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What does a Wine Spectator Award of Excellence actually mean?

Posted by Devra First  August 22, 2008 06:07 AM

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Sometimes, not much, as "The Wine Trials" author Robin Goldstein recently discovered.

Goldstein, who is researching standards for wine awards, submitted an application for a Wine Spectator Award of Excellence. One catch: The restaurant in question, Osteria L’Intrepido in Milan, doesn't exist. Goldstein made it up, and peppered the reserve list with Italian wines that had scored low in Wine Spectator itself.

The "restaurant" won the Award of Excellence.

Goldstein's results are here.

Needless to say, the folks at Wine Spectator are peeved. Here is their response. They point out that the Award of Excellence is the most basic of their three award levels, that they do not claim to visit every restaurant, that only 15 wines on the invented list of 256 bottles scored below 80 points in the publication, and that Goldstein created an elaborate illusion complete with fake website, Google hits, and Chowhound postings.

These are valid points. Still, the fact remains that Wine Spectator bestowed the award and announced it in print without ever speaking with anyone at the restaurant. (Not to mention the poor Chowhound readers who may have hungrily prowled the streets of Milan looking for the made-up osteria.)

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Sheryl Julian, the Globe's Food Editor, writes regularly for the Food section.

Devra First is the Globe's food reporter and restaurant critic. Her reviews appear weekly in the Food section.

Ellen Bhang reviews Cheap Eats restaurants for the Globe and writes about wine.
 

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