How do wineries prepare for a visiting critic? In Murcia, a region in the southeast of Spain, the answer this month is: they pay.
Correspondence has surfaced from a regional association to the wineries entitled “Urgent: winery participation in Jay Miller’s visit.” Jay Miller reviews Spanish wines for Robert Parker’s The Wine Advocate. The secretary of the association lays out the following fees:
* €200-300 fee for each wine sent to taste
* €500 per wine selected for a tasting “masterclass”
* €1,000 euros for a winery to receive a visit from Jay Miller
The total sum sought from wineries was €29,000 ($40,000).
I spoke with the sender of the email, the secretary of the Murcia winery association ASEVIN, to confirm its authenticity. He said that Miller is visiting the region at the end of this month. I asked how the response was from the wineries and he said it was “positive,” with about a dozen wineries participating in the “masterclass.” I asked why they were raising the funds and he said it was to cover the costs of organizing the events, including a “colloquium” where wineries present could ask Jay Miller questions. I asked if The Wine Academy of Spain and its director Pancho Campo were involved in organizing the events and he said yes.
An email to Pancho Campo seeking comment generated a reply signed “The Media Department” at the Wine Academy, saying “The Wine Academy was approached by ASEVIN for organizing a seminar but nothing has been confirmed. Our management team has been fully involved with Winefuture for the last months and most of us moved to Hong Kong weeks ago.” Winefuture is a consumer event in Hong Kong taking place this weekend that includes 55 speakers and tastings. Tickets to all events cost $2,600 per attendee.
I asked Campo for comment and to clarify his relationship with Jay Miller but there was no reply to two email requests. An events promoter for twenty years who has organized concerts and tennis events among other things, Campo has appeared at Miller’s side in helicopter tours of Priorat, the San Fermin festival in Pamplona, and elsewhere in Spain.
Jay Miller received a $15,000 speaker’s fee for speaking to a group in Navarra, which according to this account, was for the wine trade and media. In August, Robert Parker defended the actions on his bulletin board:
Jay was paid $15,000 to give a lecture and presentation by the Spanish Wine Academy(an independent entity by the way) in Navarra…where is there any conflict? He, as all of us do, are paid to give lectures. I did the same thing last November in Rioja for the Spanish Wine Academy’s Wine Future,and am doing it again this November in Hong Kong….as did many other wine personalities from Gary Vanderchuk[sic],Jancis Robinson and Steven Spurrier to name some of the best known.
I expect the writers to learn about the regions they cover from first-hand observation, but I demand they have access to all wines, not just one particular sub-segment category or region. Moreover, I require full disclosure of such hospitality they receive in the articles that emanate from these trips. With respect to historic wine regions, The Wine Advocate and eRobertParker.com will continue to cover all of the independent writers’ reasonable travel expenses related to their reviews.
Jay Miller said via email that he has never (and will never) charge wineries a fee for tasting their wines. He then forwarded a document from ASEVIN that included the following passage:
The Wine Academy made it clear at all times that if Jay Miller would visit some wineries he would choose the wineries at his sole discretion. In any case, the wineries visited would have to pay for such visit. The amount discussed with the staff of The Wine Academy was to cover the cost of organizing this seminar and master tasting, such as: fees of Miller, Pancho and The Wine Academy staff that would put together the event, as well as transfers, car rental, hotel, planes and food.
The Wine Academy representatives insisted at all times that wineries should not pay for having Jay Miller visit them or for sending their wines to the tasting.
Queried again about his fee, he said, “Regarding Jumilla, I have not been involved with that but whatever we wind up doing (which could be nothing) will be totally transparent.”