Osteria L’Intrepido di Milano — 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.

Found by rydernyc via twitter via drvino

  1. Greg Allen says:

    >> chuck said,
    >> I’ve been drinking anti-freeze spiked with Scope for years, and I haven’t gone blind yet.


    … and I suppose you drink some la-te-da brand name antifreeze too.

    I refuse to spend more than $10 bucks on my generic antifreeze and it TASTES GREAT.

    Bottom line, if you like the taste of antifreeze, it’s just as good as French wine.

  2. Mister Mustard says:

    #20 – Ryder on the Storm

    >>I drink what I want and I ignore the
    >>price tag.

    Christ. You must be one of those guys, like McBush, who doesn’t know how many houses he has. It would never occur to me to buy a $300 bottle of wine without some compelling reason. And for many people, a compelling reason is some bullshit “award” from a bogus magazine whoring out their imprimatur for $250. Unless I’d already bought the $300 bottle of wine, how would I know how great it was unless I’d already bought one? Kind of a catch 22 there, eh?

    >>Yes there are idiots in the world that
    >>drink the price tag

    I’d say that includes the majority of so-called “connoisseurs” in the world of wine.

    Unless there’a blind taste test involved, I’d say 99% of the bloviating that goes on about wines is utter and complete bullshit.

  3. Mr. Fusion says:

    Now, just to add to Mustard’s #22 comments, hey I use well water. And it tastes great. I’ll put it up against anyone’s well water any day. Well, except for when the neighbor’s leach bed failed, …, but I would still put even that up against James Hill’s water.

  4. Thomas says:

    #1, #8
    That’s fine but you realize that is the equivalent of saying that you will never spend more than $10 on food. Sure there is some variety of food you can get for $10, however at some point you realize there are more options in the world and those cost more than $10.

    There are some good $10 whites and some good $10 roses but I challenge someone to find a $10 pinot noir that wouldn’t be better on a salad. Some types of wines simply cannot be made decently for $10. Generally, deep, complex reds cannot be made or simply will not be sold for $10.

    I’ve always taken Wine Spectator’s rating with a grain of salt. The biggest problem with choosing wine is information about the wine itself. There are plenty of great, reasonably priced wines in the world but you have to willing to take a risk and have people around you willing to do the same.

    Some people just do not have the palette to differentiate between great wine and vinegar. While it is true there is plenty of BS out there, on the whole, there is a significant difference between a $30 and $200 bottle of the same varietal. I have tasted plenty of wine and have had a $200 bottle that I thought was average and a $30 bottle that was pretty good. But I’ve never had a $30 bottle that blew my doors off.

  5. bobbo says:

    #24–Thomas==so its not Koolaid you are proud to drink, but rather Wine. I guess wine is like ideas, proud to think your taste is better than anyone elses.

    I’ll drink to that. Where is that twist top jug from last year?

  6. Rider says:

    Trust me I’m poor, I can guarantee that I have the lowest income of anyone posting in this thread. If I’m going to spend money I make sure I’m going to enjoy what I spend it on. I would never spend 1$ on Crystal, or Dom, but if someone I trust recommends something I have no problem dropping money on it. I save up for 6 months to get a good meal and not worry what I’m spending. Other people waste their money on other things. I spend my money in restaurants. I’d rather eat ramen at home for 6 months then go out to red lobster once a week if it means I get a truly great meal at a restaurant I normally could not afford.

    I should also mention that I run a restaurant. Food and rink is my life and no matter how many times I try to get away from it, I always end up back in a restaurant.

  7. Thomas says:

    The ‘koolaid’ that appears to be the rage in this post is the assumption that a $10 bottle and a $200 bottle of wine are equivalent across all varietals. It is fascinating to hear people claim that there is no discernible difference in wine regardless of price but their answer is entirely different if you ask them whether there is any discernible difference between something they know like Meister Brau and Budweiser.

  8. #24 – Tommie

    >>Some people just do not have the palette to
    >>differentiate between great wine and vinegar.

    We’re not talking about the difference between great wine and vinegar. We’re talking about the difference between a “pretty good” $12 bottle of wine and a “pretty good” $300 bottle of wine.

    Sure, there are some great $300 bottles of wine (although not everyone has the same “palette” concerning what is great, even the “experts”). And there are so many wines out there, that you run the risk of going bankrupt if you keep searching $300 bottles of wine that are great.

    Not being at the economic level where I forget how many house I have, I’d just as soon stick with the “pretty good” $10 bottles.

    And I really don’t get the fascination with overpriced, dubious-quality wines. Christ, it’s not like it’s sex or something. Although for many of the “connoisseurs”, it seems to be.

    If I have a “pretty good” glass of wine with my dinner, that’s fine with me. I just can’t imagine ANY wine that would “blow my doors off”. I mean, it’s good stuff, wine, but not THAT good.

    I’m continually amused by these pampered pantywaist “connoisseurs” who stamp their feet and throw a hissy fit if the wine isn’t up to their exacting “standards”.

    Blind taste tests. Bring ‘em on. I wouldn’t give a plugged nickel of the opinion of ANY “connoisseur” wrt wine, if he knows what’s on the label when tasting it.

    Way WAAAY too much bullshit in this wine business, and the awards-for-sale monkey business at WS is just the coup de grâce.

  9. Thomas says:

    There is nothing wrong with limiting your wine selection to $10 if your finances dictate as such. That is an honorable decision to make. As I said, one can find passable wines for that price if you stay away from ballsy reds, pinot noirs, champaigns and fortified wines like port. That still leaves a decent selection from which to choose. If you expand your limit to $30, you can find a very good selection of almost any type of wine.

    There is nothing wrong with stating that one could never reasonable afford a $300 on a bottle of wine. Yet, just because I cannot afford $250K for an Aston Martin does not mean there is no difference between that and a Yugo or even a Nissan.

    Without question, there is a ton of BS in the wine industry; yet it is not all BS. There is something to the concepts such as complexity and body once you wade past the BS of the reviewer. Lest we not forget that wine reviewing is predominantly about articulating the taste of the wine or said another way, bullshitting about the wine.

    I have had wines (and food) that blew my doors off. That were equivalent of liquid heaven. If you have never experienced food or drink that was so amazing as to blow your doors off, then it is an experience well worth seeking if you can afford it.

  10. bobbo says:

    #28–Mustard==one of your better posts.

    Yea Thomas==taste is an acquired thing and taste accommodates. While “everyone knows” that beginners like sweet white wines as less objectionable to a virgin palate, the heirarchy then moves up to finally the dry reds. Well–who says dry reds are better than sweet whites? Just because hard core alcoholics become inured to one group of tastes and flavors does not mean that the next hit to get them off is more complex or any better===just different and what one has become used to.

    Taste is individual and certain flavanoids and discrete factions can be tasted as sweet by some, bitter by others, and not at all by many. Taste? The rich and pretentious are always having it on.

    Like diamonds, its all marketing and you have bought it. Well good. Leaves the cheaper stuff to me.

    Anybody got a good reference identifying the off-brands by which the excess of quality wine is sold so as to maintain the limited supply of the named brand? I’ve come close a few times but its never a valid source. Sommelier please?

  11. Thomas says:

    No wine connoisseur argues whether a dry red is better than a sweet white. That is a strawman argument. It is akin to arguing that blue is better than yellow. Clearly circumstance, specifically the mood of the drinker has everything to do with what is “best” choice. If I’m in the mood for a sweet white, then a dry red is not the best choice.

    If you are going to compare two wines in an effort to determine which one is superior, it must be the case that both are meant to have the same characteristics. Just as comparing a pinot noir to a viognier is nonsensical, so too is comparing a 2000 cabernet sauvignon with a 1960 cabernet sauvignon. However, if we were to compare two wines that are supposed to have similar characteristics (and thus accounting for approximate age), it is possible to draw a comparison. At the simplest level, that might involve a rudimentary truth table:
    I like A and not B
    I like B and not A
    I like both A and B
    I dislike both.

    To claim that one cannot claim one wine to be superior to another is sophistry, however it must be done in a logical fashion. If you taste two similar wines and one tastes better than the other, all things being equal it is the superior wine.

    Diamonds provide a nice illustration. Claiming diamonds to be “better” than emeralds is nonsense. However, it is logical to compare two diamonds and state that one is superior to the other.

    RE: Off market
    To be honest, your best bet is your local wine shop and non-big label brands. However, I’ll ask my friends.