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Dinero Para Nada

2011 November 3
by Mike

As you may have seen, there’s a new flap involving Wine Advocate contributor Jay Miller. Producers in the Murcia region of south-eastern Spain received a letter last month informing them that if they wanted their wines tasted by Miller during his upcoming trip to the area, they would have to pay $275-$415 for each wine submitted. If they wanted Miller to visit their properties, they would need to cough up $1375. For a mere $700, they could have one of their wines included in a “masterclass” that Miller will be conducting during his stay. The story broke on a Spanish blog, and was subsequently picked up by Jim Budd and Dr. Vino. I’m going to go out on a limb here and suggest that this looks like a case of pay-to-play. According to Budd and Dr. Vino, Miller’s trip is being arranged by Spanish wine impresario Pancho Campo. Who is pocketing the money is as yet unclear.

I don’t want get into another discussion about the Wine Advocate and whether Team Parker is abiding by its own ethical guidelines; it is a topic that is pretty well exhausted at this point. But there are two things that perplex me about this latest imbroglio. First, why does Miller need Campo to organize his trip? Can’t he make his own appointments, or have some importers schedule visits for him? Pick up the phone, send some emails, book a flight, a car, and some hotel rooms, buy a map, pack some Maalox and Imodium—done. Relying on local promoters and trade associations invites exactly the kind of problems that have now surfaced, and Miller’s trip has been irredeemably tainted as a result.

The other thing that I don’t get is why producers would pay these fees. I understand that many of them are eager, even desperate, for publicity; indeed, Bloomberg ran a story yesterday about declining domestic consumption in Spain and how winemakers are increasingly looking to export markets such as the United States for salvation. But with all due respect to Miller, he doesn’t wield a lot of influence. As far as I can tell, his ratings hold little sway with retailers and consumers. Are Spanish winemakers not aware of this? If a rating from Miller can’t help these people sell their wines, why would they fork over hundreds of dollars to have their wines tasted by him? Someone is apparently profiting from Miller’s trip, but it is not going to be the producers.

28 Responses leave one →
  1. December 5, 2011

    Here is my experience. We have a family owned small winery in Navarra, Spain. Jay Miller came to visit the region last July. I phoned Pancho Campo to indroduce my winery. It was the first time I got in touch, we had never met before. He was interested and 2 weeks later they confirmed they would visit our winery. I did not pay an euro for this visit, nothing at all!

  2. November 30, 2011

    Further Spanish adventures: http://bit.ly/vR9wTp

  3. Carlos Toledo permalink
    November 17, 2011

    Jay Miller doesn’t mean much? Wait a second, the average consumer in many countries care a lot for what Robert Parker has to say. When Parker says “wine of the day” followed by two letters word JM, how many people think that’s RP’s idea?

    If Joe Blow, Homer Simpson or Bozo write for Parker they’re unknown for the majority of readers, drinkers, bloggers….

    Anyway, shame (can i write fuck them here??) on these lousy critics. They haven’t done any special favour to the wine as a beverage in many years. It’s all about $$

  4. November 7, 2011

    @Chris: what prevents you from contacting these journalists and magazines directly to request that your wines be reviewed? I would argue that your wines could get better reviews by being tasted separately, rather than as part of some massive taste-a-thon where dozens or hundreds of wines are sipped and spit in a short period of time. Why risk having your wine tasted right after the critic takes a coffee break, or when his palate is fatigued?

  5. November 7, 2011

    One thing sure, there are oodles and oodles and gobs and gobs of flatulence going on here!!

  6. November 6, 2011

    Bill (Klapp),

    According to the “Million-Dollar Nose,” we’re both right/wrong! It’s one basset hound and one bulldog. Regardless, I’m sure the flatulence is a “heady perfume of rich cassis, raspberry jam, and spice box,” so it’s all good.

    Cheers,

    Bill (Moore)

  7. November 6, 2011

    I’m simply disgusted.

    Cheers, Fil.

  8. November 6, 2011

    Pancho Campo and Jay Miller and these scores are really about the Chinese market now. Big bucks to be had. IMHO.

  9. Jack Bulkin permalink
    November 4, 2011

    What Klappy said. Why repeat? : )

  10. Chris permalink
    November 4, 2011

    Here is the problem: Wine Advocate and other critics do not openly invite wineries to their tastings when Galloni, Miller, Parker etc visit a wine region. This leaves many wineries confused as how to get their wines reviewed. People like Campo, or local Public Relations types step into the void that the Wine Advocate has left open. These PR types represent themselves to wineries as being able to get wines reviewed… if you pay them. It happens to my winery in the Central Coast. If I don’t pay, I am uninvited from the Wine Advocate, Tanzer, Wine Enthusiasts, Suckling tasting. Disgusting underside of otherwise noble pursuit. Yes Mr Parker, this is happening. Do something about it. Open up your review process by directly inviting wineries. Quit relying on PR middlemen who skew the process to their advantage.

  11. Steve De Long permalink
    November 4, 2011

    Given these allegations, what about Pancho Campo’s Wine Future?

  12. Bill Klapp permalink
    November 4, 2011

    Bill, very well written and to the point, except for one inaccuracy: that would be flatulent bulldogs snoring at his feet, rather than basset hounds! And by now, with all of the controversy, I will bet that the bulldogs are now blaming the flatulence on their master!

  13. November 4, 2011

    I think it’s telling that where stories like this would have once worked the wine commentariat into a froth, they now only elicit yawns. Why? Because it’s pretty darn obvious to everyone and their grandma that consumer advocating has taken a clear backseat to the more important project at hand: wringing every last penny and benny out of the WA brand before Parker hangs up the Riedel and retires to his armchair, basset hounds snoring at his feet, Chevalier de L’Ordre de la Legion d’Honneur medal drooping heavily from the lapel of his moth-holed flannel while he naps dreaming of soft-shell crabs washed down with Scarecrow.

    Pay-to-play? Sure, if it means chopper rides over Castile and not having to book through Kayak. Taste blind? No way! Then we’d miss out on all the fun of drinking/scoring Marcassin with Helen in her cellar!

    I mean, the only reason anyone still gives a flying a hoot about what these guys have to say about wine is their lingering, irritating effect on prices. Every time one of my favorite producers drops a new wine on the market, my biggest fear is that it’ll get some 90-something score from the WA, and they’ll jack the price on me. Fortunately, these fears are largely unfounded. As I don’t like “hedonistic,” “explosive,” blackberry compote wine, my thin, acidic, food-friendly beverages are safe from Dr. Miller’s or Chevalier Parker’s honorifics.

    As for the ethical guidelines, everyone knows they’re just a residual, withering shred of a fig leaf whose sole purpose is to maintain (for Chinese auctioneers and hedge-fund trophy hunters) the increasingly fantastical illusion that the WA is somehow operating on a plane of higher integrity than the competition. I think the hypocrisies and double-standards used to get people’s goat, now it’s just embarrassing for them.

    Bill

  14. Dan McCallum permalink
    November 4, 2011

    If this must be a farce (and why not) better to stay in the Iberian context— The Man From La Muncha.

  15. José permalink
    November 4, 2011

    “Crisco Panza” would be a good compromise.

  16. Bill Klapp permalink
    November 4, 2011

    Jose, perhaps, but then I would be denied the “Crisco Kid” quip…

  17. José permalink
    November 4, 2011

    Bill:

    Since the travels are in Spain I believe it would be more appropriate Don Quijote and Sancho Panza!!!

  18. Dan McCallum permalink
    November 4, 2011

    With these revelations all pre-prandial it is just another job for the Rot Doctor – http://www.rotdoctor.com “rot repair, and restoration using epoxy resin” .

  19. Bill Klapp permalink
    November 4, 2011

    Not only does the emperor have no clothes, but he is streaking on the way out to boot, and it is not a pretty sight!

  20. Bob R. permalink
    November 3, 2011

    “But with all due respect to Miller, he doesn’t wield a lot of influence. As far as I can tell, his ratings hold little sway with retailers and consumers.” Oh my God, you said it. The Emperor has no clothes.

  21. Bill Klapp permalink
    November 3, 2011

    We can say what we want about Miller, but after his first ethical run-in, I very much doubt that he remains a rogue elephant. This has to be done with Parker’s full knowledge and blessing. I am thinking that Parker has become Alexander Haig after Ronald Reagan got shot: “I’m in charge here!” Big Bob sticking it to his critics by engaging in increasingly boorish and outrageous behavior, including, without limitation, abandoning his vaunted ethical standards. Parker is a cranky, self-absorbed, self-righteous old fart, and by no means the brightest bulb on any tree, including his own. He does not realize that his little fits of machismo and power-tripping are doing nothing but destroy what little credibility he has left. I just hope that he leaves his nose and tongue to medical science so that the destructive effects of tasting 10,000 wines a year can be quantified…

  22. Bill Klapp permalink
    November 3, 2011

    Mark Knopfler probably got a chuckle anyway. The Crisco Kid and his trusty sidekick Pancho strike again!

  23. November 3, 2011

    It’s just as mind boggling as the use of the Spanish preposition ‘por’ vs ‘para’.
    Without wanting to be a purist, your post does make a reasonable point about the lack of usefulness or need for Parker (miller) ratings. It’s not like you should rewrite the title or anything like that – we still get the message. Just like, Dinero por Parker vs Dinero para Parker do not mean the same thing, it would be equally benefiting the same person.

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