So, after coming a bit a late to the game. I had to touch on a most humorous wine dialog. Mark Fisher, author of the blog Uncorked and a writer for the Dayton Daily News, recenty commented on the apparent absurdity of the Wine Spectator's "dining awards" not actually measuring the dining. Now, Mark usually just posts his point and let's the public slog it out, but this time he profferred his most recent piece to Marvin Shanken before publishing it.
Marv, as many of you know, is the head of all things Spectator and in only what can be called an error of ill judgment decided to respond in kind from his own hand instead of passing this on to a more objective plebe in the organization.
What follows is Marv's response to Mark's excellent piece of blog-dom:
I won’t belabor the fact that 26(?) years ago we started the awards program to both encourage and recognize those restaurateurs that were willing to make wine an important, in fact integral part of the total dining experience. NO ONE ELSE WAS DOING THIS!!!!!!!!!!! We underwrote all the costs for the first 20 years at considerable expense to us. The program became so successful, with thousands of entries, that we were going under water with it. Staffing, processing, travel, etc. One of our editors suggested that it was quite legitimate to charge for the service as the restaurant was getting the benefit — and attracting many more patrons. So we started charging and the rest is history. It keeps growing because it continues to be a great service to the dining and wine worlds. To personally inspect the 4,000 entries from around the world would cost an additional $40 million. We talked about it, then decided it was just a little more then we wanted to spend this year. Maybe next year though. Have a good summer, Marvin P.S: Our editors have traveled around the world many times to inspect candidates for the Grand Award. Half the time they don’t pass the inspection. Should I send the bills to the Dayton Daily News? Please advise.Aaahhhh, what? Does this man really run one of the most powerful wine media outlets? Did he get his 12 year old niece to do this? And why hasn't this crybabyness been picked up by the wine media at-large?
In any case, let's also not belabour the facts. Wine Spectator does charge an application fee and they rate a restaurant on the merits of the wine list. That is the award's nuts and bolts. Next, no one is realistically going to argue about the admin fee. I mean, come on we get it, it costs money to run the program. But also, let's all agree on the absurdity of calling it a "dining" award, when no dining actually occurs.
So, what is going on here other than a rant and some bad accouting? ($10,000 for a trip to rate a restaurant- Get me on one of those Grand Award trips- sheesh)
Well it has to be because of Spectator's grand plan to invade the entire lifestyle genre. No, not by duping people into dining in sub par restaurants after perusing a winelist but by forcing people to read about the annual Pig issue when they buy the magazine to see what is going on in the wine world.
This calls into question, yet again, Spectator's position on where it stands in the wine world as it moves itself into the greater lifestyle genre and why so many of the former wine flock have lost the faith. Is it that a magazine begins by appealling to a niche few, makes money, expands, loses focus of why it exists and trys to appeal to a larger and larger audience in attempt to make even more money? I think we are getting closer to the truth. Call it the MTV effect. (Have you seen a video lately?) But who can blame them when they are raking it in.
Perhaps Marvin should stop counting his money long enough to turn off his CAPS LOCK and realize that by trying to appeal to everyone he will end up losing his core audienece and most probably appeal to no one.
But I still want to go on one of those $10,000 restaurant trips.