The world loves a good scandal and the U.S. wine market certainly has a nice one surrounding The Wine Spectator and its annual awards for restaurant wine lists.
Briefly, the publication presented an award in the current issue to Osteria L'Intrepido di Milano. The problem was the restaurant was a fake and the wine listed was loaded with wines that the publication had previously panned.
So how does a restaurant win the award? It submits its menu and wine list and a check for $250. Worldwide there are 4128 restuarants on this years list. At $250 each that is just more than $1 million (US) that the publication received from the restaurants that won. Add in those that didn't receive the award and it starts to go way beyond serious money.
I have mixed feelings about The Spectator. I used to love the publication, and I've been reading it since it was in tabloid newspaper format in the late 1970's. I now find that it is pretentious, elitist and self glorifying - all the things I dislike about parts of the wine world. Still, the publication does some wonderful articles and while I don't subscribe any more I still buy issues when the articles interest me.
As for their wine reviews, here's a backhanded compliment to their chief California critic Jim Laube. He is consistent with his reviews and 95% of the time I don't like the same wines, or style of wine, that he does. Yes, that means his reviews are useful to me, but probably not in the way he intends.
There are few people in the world who don't at least smile when seeing an egotistical or conceited person totally embarrassed and caught up in their own web. The Spectator will recover and go on down its happy path but if I close my eyes I can hear a line from the old I Love Lucy television series - the one where after one of her crazy escapades goes sour Ricky looks at her and says in his Cuban accent, "Lucy, you got some 'splainin' to do."