Wine Advocate Writers Spark Ethics Debate – Wall Street Journal | Dr Vino’s wine blog

The Wall Street Journal has a story today on page D1 entitled, “Wine Advocate Writers Spark Ethics Debate: While Newsletter’s Founder Champions Independence, Two Reviewers Accepted Trips.”

Reporter David Kesmodel details the divergence between policy and practice at Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate. He acknowledges reporting on this blog that initially raised the questions (see my original correspondence with Parker and critic Jay Miller here and a follow up here).

The Wall Street Journal story adds details that Miller accepted trips to Australia and Chile paid by wine industry groups. I contacted Wines of Argentina last month and their staff in Mendoza verified that they had also had paid for two trips for Miller to visit the country. Other parties verified that he was ferried around the country by private jet on one of those trips.

The WSJ story says that Parker declined to respond to interview requests, as did Miller and Mark Squires who has admitted to taking press trips to Portugal, Israel and Greece. Joining a press trip from a regional or national association is not out of ordinary for wine writers; it’s that Robert Parker laid down ethical standards years ago that state “It is imperative for a wine critic to pay his own way” and “it is imperative to keep one’s distance from the trade.” Parker’s lack of response to the reporter seems odd since not only would it clarify the situation but he encouraged reporters to call him just last month, writing in his forum “Today…most journalists don’t even call if they want to write about me…no sense having me provide a well documented rebuttal that undermines their story line……”

Dr Vino has been a pest for several weeks over his discovery and has been writing about it in his blog. He finally gets what he wants: A major publication covers this story. Let’s say it was totally true as Vino says (Parker did or did not know about it) but basically his organization did make this mistake.  I know it must be unforgiveable but does it need the increasingly wider publicity? I would like to ask what will be the outcome if this story is completely true? And what will happen if Parker’s credibility reduced? The biggest and maybe the only winner is not the American consumer but the American wine lobby. Parker was good for business when business was good for everyone. Now that business is hard for US wine, one easy way to fight is to pick up any story (like WSJ article) that may help take away from the competition (French? Italians?). If Parker is not around, Wine Spectator will dominate the ratings for wines and US wines will get a huge boost overnight. What was that Parker wrote in his introduction in Wine Buyer’s Guide?? He insisted nobody in this business will talk about it but is so widespread:  Fraud in wine business. Parker has very little to gain if his reporters are honestly going around on Trade expense accounts but the embattled US wine industry has so much to gain if Parker ratings (he loves French) are pushed aside and the US wine lobby sets the standard for what they sell through outlets such as Wine Spectator and Wine Enthusiast.   And by the way Dr Vino is a true wine advocate for his EFFORTS.


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