|Pancho Campo (l) with Jay Miller. Courtesy interempresas.net, via Jim's Loire blog|
Budd's post details an offer made on Miller's behalf to make a short visit to "3 or 4" wineries in the Madrid D.O. for "half his usual rate" -- 20,000 Euros (US $27,000), plus VAT, meaning it's not an under-the-table transaction at all; it's official Wine Advocate business. (As usual?)
If not paid, Miller apparently would not visit the region or review the wines, according to the email sequence on Jim's Loire blog.
Parker has been embarrassed by ethical issues with Jay Miller before, regarding him accepting free travel and meals. But most of the wine journalism community looked at our shoes while business writers covered that story, because most of us (me included) accept free travel and meals.
However, charging wineries more than $6,000 each to visit for a few minutes and taste their wines -- and then later issuing a rating to consumers that you claim is unbiased -- seems to go way beyond any ethical boundary you want to draw.
Robert Parker, as owner and publisher of the Wine Advocate, must address this immediately. Otherwise, we in the wine community must assume that he condones this practice and perhaps receives a percentage of the profits.
And maybe he does. Here is a link to the 2498 words Parker writes on "Our Wine Critic Ethics and Standards" on his website. I just read through it and I don't see anything addressing the sale of visits to wineries. So that's OK for the Wine Advocate?
There is this:
But I don't see anything in there about selling the visits. And the hedge here seems to be "historic;" maybe the Wine Advocate pays for Antonio Galloni to go to Burgundy, but for less-established regions, you pay the Wine Advocate. I wonder how much a 98 point rating for a Colorado Cabernet would cost? Just asking ... although if there's a "usual rate" for winery visits, you do have to wonder about a "usual rate" for, well, I said it already.
I expect the writers to learn about the regions they cover from first-hand observation, but I demand they have access to all wines, not just one particular sub-segment category or region. Moreover, I require full disclosure of such hospitality they receive in the articles that emanate from these trips.With respect to historic wine regions, The Wine Advocate and eRobertParker.com will continue to cover all of the independent writers’ reasonable travel expenses related to their reviews.
Consumers should be told that visits by Parker's staff critics are for sale. But let's take a step back first and see how Parker responds.
Dear Mr. Parker: Are your publication's ratings for sale? Your credibility demands a rapid, public response.
NEW INFORMATION: Parker did respond. He threatened to sue "these bloggers." Here's the subsequent post.
NEWER INFORMATION: Apparently Jay Miller will no longer write for the Wine Advocate.