Continuing the significant changes unfolding at the Wine Advocate over the past six months, the publication has announced new terms and rates for trade subscribers. Previously, subscriptions were line-priced at $99 a year. Going forward, trade subscriptions will be $199. What do they get for the extra fee? Employees can use the same login. And trade accounts get to reproduce the WA’s scores and tasting notes as shelf talkers.
This is a bizarre choice for at least three reasons: it’s hard to enforce, any enforcement would breed ill-will among the trade, and it significantly reduces free marketing for the publication in the form of shelf talkers. Retailers who use scores are not loyal to publications; rather, they are mostly loyal to high scores and will use whichever is highest and free of legal entanglements/copyright issues.
Further, the new T&C insist on the shelf talkers use RPWA–Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate–for the publication as well as identify the critic by initials and use the publication’s logo.
I guess the new owners are making a calculated risk that by doubling the price, fewer than half the trade subscribers will bolt and they will still come out ahead on revenues. To me, it’s hard to see how these changes will expand the audience for “The Independent Consumer’s Guide to Fine Wine.” If you’re in the trade, what do you think of the new rates and terms?
Robert Parker included some tasting notes on Bourbon in the most recent Wine Advocate. Over at the blog Scotch & Ice Cream, the author didn’t take too kindly to the fact that Parker put “his loafer-clad foot in our turf and has deigned to tell the masses what bourbon everyone should be drinking.”
I’ll leave you to discover the gems of the post yourself. But here’s one: “Apparently the wine world regards scarcity as a measure of quality.” Okay, and a spoiler: “The know-it-all wine critic has decided he is the arbiter of taste and quality on the American whisky scene while seemingly managing to not do even the most basic bit of research and self-education on the subject.”
FWIW: Scotch & Ice Cream thinks the Pappy Van Winkle 20 beats the snot out of the Pappy 23.
It’s pretty common to post pictures of which wines you’re drinking on Instagram or Twitter. If you’re drinking really great stuff, I suppose it’s a little douchey (although those photos do get the most “likes,” etc).
But what if you pre-post a lineup of 34 magnums you will be tasting over the next few nights? That’s what Bob Parker did for the Wine Advocate staff (and owners? Note “SECOND” office reference.) meetings this week. Seems to cross the line–especially in a “blue-collar city.” Maybe they are drinking out styrofoam cups? Also, are these wines are worth a detour, let alone a journey from Singapore? Have your say!
Big time in the blue-collar city of Baltimore….the entire staff is arriving today, including our three new full-time writers which will be announced in the next 48 hours….the team from the SECOND office in Singapore, and we hope to put in place some very exciting plans…I am playing sommelier, and pulled the following wines out of the cellar for the three nights of *%^@#%$#&*&%^^$$….
Tonight-all magnums as there are 16-17 of us Read more…
SPIT: celebrity wine
Buzzfeed asks sommelier Michael Madrigale to taste and rate celebrity wines in a blind tasting. Hilarity ensues.
SIPPED: hermaphroditic Himalayan elderberries
A funny send-up of tasting note terms from Keith Levenberg.
SPIT: say pleas
Rudy Kurniawan went before a Manhattan judge yesterday; trial is set to start September 9, or thereabouts. [AFP]
True headline: “Your Wine Habit Is Threatening Endangered Pandas” #rolleyes
Wine writers and members of the wine trade descended on Bordeaux this week for tasting samples of the 2012 vintage, which was a difficult vintage. Even though the malolactic fermentations have barely finished and the final blends are nowhere near completed, the Bordelais pre-sell each vintage (en primeur) two years before it is actually released.
The events set off a clusterschnook on Twitter about whether en primeurs are simply marketing at this point. Guy Woodward, former editor of Decanter, expressed his pleasure at not having to attend the “increasingly futile” and predictable events for the first time in a decade. He described the process thusly: “Critics taste unfinished wines (non-blind) earlier than ever but only one verdict counts; producers feign humility & refuse to discuss price…Don’t doubt most critics’ good intentions, but is now primarily a marketing exercise.”
Howard Goldberg’s tweet sparked the longest and possibly most productive wine thread to ever appear on Twitter: “Britain’s wine-writing Establishment is again plunging headlong into en priemur to play willing handmaiden marketing advisor to chateaus.” Read more…
What would happen if a California winery uprooted Cabernet Sauvignon to plant hipster grape varieties–only to find the critic who championed Cabernet is…baaaaack?!!?
The above “Downfall” video by Red To Brown Wine explores these real-life themes (for those who haven’t followed, Parker has resumed reviewing current releases of Northern California wines for the WA).
Yesterday, Robert Parker posted to his site that the Wine Advocate is suing their former critic Antonio Galloni. They charge him with misappropriation of confidential information, defamation and fraud among other things. Courthouse News has a summary and Jeff Leve has published the full text of the complait to his site.
At the crux of the complaint, the Wine Advocate alleges that Galloni went to Sonoma on their dime and as the critic. (Apparently there are other pending reviews involving Burgundy, Brunello and Barolo.) I posted a few weeks ago that I thought Galloni should turn over whatever he had at that point and to withhold notes was petty and unseemly. In something of a defense, some people said that because he was an independent contractor, he might have been paid only upon submission of the material. However, the complaint states that he was paid a salary of $25,000 a month (plus $5,840 a month for expenses) for his duties to deliver certain material. The complaint alleges that he had a “secret scheme” to visit wineries “throughout the world” while developing his own wine reviewing business. In that business, the complaint alleges he will be using their “proprietary 50-100 point grading scale” and was authorized only to do so for their publication.
Since Galloni’s own web site has still not launched, it seemed a hasty decision to jump ship. As I mentioned in the comments of my last post, when he went to the Times to announce his departure from the Wine Advocate in February, it read to me like a giant “will work for food or Barolo” notice of his availability on the job market rather than an announcement of his own project. It will be interesting to see how this all plays out. But one thing is for sure: Parker & Co. are making Galloni’s life difficult. Galloni has yet to reply to the complaint.
As to the Wine Advocate, the new editor-in-chief noted on eBob that they will be taking on “3 new very talented reviewers.” She cited “varying notice periods” the writers had to give their current publications as the reason for the delay in announcing their identities.
When Antonio Galloni suddenly left the Wine Advocate last month, he took the unusual step of asserting that he owned the copyright to his reviews, particularly the as-yet-unpublished reviews of Sonoma 2011. He has now posted on his new web site a detailed, legalistic play-by-play in an effort to justify taking the reviews.
Yet the choice is crystal clear: let the Wine Advocate publish whatever reviews were done as of his departure. He presented himself as the Wine Advocate’s reviewer when conducting tastings in Sonoma and the wineries and Sonoma County Vintners treated him as such. Taking the reviews now seems petty, almost as if he doesn’t think his new site will have enough interesting content to attract readers. Adding “out of my deep respect for Bob” and “in the spirit of collaboration” in the posting only underscores how little respect he has for Parker and appears an unseemly effort to scrape whatever readers he can from the WA.
Moreover, Galloni has twice raised protecting “editorial independence” as a reason for quitting. While the Wine Advocate has grappled with reconciling its vaunted code of ethics with the actions of some contributors over recent years, it seems the heights of absurdity that Galloni brings this up at his moment of departure. After all, he’s the one who asked the same wineries that he reviewed in the WA to contribute wines to his $1,200/head Festa del Barolo event. The fact that he has yet to articulate an ethics statement for his own web site or say how the WA policy irked him undermine this justification for quitting abruptly.
Galloni told the SF Chronicle a couple of weeks ago, “I don’t want to be an employee.” Clearly, issues with the new regime at the WA are his reason for quitting. Fair enough. But why not just leave it at that, be magnanimous, and move on? Keep the discussion about Burgundy, not Ron Burgundy. Stay classy, San Diego!