Syrup, Tart, Raspberry, Medium Bodied

Lot 73 2006 Chalk Hill Cabernet Sauvignon (California), $16, 14.5% ABV
Score: 90pts (A-) – Notes: Tasted 2x’s, Inky Purple, Anise, Vanilla, Oak, Very tight, buy & hold.

Lot 79 2005 Napa Valley Merlot (California), $14
Score: 78pts (C+) – Notes: This is an overly extracted, Syrupy wine that just didn’t taste that good. (Off the website for a reason?)

Lot 91 2007 Russian River Valley Chardonnay, (California), $14, 13.9% ABV
Score: 86pts (B) – Notes: A Chardonnay for Sauvignon Blanc Lovers, Good Acidity, Citrus

2005 Hughes-Wellman Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, $50, 14.5% ABV

Score: 90pts (A-) – Notes: A very pleasant first effort at a higher end offering from Cameron.  This big Cab has a somewhat weak nose at the moment, but offers hints of black cherry and blueberry. I kept getting whiffs of bell pepper, which through me off a bit, but over time that could blow off. Usually it’s just a sign of grapes harvested from younger vines. The wine possesses good tannic structure with cranberry notes on the palate and a finish that lingers on the tongue. This monster could stand to mellow in the cellar for a bit. I’m excited to see how this wine develops in bottle and look forward to any future releases under this label as the potential for a bargain trophy wine is here. Drink 2010 – 2015

On a side note, I am proud of Cameron for using more screw cap closures.  A few of the bottles sent that were sealed with the traditional cork were tainted.

Move over Parker, Laube, and Robinson, e-tongue is in the hiz-ouse

As reported today in decanter. the Barcelona institute of Microelectronics is currently developing the e-tongue, a device that is sensitive to sour, salty, sweet, acidic and savory flavors, and can even discern the varietal and vintage of a wine.

Using tiny synthetic membranes, each sensitive to different chemical components in a wine, the e-tongue can already distinguish the differences between the Chardonnay, Malvasia, Macabeu and Airen grape varieties. It can also tell whether the same wine is from the 2005 or 2004 vintages.

The device is still in it’s early stage of development, but it’s developers insist that it will be more accurate that it’s human counterpart. The hope is that it could help in the fight against wine fraud.

The Barcelona team isn’t alone in the race to provide accurate wine analysis. Teams from Japan, Europe, and Australia, have all been working on similar solutions for quite some time now. In what could become a very profitable industry, the race to produce an accurate affordable testing machine seems to be nearing the finish.

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