Do you have a spare $250 lying around? How about a decent knowledge of wines? Apparently that’s all you need to get an Award of Excellence from Wine Spectator. No actual restaurant necessary. Robin Goldstein, author of The Wine Trials, made up a restaurant and sent in an application to the magazine, in a sort of experiment to see exactly how they come up with these awards.
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 been removed from Wine Spectator’s website since I posted this.) 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.
So not only does the wine list not need to appear on any real restaurant, but it also doesn’t have to be a particularly good wine list at that. The magazine can’t be expected to visit every single restaurant, but perhaps a few phone calls wouldn’t be a bad idea? We can’t wait to see Wine Spectator’s reaction to this.
What does it take to get a Wine Spectator Award of Excellence? [Osteria L’Intrepido]
The Wine Trials [Official Site]
Wine Spectator [Official Site]
The Wine Spectator has some explaining to do [Accidental Hedonist]