Wine Spectator's 'Awards' Are Not Hard to Win

Last Updated Aug 22, 2008 7:55 PM EDT

Yesterday, I noted the blowup over a blogger's tricking Wine Spectator into giving an award to a fake restaurant. The stunt revealed that the magazine's "Award of Excellence," given to more than 4,000 restaurants every year, is less than meets the eye.

Today, the Los Angeles Times reported that it talked to Wine Spectator executive editor Thomas Matthews and found out that of the 4,500 entries from restaurants it received for the award this year, just 319 of them were denied an "Award of Excellence" for their wine lists.

Given that each restaurant pays a $250 entry fee, that translates into more than a million bucks for the magazine. Matthews denied that the contest is about making money, though. It's all about promoting quality wines, he insisted.

Uh-huh.

The Times also talked to Tom Pirko, a consultant to the beverage industry. He didn't hold back. "This gets down to what the Wine Spectator is all about," he said. "It's not exactly Wine for Dummies; it's more Wine for the Gullible. This gives the appearance of paying for advertising disguised as a contest."

  • Dan Mitchell

    Dan Mitchell has spent the past 20 years writing and editing for newspapers, magazines, and Web publications. Currently, he writes the What's Online column for the Saturday business section of the New York Times. He has also written for the Chicago Tribune, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, National Public Radio, Business 2.0, and Wired.