Is Wine Spectator biased?
The new Wine Spectator 2012 top 100 list is now online and can be viewed for free until November 27th at their site. I wanted to take the opportunity to express why I dislike Wine Spectator. There have been many rumors that the Wine Spectator (WS) gets paid for the awards they hand out. The new top 100 list makes me believe that further more as it makes little sense to me. I’m not just focusing on the Italian wines in that selection, I will also address the lack of Spanish wines in the top 10.
250$ get you a Wine Spectator “Award of Excellence”
Back in 2008 consumer advocate Robin Goldstein came up with a plan to prove that WS awards are not to be trusted. Next to wines, WS also awards restaurants for their excellent wine cellars. Goldstein invented a fake restaurant based in Milan and submitted his wine list together with the 250$ to WS. In the August 2008 edition of WS Goldstein’s imaginary restaurant Osteria L’Intrepido won the award of excellence. Read the full story at Goldstein’s blog. You can also read the New York Time’s article about this matter. According to the New York Time WS made in 2008 1.000.000$ just with the award of excellence entry fees.
This is just one example to show how easy it is to get an “award” from Wine Spectator which brings me to the conclusion that as long as you got the money you’ll get the WS award you want – even for something that doesn’t even exist
Wine Spectator 2012 Top 10 and Top 100
I’m pretty sure that all of the wines in the WS Top 10 exist but I have my doubts that all of these wines really “deserve” the award.
Let me express my concerns now. If we take a closer look at the Top 10 then we see that it includes 4 French, 3 American, 1 Italian, 1 Australian and 1 from Argentina. The first time I looked at the list I immediately wondered why there was no Spanish wine in the top 10. Probably no Spanish winery was willing to “pay the sum X” to be included in the list. Of course this is pure speculation on my part but why should WS actually change their policy for Wine Awards compared to their policy for the “award of excellence”? The answer is simply: They wouldn’t change it.
2012’s best wine is according to WS is the 2008 Shafer Vineyards – Relentless Napa Valley. I’m not an expert on American wine but I’ve never seen this wine in any Enoteca in Germany nor in Italy. So I wonder: Why is this the best wine of the year not available in my country?
The Italian wine in the top 10
Let’s take a look at the only Italian wine in the WS top 10. The wine is #9 on the list and is produced by Ciacci Piccolomini – a winery from Montalcino. The wine “awarded” was their 2007 Brunello di Montalcino. I’ve seen a lot of Brunello di Montalcino and tasted a lot of them, too but I’ve never came across this one so I looked at wine-searcher where I could buy it. The closest store is over 270km (165 miles) away from me and I live in one of Germany’s most important and largest cities, Munich. So no luck with buying the wine. Once again that made me wonder why is Wine Spectator’s the best Italian wine not available in anywhere close to me? I assume that it’s not that good (I’m not saying it’s bad but there are probably better Italian wines out there!). Why do I assume that? The brand new Gambero Rosso 2013 wine guide did not award the wine their prestigious “tre bicchieri” (three glasses) award. No other Italian wine guide gave the wine any notable award. The Gambero Rosso awarded 17 Brunello di Montalcino the “tre bicchieri” award. Ciacci Piccolomini are not in that list. If I recall correctly the wine did not even get awarded the “un bicchiere” (one glass) award which many OK wines get. So why did WS select this wine out of all possible Italian wines? Only reasonable explanation is that the winery paid WS for it. In the wine review WS states that this wine is also the best value wine. According to WS the wine costs 60$ in the US – I surly hope that there are better best value deals out there than this 60$ wine.
No Spanish wines in the top 30
I already said it earlier that I found it odd that there was no Spanish wine in the top 10. Spanish wines are not among my favorites but I’m not an idiot and I know that there are good Spanish wines out there. They might not be my taste but they are good. Period.
After taking a quick look at the WS Top 100 list I seemed to find no Spanish wines and I was halfway through the list. The 2009 Can Blau from the Spanish winery Montsant Blau is ranked #33. Very, very hard to believe that 32 wines are better than the very best Spanish wine of the year. It would be great if WS could explain how that’s was possible.
The Top 50 is dominated by American and French wines but there are also a few Portuguese and some Italian wines in the list.
Where is Germany?
The WS top 100 includes only two German wines. Two Rieslings – one from the Rheingau and one from the Mosel. Not a whole lot for one of the leading white-wine producing countries in the world. Maybe Wine Spectator forget simply forgot about Germany?
A few facts about the WS Top 100
- The list contains a very high number of Californian wines compared to very little wines from Spain, Portugal and other important wine producing countries.
- None of the Brunello di Montalcino in the WS Top 100 list are also in the Gambero Rosso tre bicchieri list.
- If we look at the Italian wines then only a few are found in any other Italian wine guide.
When it comes to Italian wine I value the opinion of Italian wine guides much more!
- As far as I’m aware the list does not include wines from less-known wine countries like Greece or Croatia. Just to name two countries who produce good wine, too.
Not only does Wine Spectator hand out their “award of excellence” for a fee but they also come up with a top 100 wine list that makes very little sense – at least to me. If the list makes sense to you then please use the comment section and elaborate why.
In general I think it makes little sense to try to make a world wide top 100 wine list if you forget about 80% of the wine producing countries. Comparing a French Bordeaux with an Italian Barolo and an American Napa Valley seems to be already a bad idea since they all differ so much compared to each other. That’s why for example Italian wine guides like the Gambero Rosso do never compare Brunello with Barolo or Vino Nobile with Cerasuolo di Vittoria. They compare Brunello with Brunello and Vino Nobile with Vino Nobile. I prefer that system much more. How is it possible to compare and rank all these different wines? A Spanish Rioja and a Vino Nobile have little in common.
I know that this blog post was long but I felt the need to express my dislike for Wine Spectator. Feel free to discuss this matter in the comment section. Do you share my opinion or do you disagree?