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Dear Dr. Vinny,
My friends and I were dining at a reputable restaurant with a Wine Spectator award-winning wine list. Wine ratings from various publications (including Wine Spectator) were included. The house wine was rated 95 points by “KO,” an unfamiliar name. After inquiring of our puzzled waitress, we discovered that “KO” was the restaurant’s wine manager. That didn’t sit well with us. Is this acceptable practice in the industry?
—Andrew, Aloha, Ore.
No, that is very unusual, and I cringed while I read your question. I would think that by virtue of placing the wine on the list, it already comes with the endorsement of the restaurant’s management. Scoring something you’re trying to sell also seems a bit self-serving. Certainly, by putting that score there, it got your attention, which I guess was the point.
If I try to look at things from the restaurant’s point of view, I can imagine that if they like having wine ratings to help sell their wines but then run into a wine or two that hasn’t been rated, they might be motivated to impose consistency on their wine list, or they want to avoid a wine being overlooked because it doesn’t have a high score. Since it’s the house wine that got this score, maybe they were just trying to be cute. At least they didn’t try to mislead you as to where the score came from, even if they didn’t make the source as obvious as it might’ve been.
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