— This is a terrible situation for consumers. And if it wasn’t bad enough that the Spectator did it’s selections with zero fact checking, it was the kicker of listed fake and crummy recipes and a worst-case scenario wine list that is inexcusable. In other words, even if the restaurant existed, it should not have been given any “award of excellence.” While I wish I had pulled this stunt myself, I have suspected a lack of integrity based on personal experience. I just did not know it was this bad.
So far the Wine Spectator website is mum about all this, hoping perhaps that it blows over. It won’t. It’s about to start.
Meanwhile, it appears as if the stunt was short-lived as this restaurant is not on the WS site. Thus it was either taken down or this stunt was a hoax itself. Based on my personal experiences, it was not and I will follow-up. It’s obvious that the Spectator should stop giving International awards anyway since it has no people in the field to verify anything and by charging $250 in the first place for an award (yes) the system is corrupt by its nature.
As part of the research for an academic paper I’m currently working on about standards for wine awards, I submitted an application for a Wine Spectator Award of Excellence. I named the restaurant “Osteria L’Intrepido” (a play on the name of a restaurant guide series that I founded, Fearless Critic). I submitted the fee ($250), a cover letter, a copy of the restaurant’s menu (a fun amalgamation of somewhat bumbling nouvelle-Italian recipes), and a wine list.
Osteria L’Intrepido won the Award of Excellence, as published in print in the August 2008 issue of Wine Spectator. (Not surprisingly, the Osteria’s listing has since been removed from Wine Spectator’s website.) I presented this result at the meeting of the American Association of Wine Economists in Portland, Oregon, on Friday, August 15.
It’s troubling, of course, that a restaurant that doesn’t exist could win an Award of Excellence. But it’s also troubling that the award doesn’t seem to be particularly tied to the quality of the supposed restaurant’s “reserve wine list,” even by Wine Spectator’s own standards. Although the main wine list that I submitted was a perfectly decent selection from around Italy meeting the magazine’s numerical criteria, Osteria L’Intrepido’s “reserve wine list” was largely chosen from among some of the lowest-scoring Italian wines in Wine Spectator over the past few decades.