In the recent weeks something, many called it scandal, happened at Wine Advocate: two wine critics went to a wine trip fully paid by wine makers. This episode started a debate about wine critics and ethic that has bounced all over the internet with everyone adding its bit. Even if I haven't added my opinion then, I am afraid I will do it now because it is relevant to this post. I divide the wine writers into two categories, the ones that only write about wine without any commercial interest, and the second category, people like me, who write about wines but do have a commercial interest. The second category, I speak for my own personal experience, visit producers, taste and reviews wines. The ultimate aim for me is to find unknown gems, fantastic wines, and import them. I first taste the wines and then import the highest rated, not vice versa, and in this process, I am completely independent and not biased at all and write about it on my blog. However, when writing, as a principle I never mention any producers, unless it is one of ours. I can discuss tastings and post my notes but never shame other producers. I believe that bad wines are important to appreciate the good ones and are part of our learning experience and the sooner we drink them, the better educated we become.
The first category, the one that does not have any commercial interest, that should be completely independent, the category where the two Parker's colleagues belong to, should be free from any link, and as Parker says pay their own way. Nevertheless, and this is the subject of this post, I think that the ethic should not only be pay your own way. I read papers and magazines like everyone else, and I am very surprised to read everywhere of the same wines, vintage after vintage, coming from the same places.
The majority of wine writers, including some of the UK most famous, only review wines that are sent to them, they don't go out and buy them. Is not the same than being paid for a wine trip? Why a wine writer should be sent wines to be reviewed? Will not be more ethical for a wine writer to buy wines from the shop, taste and review them? Don't they get already paid for publishing their reviews? It is obvious that when Tesco send wines, it sends plenty of cases whilst an importer like me, will only send a case of 6 at the most and those get covered by the others. Simply read where the wines reviewed come from, and you will read, the same, usual names. Last year, I sent a case of wine to Tim Atkins and never heard since, not even a short email saying sorry, tasted your wines, not good enough to be mentioned in my reviews but thanks anyway, at today, I still don't know what happened to them and for sure, will not be sending anymore.
Fortunately, not all wine writers review only the wines received. Recently, Bob Tyrer of The Times, in the preparation of his article about Prosecco, bought a bottle of our Prosecco Superiore
together with many others, and reviewed them. On the article he wrote, he said that our Prosecco was his favourite. He is, what I would call, an ethically correct wine writer. I think that an ethically correct wine critic should buy its own wine and when it does, search for them, go beyond the usual places. The wine critic should be someone that does not only rate wines, but also make complicate or unknown wines famous and easy to buy and not someone that sit home and wait for the wines to come or go out to the same tastings.