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This Budd’s For You: Pancho Campo’s Past, Jay Miller’s Unpublished Tasting Notes

2011 December 16
by Mike

Last week’s update on the Pancho Campo scandal had a beer-themed headline, and I thought I’d do the same with this week’s. Fear not, those of you suffering Pancho fatigue: I’m not planning to make this a regular thing; I will only post updates if there are noteworthy developments. The past week has seen a few interesting twists. Just today, the Institute of Masters of Wine announced that in response to a formal complaint, it has opened an inquiry to determine if Campo violated its code of conduct. Campo became an MW in 2008. Also, Jim Budd just published more emails concerning Jay Miller’s recent visit to the Murcia region of Spain.

Robert Parker is now also looking into the Campo affair. On Monday, he issued a statement announcing his investigation, along with a statement from his lawyer, Steve Haas, whose firm, Cozen O’Connor, is conducting it. Haas said the probe was undertaken because of “allegations and innuendoes posted by various internet blogs concerning visits made to Murcia, Spain by Jay Miller.” He didn’t mention Miller’s visits to Valencia and Navarra, which are also at issue, or Miller’s proposed visit last summer to the Madrid appellation, which is at the heart of the scandal.

In his statement, Parker said there was no evidence that Miller had compromised The Wine Advocate’s independence or accepted money to review wines or visit wineries. But no one has accused Miller of doing those things: the issue is whether Campo sold access to The Wine Advocate, as the Madrid emails indicate that he did. To prove otherwise, Parker would need to show that those emails were fake or taken out of context. Judging from his statement, it doesn’t appear that he can do either of those things, which perhaps explains why he focused on Miller’s conduct rather than Campo’s—he was conveniently arranging the goalposts, you might say. Parker did acknowledge that Campo is a “lightning rod for controversy” but said he was at a loss to understand why. Regardless, the fact that Parker’s investigation is being conducted by the law firm of his personal attorney suggests that Parker probably doesn’t need to sweat the outcome.

Understandably, there is a lot of consternation in Spain about what happened, and about the damage that this scandal may have inflicted on the wine industry. One particular concern at the moment: The Wine Advocate has not published reviews for hundreds of wines that Miller tasted during his four trips to Spain in 2011; efforts are underway to determine exactly how many have gone without reviews. With Miller now leaving The Wine Advocate, the fear is that many of these wines will have been submitted for naught. It’s possible, of course, that a lot of the missing wines didn’t merit reviews; The Wine Advocate publishes tasting notes only for wines that receive 85 points or more. Hoping to get some clarification on this matter, I emailed Miller yesterday, and he was kind enough to respond. He told me he has around 400 Spanish wines still in his notebook, and that “likely 275-300 will be recommendable.” He expects that all of his remaining tasting notes will be posted on by the end of January.

Presumably, the unpublished tasting notes would be a source of anxiety in Spain regardless of whether or not Campo charged for access to Miller and The Wine Advocate. But several regions did fork over a lot of money to gain access to them, and the fact that people are now counting up the missing wines suggests these payments may have created certain expectations. It will be interesting to see if anyone in Spain releases their own tally of how many wines have not been reviewed, and if that number squares with Miller’s.

Campo is obviously attracting a lot of scrutiny now. He has a colorful past. He turned to wine after a stint as an events promoter in Dubai, where he ran into legal troubles that for a time made him the subject of an Interpol arrest warrant. Before that, he worked in tennis, and evidently had a connection to legendary coach Nick Bollettieri. This part of Campo’s background intrigues me; I’ve written a lot about tennis and have interviewed Bollettieri. Doing some Googling this week, I came across an April 1991 article from El Mundo Deportivo, a Spanish sports daily, in which one Pancho Campo was quoted discussing Andre Agassi (Agassi, who was 20 at the time, was a Bollettieri protégé). Campo was identified as a Bollettieri associate, and the article said he was planning to open a facility similar to Bollettieri’s Florida tennis academy in the Spanish resort of Denia. I don’t know if that happened, or what became of Campo’s career in tennis (other than the fact that it ended at some point). I reached out to Bollettieri earlier this week; I will let you know when I hear back.


Christopher Hitchens died yesterday of cancer. He was 62. It would be a stretch to say  that he and I were colleagues at Slate; we both just happened to write for Slate. I never met Hitchens. A few years ago, I saw him at Penn Station in New York; I thought to introduce myself but decided to leave him alone, a decision that I now regret, of course. Had we met, and had time permitted, I can imagine that one of us might have proposed a drink, which would have yielded a memory. A friend of mine, then working as an editorial assistant, once had to bring Hitchens a proof of an article. Hitchens invited him in and asked if he cared for a drink. My friend noted that it was mid-afternoon, a little early for cocktails, to which Hitchens replied, “In this establishment, young man, the bar is always open.”

Like pretty much every other writer I know, I was in awe of Hitchens’s erudition, adored the elegance and energy of his prose, and was completely freaked out by stories of how quickly he could produce flawless copy. Just to experience that for one day….I also admired the intensity with which he lived. He was cheated out of time he deserved, but he clearly made the most of the time he had.

He once ventured onto my turf, writing a piece for Slate denouncing obtrusive sommeliers. It was a welcome encroachment, a delicious Hitch rant that is well worth a read.

39 Responses leave one →
  1. April 24, 2015

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  4. December 19, 2011

    Campo’s repeated claims are one of the things that make him a ‘fascinating’ character!

    Also increasingly intriguing is CavesMaître France, one of the major sponsors of WineFutureHK, who own (purloined it is a better word) the trademark Castel in China. While giving his impressive Magical 20 presentation Robert Parker sat under a large CavesMaître logo. I’m sure he knew nothing of their background.

    But did Poncho, as Parker calls him, know? Campo is supposed to be a great expert on the Chinese market offering his insights to regions like Murcia and Valencia for large wads of cash…

  5. December 19, 2011

    John S. permalink
    December 19, 2011

    “It is truly incredible that in the internet age some people still try (and even succeed!) in fabricating credentials and padding their resumes with b.s. and exaggerations.”

    Want to play a fun game on Google? Put in Pancho Campo – Robert Parker, Campo-Jay Miller, Campo with any number of other names and see what comes up, in both English and Spanish. Hard to hide stuff these days.

  6. John S. permalink
    December 19, 2011

    It is truly incredible that in the internet age some people still try (and even succeed!) in fabricating credentials and padding their resumes with b.s. and exaggerations. That sort of flm-flammery is a relic of the past, which makes all of this so fascinating. The new book about this “Clark Rockefeller” guy is great, by the way. Even today there are suckers who buy into smoke and mirrors hook, line and sinker. Just amazing.

  7. December 19, 2011

    Bob Parker using his lawyer to “investigate” Campo is like O.J. Simpson looking for the real killer!

  8. Dan McCallum permalink
    December 19, 2011

    I am trying to maintain a reservedness about these circumstances. In this life I have learned that the stench of rotting fish may in rare instances be caused by– rotting fish. If this is the case here, then these linked principals must be found innocent. May they spend the rest of their lives looking for the real shillers!

  9. December 19, 2011

    Mark, in 2009 several of us caught Pancho in the Dr. Campo lie, amongst others. He attended a Dominican Republic medical school, said to be a diploma mill. After several of us (Jim Budd, Harold Heckle, Manuel Camblor and myself) did our investigations and published the material, he dropped “Doctor” from his list of achievements. He had used the Doctor qualification in his propaganda that he had allowed a number of interviewers in Spain to publish that without correcting them. His bio used to suggest that he played tennis in the 1992 Barcelona Olympic games, but now it has been amended to read “participant,” since he indeed coached the one-woman Chilean tennis “team” and she did lose in the first round. And, then there was the “I studied enology at the U of C Davis. I called U of C Davis, identifying myself as a journalist, and a person in records there confirmed that Sr. Campo had indeed taken one correspondence course and had attended one wine marketing seminar. Shall we go into the threats his lawyers made to Spanish journalists and to me, threatening all kinds of actions to keep the 2009 Interpol warrant/WineFuture Rioja controversy quiet?

  10. December 19, 2011

    Mike, In his introductory comments and bio given at the SWE conference was that he received his medical degree at 21 and played professional tennis as wel las being an event promoter in Dubai. I wonder how the IMW is viewing this. They have a code of conduct that must be agreed to. Of course as I typed the previous statement and went to the IMW site and on the front page they have this statement.

  11. José permalink
    December 18, 2011

    John S and Dan M:

    You guys are on a roll!!!

  12. John S. permalink
    December 18, 2011

    Could attending medical school (allegedly) lead to being an operator? The sun burns hot and bright in the Dominican Republic, which could also lead to one wanting to be a shady operator.

  13. Dan McCallum permalink
    December 18, 2011

    And here is a question directed to the Psychologists. I know there is at least one, if not two, reading here. Could an early immersion in tennis lead to a proclivity for racqueteering?

  14. Dan McCallum permalink
    December 18, 2011

    Our Spanish scandal seems (to me) to have evolved within a tripartite symbiosis more so than a conspiracy. One principal needed the other two and provided vaguely connected benefit sufficiently towards them that they seemingly didn’t care to question how or why; at least not until the mierda was in el ventilador. Comfort trumped comport. And perhaps therein lays Mike’s subliminal link between the great Christopher Hitchens and skulduggery in the wine world; if any of the principal players were given an enema, could they be buried in a matchbox?

  15. Jack Bulkin permalink
    December 18, 2011

    Very funny John S. If George Bush wasn’t a teatotaler he might now be interested in investigating The Wine Advocate Spanish/gate incident. Parker associates with known WMD previously wanted by Interpol.

  16. December 18, 2011

    John, the WMD is even better! Is he the guy in the Dos Equis/Most Interesting Man in the World commercial? He certainly should be, with this kind of resume.

  17. December 18, 2011

    Nice one, Jose! Clearly a medical prodigy. Interesting, though, that he would walk away from what must have been the most promising medical career imaginable to become a concert promoter and then a sherpa for The Wine Advocate.

  18. John S. permalink
    December 18, 2011

    An MD at 21 (likely from one of those combination medical and veterinary schools down there, if true. Heh.).! So he’s an ailment curin’, serve and volleyin’, blind tastin’, event promotin’ unstoppable force. The most interesting man in the wine world? With that combo of MW and MD that makes him a literal WMD. Maybe that’s why he was in the Middle East? Was Cheney looking for him?

  19. José permalink
    December 18, 2011

    John S:

    According to an article that appeared on a program for an event that Campo’s Wine Academy organized in 2004, he finished his medical studies at the tender age of 21 years old.
    Almost as impressive as Doogie Howser.

  20. John S. permalink
    December 17, 2011

    Dominican Republic medical school? Like St. George’s in Grenada and the ones in the Philippines where those who got rejected by universities in the U.S. wash up? Hoo, man. This gets more interesting by the day.

  21. December 17, 2011

    Wilfred, you are undoubtedly right, and I’m sure Antonio is not happy about this situation in Spain. It’s been damaging to The Wine Advocate brand.

  22. December 17, 2011

    Mark, I must plead ignorant–I didn’t know what SWE stood for! Apologies.

    As you can see, Jim Budd has weighed in here with some information regarding Campo’s tennis career, and also his medical studies. Did he tell you that he had played professionally himself? As for the Casado article, Jose has included a link in his post. Jose has also confirmed that Campo merely served as the coach of the Chilean women’s team, which according to Jim consisted of one player who was beaten in the first round.

    Bill, I like the analogy to bell bottoms! I think Parker served a useful purpose, and I believe he played a critical role in educating Americans about wine and getting them excited about wine. But, clearly, this last part of his career has complicated his legacy.

  23. December 17, 2011

    Mike. Many thanks for the headline and the link.

    As far as I know Campo did study medicine but we were unable to find any record that he had qualified. As for the Barcelona Olympics (1992) we understand that he was the coach of the Chilean women’s ‘team’. The team consisted of one player who lost in straight sets in the first round.

  24. José permalink
    December 17, 2011


    According to the following link,

    Campo did not “play” for Chile in the 1992 Olympic Games.

    His role was being the captain of the Chilean women’s tennis team.

  25. José permalink
    December 17, 2011


    Campo went to study medicine in the Dominican Republic but he has not shown any proof that he has a medical degree.

    I would strongly recommend you to read the following entries of Jim Budd’s blog where he has a brief history of Campo.

    After that you could go deeper on his blog to get more details on his recent activities by hitting the Pancho Campo MW link at the bottom of any of the previos links.

    The Casado article on elmundovino is on the following link

    and Miller’s response to it appears on this other link:

  26. Bill Haydon permalink
    December 17, 2011

    John S: In time, The Wine Advocate will be looked back on as a source of embarrassed “what were we thinking.” It will be something akin to the wine industry’s bell bottom jeans.

  27. December 17, 2011

    Mike , He told us he played profesinally. I do not have any proof other than where you see it in google that he played in the 92 Summer Olympics for Chile. You know SWE is The Society of Wine Educators correct? Who teamed with the Wine Acdemy of Spain in 2007 to help them run their 1st trip to North America. My cert has both the SWE and Wine Academy o f Spains’ logo and signed by Pancho and the SWE director of education. I am not aware of Antonio Casado’s article in elmundovino, How about a link? I still know folks who started with the wine academy and are presumably still associated with them. But I doubt they would publicly air there experiences.

  28. Wilfred permalink
    December 17, 2011

    The person with the greatest risk in this is the very likable and talented Antonio Galloni. He is the inheritor-designee. Problem is, he had better inherit it before there’s nothing to inherit.

  29. December 17, 2011

    John, Parker has obviously carved out a significant place for himself in wine “history,” but his reputation and legacy have clearly taken some hits in recent years. And, yes, mixing Hitchens with Campo/Miller is a jarring juxtaposition. I certainly couldn’t find a smooth transition, which is why I resorted to just separating the two discussions!

  30. December 17, 2011

    Mark, thanks for stopping by. From what I understand, Jim Budd did some digging into the MD claim and found that it was false, at which point Campo stopped claiming to be a doctor. I will ask Jim if he might be willing to post a comment here about that issue.

    Re the tennis, I wasn’t aware that he had played professionally; did he tell you that, or did you hear elsewhere? As I said, I will report back when I hear from Bollettieri.

    How was the SWE conference? Did you see Antonio Casado’s article in elmundovino, in which he talked about his experience working with Campo on the SWE (I don’t think Casado used the SWE abbreviation, but I assume he was talking about the same program)?

  31. December 17, 2011

    Mike, I have met Pancho and spent a few days with him a few years ago at the SWE conferecne in Monterrey where he introduced the certified Spanish wine educator program to North America through the Wine Academy of Spain. Pancho did play professional tennis and I almost got him on the court. He said he started a tennis academy in Spain with Javier Sanchez former ATP tour player and brother of Arantxa Sanchez Vicario. Pancho siad he also has a medical degree.

  32. John S. permalink
    December 16, 2011

    How ironic that while speaking of Hitchens, a true giant, the subject of dwarves such as Miller and Campo should loom. It’s a shame that The Wine Advocate has been turned into a sideshow at best and a freak show at worst, but that’s Mr. Parker’s cross to bear. People will still be reading, admiring and imitating Hitchens long after the Monkton carnival is forgotten, that’s for damn sure.

  33. Dan McCallum permalink
    December 16, 2011

    Not at all trying to call you off the P & J coverage Mike. But to me, in the end this saga and its denouement are a grotesque; like dwarf wrestling, or political ‘debate’. The psychologist could not recognize the psychopath? Believe it only if you must.

  34. December 16, 2011

    Dan, I understand the Pancho and Jay fatigue; as I indicated, I’m going to be revisiting this subject only if developments warrant (I sound like a newscaster!).

    I was very saddened by the Hitchens news, too. I disagreed with him about a few things, but agreed with him wholeheartedly about other matters. Above all, I just admired and envied him. I admired his writing, his passion, his zeal for life, and I envied his talent. I think we still have plenty of great minds, though Hitchens was obviously something quite unique. And although I obviously wish that this had not happened to him, it’s startling, and encouraging, to see this outpouring of sadness and affection for a public intellectual. It’s an affirmation we still place some value on the life of the mind.

    Greg, I agree with you completely about the way he faced his illness–it was, for him, just more reason to think. And he faced it courageously. He obviously knew it was a death sentence, and he didn’t seem to flinch in the face of it.

  35. Gregt permalink
    December 16, 2011

    Always enjoyed Hitchens. Sad. Saw him on an interview a few months ago in which he talked about his illness pretty much the same way he talked about everything – something to examine and ponder.

  36. Dan McCallum permalink
    December 16, 2011

    Thanks Mike,
    I’ve had more than enough of Pancho and Jay; but have been, today, saddened that I will now never have enough of Hitchens. Surely in our enlightened times there are more great minds than at any other time of man; but damn, they are hard to find. And now- one less.

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