Thursday, September 25, 2008

Is Wine Spectator's Award of Excellence a Sham?

Long before reading Dr. Vino's blog I have wondered about this subject. On several occasions (not always, some have indeed been great) I have visited restaurants with their Award of Excellence posted prominently only to look at their wine lists and wonder what was excellent about it. Now it turns out that an intrepid blogger was able to get the Wine Spectator award with only a phone number and clumsy website.
If you decided to get a Wine Spectator Award of Excellence for you restaurant wine list, what would you need? The answer according to Robin Goldstein is $250 and Microsoft Word. Restaurant not actually required. Goldstein, the author of The Wine Trials, has a posting up on a new web site describing how he invented a restaurant name, Osteria l’Intrepido, a riff on “fearless.” Then he typed up a menu (”a fun amalgamation of somewhat bumbling nouvelle-Italian recipes”), put together a wine list, and submitted both to Wine Spectator–along with the $250 fee. The list was approved and given an Award of Excellence.
Further, the author of the phony restaurant says:
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 wine list, even by Wine Spectator’s own standards. Although the main wine list that I submitted was made up of fairly standard Italian-focused selections, Osteria L’Intrepido’s “reserve wine list” was largely chosen from among the lowest-scoring Italian wines in Wine Spectator over the past 20 years.
As a restaurant owner this leaves me in a real quandary. The award does seem to impress people, and probably solidifies a restaurant as a wine destination in consumer's minds. However without any sort of measurable standards the award is meaningless.


Bryan said...

Now we know not to expect much based on the award hanging in a restaurant.

On the other hand, did you see that Bistro was written up last month in WS as a place to dine? We have never visited a spot based on what's hanging in the window, however, we have gone places based on a writeup in the actual magazine (website). Hopefully we'll see Kybecca in there once it's all up and running.

Rebecca said...

I didn't see that but they deserve all the accolades they get.

However I would be curious if that was a true write-up or if it was the follow up advertising they offer "award winners". Either way Bistro does a great job, just food for thought on how WS operates. Thanks for the well wishes.