La Presse: SAQ paid Suckling $24,000 for reviews

james suckling1 SAQ, the state-owned wine entity that has a monopoly on wine retail in Quebec, paid wine critic James Suckling $24,000 last year. Suckling and SAQ had both denied any financial relationship.

La Presse reports in their online edition that they obtained documents through freedom of information law. The documents reveal that the SAQ paid Suckling $18,000 directly and bought 119 subscriptions totaling $5,950 to his website, which offers wine reviews to members only.

Suckling, the former Wine Spectator critic and European bureau chief, went to Montreal in early 2011 to taste wines and produce tasting notes that would appear both on his website and on that of the SAQ, he wrote at the time. La Presse reports that when Suckling was in Montreal the SAQ had stated “Mr. Suckling was not compensated to do the tastings.” Suckling, for his part, had blogged, “There is no financial relationship. It’s a sharing of information and contacts.” The documents obtained by La Presse state that Suckling was paid for “the tasting and scoring of products, the production, the creation, and putting the brief videos live.”

The SAQ spokesman told contributor the story’s author, Karyne Duplessis Piché, that the purchase of subscriptions was not unusual for the organization. This year, they have spent $26,000 on subscriptions to wine newsletters, the spokesman said.

James Suckling did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Image: PR Web

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34 Responses to “La Presse: SAQ paid Suckling $24,000 for reviews”


  1. This might be big… Especially so close to ‘Campogate’. Looking forwards hearing the reactions from Mr. Suckling and Canadians to these news.


  2. Why would he feel wrong to say he did take money? I mean he has bills to pay, why hide it ? I mean I can see why the SAQ [Government Owned] would want to hide it


  3. No need for replies, everything eventually comes out


  4. I would be happy to have a non-financial relationship with SAQ if they would give me $24k.
    I guess he was just putting the Suck in Suckling.


  5. He probably doesn’t want to admit he was a paid consultant to a Government Monopoly, did he give it a “95 on that”???? Or he wanted money to do the tasting and rating which would be not so good but “95 on that” was probably not used much for the wines.

    The BC Liquor Board has its own Masters of Wine, they don’t need outside help.


  6. Heh. Let’s just keep this one alive. I think a separate dedicated domain may be in order, just to chronicle this guy’s acts of obnoxiousness and misdeeds.


  7. I find it interesting that both parties failed to be truthful in regards to their financial commitments. The question is why? You were paid to do reviews, plain and simple. This happens every single day.

    The important question; what is the difference between someone like James Suckling who was “paid” as a consultant to do reviews as opposed to other wine professionals who accept trips and products from different agencies to promote their brands? To me, the only problem I see is not being truthful about being financially rewarded.

    At the end of the day, companies will give any type of bonus to high profile individuals who will promote their brand and in return receive publicity and positive reviews resulting in better sales.

    I am surprised so many people in the industry are outraged by this. Many individuals have done the same thing. They may not have accepted dollars, but the rewards sometimes are greater. Give your heads a shake and take a look in the mirror. If you can honestly say, I have never accepted anything to promote a product, then kudos to you. There are few and fewer of us in the world today.


  8. I see no problem with him taking the money, but lying about it is a bit of a concern, especially since bloggers are supposed to disclose such “minor details”.


  9. I’m 89 points on this blog!


  10. SAQ is recently the proud buyer of J.J. Buckley fine Wines in San Francisco, one of the largest dealers and sellers of Bordeaux in America. If this is how they demonstrate their integrity, I may have to reconsider future purchases. Thanks Tyler for these tid bits. It is really sad to me how untrustworthy and self consumed OUR Wine critics have become. They help friends, , have absurd palates and ignore integrity even when it is written. It is very sad. They are almost as bad as our politicians. Well, almost.


  11. looks like it’s too late for me to make the “james suckling sucks” joke. can i be the first person to call his readers “suckers”.

    i think it is okay for a critic to get free wine for reviews. i think trips and lodgings are dicey, but can accept that as a necessary evil. wine spectator demands a subscription before submissions are accepted – cheap, but not really immoral. when a critic is getting paid by someone to write about them, that is officially crossing a line – but possibly permissible, if you are honest about it. denying it is the crown jewel of wine critic ethics violations.


  12. I think the issue would be the denying part that looks like a weird cover up. Why?


  13. [...] that has a monopoly on wine retail in Quebec, paid wine critic James Suckling $24,000 last year.” So reports Dr. Vino. My take? This wouldn’t be a scandal – or even unethical – if the parties hadn’t lied about [...]


  14. Why would they try to hide it, do you think?
    It’s no different than Lettie making vids and reviews for WSJ is it?
    I speculate that SAQ perhaps have on-board staff whom they didn’t want to upset (though Suckling name recognition could be argued) or there was/is a slant towards Canadian wine in some way.
    That’s pure idle speculation on my part.
    It just seems odd that they would deny it.

    EVO


  15. Jack: James has done things with Wally’s in LA, tastings, dinners, etc. I can’t recall if he has been involved with JJB, anything come to mind?

    Yes, why the denial? Some critics are in fact hired out to taste vintsges or regions, I expect for financial gain, as a way for the hiring distributor to get a handle on a vintage without sending their own rep, or making the critic their de facto rep on the scene.. I have no idea about this but the denial from both seems questionable, particularly if the Press can confirm a governmental expense via Freedom of Info request (yay Canada!). That would seem to be a rather obvious gaffe.


  16. Hey Miguel how was Bordeaux?? I haven’t seen the Suck utilized in any untoward events on behalf of JJ Buckley except for the use of his ratings. My inquiry was to Buckley’s new parent SAQ that played the denial game about paying Sir Suck. But JJ Buckley did use Jeff Leve’s scores to try to sell wine. That alone has chilled my future purchases from them. LOL


  17. unfortunately the wine business is rampant with these types of frauds, perpetuated by the wine writers and critics for their financial gain and self promotion. The only truth in wine is in the wine…”In Vino Veritas”.


  18. Amazing how unqualified people get these gigs…and then take advantage of them…leave this stuff to the true professionals…youever notice none of these so called experts have any academic truing in wine including the old boys club Master of Wine…no University will touch the mw as there is no peer review system..all self taught..just amazing the snow job the whole industry has fallen for..sommeliers to mw….no academics involved..talk about misleading the public


  19. Brent – the Master of Wine is hardly an “old boys club” as those who have the certification must pass an incredibly difficult three-part exam that includes a 10,000-word dissertation. Anyone with “MW” after their name knows more about wine than anyone should ever know — why does it matter if they’re self-taught or not? Also, I’m not sure how an “academic” would necessarily be a better judge of a wine’s character — it’s subjective opinion.


  20. Agree with Joe. The effort I have seen by those pursuing and attaining — and those who cannot get all the way there — to a Court of Master Sommelier MS designation is huge, years long. They don’t just give those out at the top level. And for crying out loud what is so pure about “academics” and universities in the first place? You think they aren’t infested with political, myopic and inwardly bred, self-serving peer review practices and standards? Talk about compromised institutions dependent on government funding… Don’t throw that word around expecting it to elevate your perspective, it does not.


  21. It’s all great guys…..
    SAQ–UCK–LING
    From all these wine critics, (there are some good ones) I usually taste anything I hear they give below 85……. in most cases is to my taste


  22. sorry
    SAQ–SUCK–LING


  23. Brent,
    As noted above I couldn’t see any way you could quantify a PhD in wine appreciation/knowledge, or every undergrad would be striving for it. You have no idea what it take to get a MW or MS, if you did you would not write such drivel.


  24. Brent you are very much off base as many have already pointed out. Sit down and taste with a MW or MS and you will see a wine academic.

    As for Suckling, I am 95 points on him being shown as a score for sale creep.


  25. “the world is filled with educated fools”
    -Theodore Rosevelt


  26. [...] wijn recensenten in Spanje. Nu is er weer een schandaal in Canada aan het licht gekomen. Lees hier het hele [...]


  27. [...] на сайт и дело в шляпе! Ай да, Саклинг, ай да… (с) (Dr. Vino, 18/04/2012) Posted by bisso on 20/Apr/2012 in News | 0 [...]


  28. SAQ says James Suckling paid 18,000$ for making three videos in November 2011 – total running time 9.21 mins.

    http://vinquebec.com/node/9761


  29. Nearly $2,000 a minute for these videos that consist of overstated hype and useless taste descriptors. It’s good to be a King in a Land of Fools.


  30. Even Bilious Bob “It’s Good To Be King” Parker cannot rake it in at that price per minute! Perhaps because he has a face for radio? Or could it be that comb-over halting his video career? This must really piss off Antonio Galloni, who is generating hours of video each week for nothing!


  31. [...] SAQ, which has a monopoly on wine retail in the Canadian province, has responded to accusations that it paid James Suckling $24,000 last year. (Both parties denied any financial relationship.) If you can’t read the response (it’s in [...]


  32. [...] sur les médias sociaux, indignation et la nouvelle est reprise un peu partout, entre autres chez Dr. Vino, un important blogue [...]


  33. [...] else?  Critics are still corrupt, perhaps some of the best stuff is created beyond the borders, and this wine is still [...]


  34. [...] 나누었다. 이것은 Quebec의 신문, La Presse 와 와인 블로거 Tyler Coleman (aka. Dr Vino), 을 통해 이슈가 되었었다. 그는 블로거와 신문을 통해 보도된 것은 [...]


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