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Thursday Thorns
Hey, Wineries! Are You Ready To Pay Reviewers To Write About Your Wines?

By Charles Olken

If so, you should be making wine in New Zealand because you can pay writers down there to review your wines. And if they don’t like it, they won’t even run the reviews. Of course, they will keep your money anyhow.

There is a couple of considerably sleazier practices here at home, although I suspect that they are not widespread. Evidence exists, according to charges leveled in a recent editiorial, that a few unscrupulous individuals will post phony reviews on the agglomeration blog sites like Cellar Tracker and Snooth for a small under the table payment. Those reviews are far more pernicious than those coming out of New Zealand because the local versions are simply fabrications.

Now, I realize that there are ladies of the night who are engaged in accepting money for false love, but this is the first I have heard of wine prostitution. We are not talking about the occasional wayward blogger who will write reviews in exchange for wine, a practice that is bad enough. No this is out and out sluttery, and apparently it is being practiced right here in River City.

In the midst of my amazement, and in response to the original article at:, a winemaker chimed in with a comment that he was asked for a $1,000 payment by a tasting magazine in exchange for printing his 90-point reviews with a label alongside. No payment, possibly no review. I just have asked the winemaker who tells that tale to name the magazine in question. It is too soon for a response so please stay tuned.

I am reminded of the old tale in which an attractive woman is offered $1,000,000 to sleep with a wealthy man one time and she says yes. “Well, how about $100,000”, she is then asked and agrees, that yes she would make herself available one time for $100,000. ‘

Well how about $1,000” comes the next question, and she answers, “no way, what do you think I am, a whore?” The retort: “We have already established what you are. We are just haggling about the price”.

Apparently, there are wine whores who will write phony reviews for money and winemagazine whores who threaten not to print highly positive reviews unless a large cash payment is advanced, in which case the review is guaranteed to be published.

I am not fond of the New Zealand system of paying for each review. In that case, something like $28 per bottle. But, that practice, which I roundly denounce anyhow, is a lot less pernicious than what some folks are doing right here in the good old U. S. of A. If the winemaker, whose Internet handle is El Jefe, tells us the name of the publication to which he has referred, I will pass it on to you. In the meantime, rest assured that it is not Connoisseurs’ Guide, and I am guessing (yes, guessing) that it is not folks like the Spectator, Wine Enthusiast, Parker, or Tanzer.


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No Subject
by TomHill
Posted on:9/8/2011 9:09:58 AM

I've noted in the WineSpec's reviews, some of them have the pic of the winemaker posted alongside the review. I've always sorta assumed that the wnry had to pay for that special touch. Anybody know for sure??



No Subject
by Thomas Matthews
Posted on:9/8/2011 4:00:24 PM

At Wine Spectator, all labels and photographs published in our Buying Guide (and elsewhere in the magazine, or on our Web site) are editorial decisions. No fees are charged, and coverage cannot be bought.

We decide which wines are reviewed; wineries cannot buy a review, nor are they ever charged for a review. All reviews are the results of blind tastings, unless otherwise noted in the review itself.

Our policies are detailed in the Buying Guide of each magazine, and on our Web site, for those who are interested in doing some research to find out the facts, rather than slinging around unfounded speculation.

Thomas Matthews

Executive editor

Wine Spectator


by David Rossi
Posted on:9/9/2011 6:02:09 AM

How are the myriad of for-profit wine competitions in the US any different?  Most require entry fees(some as high as $95.00 per bottle) and only medaled wines are mentioned.

Pay $300 and get few medals to hang in the tasting room.  I AM NOT saying that any of the competitions are rigged, only that there is already a fee based wine review system in place in the US.

And by the way, I thought that girl really liked me!

by Charlie Olken
Posted on:9/9/2011 9:25:43 AM

You raise an interesting point.

I guess I see the difference as one of dimension. The comprehensive reviewers try to cover the waterfront and they charge their readers for their services. The competitions, whether they are non-profit or for-profit, do not have financial support from the consumers and thus exist as a service to the wineries.

Publications exist to serve their readers, not the wineries. That is why publications should not charge for wine reviews but should, as Connoisseurs Guide does, buy the wines that the wineries do not send voluntarily.

David--About That Girl
by Charlie Olken
Posted on:9/9/2011 9:27:41 AM

That is not what she told me about you. Perhaps she wanted more than $28 and a cheap bottle of Merlot. :-}
by Thomas Pellechia
Posted on:9/9/2011 11:45:18 AM

The other major difference between a magazine or individual reviewer and a wine competition is that the latter is generally more concerned with technical achievement and not just taste preferences.

Other than that, there isn't much of a difference in the way the results are reported to consumers: not as achievements but as marketing messages.


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