In a recent posting, I published my correspondence with Robert Parker and Jay Miller concerning an apparent divergence between the ethical guidelines set down by Parker and the actions of some of the contributors to The Wine Advocate.
One claim that came up several times in the over 130 comments was that Mr. Miller took one or two trips to Argentina, organized and paid for by Wines of Argentina, a trade group representing over 100 wineries that also receives government funding according to their web site. I contacted Wines of Argentina and they confirmed that they paid for and organized the two trips and several people in the trade there also confirmed them. Robert Parker has also now admitted as well but referred to them as “vineyard tours.” There was apparently more to the trips than just that–multiple sources said that there were lunches and dinner at wineries, and I was also told by several people that Miller was ferried around the country by private jet during one visit.
I alerted Miller yesterday that Wines of Argentina had told me that the trips were comped and asked him for comment. Not long thereafter, Parker posted a message that indicated that Miller would no longer be able to take “vineyard tours paid by Wines of Argentina.”
Parker laid down ethical guidelines years ago–guidelines that are the source of so much of his authority and that have set the standard against which all other wine critics are judged. The divergence between the action of some contributors to the Wine Advocate and the stated policy was (and perhaps still remains) a legitimate and important issue given the power of the publication; if the Wine Advocate was bending the rules, that was something his readers had a right to know.
Over the weekend, on his web site, Parker characterized those of us raising these concerns as the work of “extremists who could care less about the truth.” On the contrary, the truth was precisely what I’ve been after. Perhaps the larger issue then is Parker seemed to resent that people wanted to know the truth. While Parker lamented the state of journalism, the examples he cites of good journalism seem to be anything that speaks well of him.
But journalism is precisely what I’ve been doing all along. I went to Parker and Miller with legitimate questions and they were evasive. I spoke with Wines of Argentina and the truth came out. That’s called journalism. Instead of lashing out with invective (“extremists” or “jihadists” or eliding wine bloggers with the Taliban) at me and others who have raised very legitimate issues, Parker should take this episode as indicative of the respect he commands and the seriousness with which the wine community takes the ethical standards he established long ago.
Since Mr. Parker has shown an affection for ending his interventions with quotes, here’s an aphorism that he might remember from his days as a lawyer: “If you have the facts on your side, pound the facts. If you have the law on your side, pound the law. If you have neither on your side, pound the table.”