Ratings Hell: Fake Restaurant Wins Wine Spectator Award of Excellence

Kevin Erskine’s The Scotch Blog points us to a hilarious prank that seems to rip the face off of the Wine Spectator’s awards of excellence. In a blog post, wine writer Robin Goldstein describes submitting a fake entry for a restaurant called Osteria L’Intrepido (the name means Fearless Critic, also the title of a restaurant guide series created by the same author).

The fake entry picked up an award, temporarily joining more than 4,000 other restaurants similarly honored. Writes Goldstein:

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.

See the Wine Spectator’s response here.

Who hasn’t suspected that these types of awards are all about marketing, rather than true critical acclaim? They could also be profit centers for the award-givers. At $250 per entry, the revenue attached to this program appears to be in excess of $1M, according to the number of winners published on the Wine Spectator site. Expenses are not disclosed, but the award-giving does not appear to involve significant research beyond the materials submitted.

Wine Spectator’s rules state:

To qualify for an award, the list must present complete, accurate wine information. It must include vintages and appellations for all selections, including wines available by the glass. Complete producer names and correct spellings are mandatory, while the overall presentation and appearance of the list is also taken into consideration. After meeting these basic requirements, lists are judged for one of our three awards.

Goldstein does not disclose which award level the fake restaurant won, and the listing has apparently been removed from the web site. But it made it into print, so I’ll try to track down a copy and update this post later.

~ by whisky1 on August 20, 2008.

One Response to “Ratings Hell: Fake Restaurant Wins Wine Spectator Award of Excellence”

  1. […] Fake-Out, or Fraud? The Wine Spectator Responds A wine critic intent on embarassing an industry magazine by entering a fake restaurant in the Wine S… set up a fake answering machine and inserted fake comments discussing the restaurant on […]

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