Since I published that post The Taste of Sake website has been taken down, which is also curious. Fortunately I took the precaution of saving its pages in PDF format. If you want to take a look, they are here.
Wine Advocate Editor-in-Chief Lisa Perrotti-Brown posted the following comment on that first blog post:
W. Blake Gray, In the event that you have not yet seen this response, I thought I would post it here. This has also appeared on our RobertParker.com Bulletin Board:
“We are investigating the facts behind these allegations. I will make clear however that Liwen Hao was hired specifically to review Asian wines and sake, because we feel there is a small but growing international interest in these beverages. He did not just taste 78 sakes, he tasted a few hundred, and they did not just come from one company. He shortlisted 78 of the sakes that came in at 90 points or above for his first report, because these were the ones he believed would be of international interest. We made no secret of the fact that we would be publishing a sake report and Liwen was in Japan tasting with brewers for a couple of weeks in April, which must have created a good deal of local interest. So I’m not surprised that an opportunistic company was set up to take advantage in increased international interest in sake as a result of the report. I’m also not surprised that the newly established company decided to offer the 78 sakes we reviewed. What we need to establish is if that company had access to any of the sake notes or scores prior to publication, which is a situation we take the utmost measures to avoid. Even the suggestion that this could have happened is a matter we take very seriously.”
Lisa Perrotti-Brown MW, Editor-in-Chief, Robert Parker Wine Advocate
Subsequently, some readers of the original blog post have come forward with some facts to help Ms. Perrotti-Brown in her investigation.
Here is what I have been able to verify (many of the links confirming the information are in Japanese):
Ernest Singer is Managing Director of Les Millesimes, a Tokyo-based wine importing and distribution company, and Ms. Perrotti-Brown's former employer. Perrotti-Brown does not name Les Millesimes on her resume for either the Wine Advocate or the MW program, instead saying she "worked as a wine buyer for one of Japan's top fine wine importers."
Ernest Singer is also Managing Director of Asia Business Consultants, which owns the subscription-based website RobertParker.co.jp.
Les Millesimes and Le Caveau, a company that lists The Taste of Sake on its website as a subsidiary, share an address in Tokyo (this address is 〒135-0064 東京都江東区青海4-4-18). It is listed as the warehouse address for Les Millesimes and the head office of Le Caveau.
Hirokazu Yoshida, who responded to my email to The Taste of Sake and called himself the company President, is listed on a Facebook page as an employee of both Les Millesimes and Le Caveau.
So it appears that Les Millesimes, Le Caveau, RobertParker.co.jp and The Taste of Sake are closely related.
Here's what I don't know:
I don't know why The Taste of Sake website was taken down.
I don't know what happened to the sakes that it purported to be selling. I don't know whether it had those sakes or not.
I don't know if anything like this has ever happened before. The Wine Advocate hasn't rated sake since 1998, but it does rate Bordeaux every year. Advance knowledge of The Wine Advocate's Bordeaux ratings in particular would be valuable because most Bordeaux wines are rated before they are available to consumers and often before they are priced.
I don't know what Ms. Perrotti-Brown will say to this additional evidence, or how far her investigation has progressed. As before, I attempted to contact her through a PR agency that has worked with The Wine Advocate, and I sent an email to The Wine Advocate asking for a response, but have not yet received one.