Look, folks. Every wine writer with any influence or connections has partaken of gourmet meals for free. Every wine writer with any influence or connections has been hosted, or limoâ€™ed, or accommodated, by his or her hosts, to some degree, and at one time or another. I have, and so has each critic Iâ€™ve ever known â€” because over the years Iâ€™ve run into them at the same feasts, in the same hotels, at the same festivals whose entry fees were waived for members of the media. I donâ€™t know Dr. Vino personally; perhaps he is that rare bird, a wine writer and critic who has never taken a dime from a winery or winery organization. If that is so, he must be independently wealthy, which few wine writers are.
In response I worte this comment. Looking at it after I hit submit, I was dismayed at some grammatical mis-steps, and missing words (my wife copy edits all my posts). Also it’s important enough that I wanted to reproduce my thoughts here on my blog.
Nice post Steve.
I fault no critic for taking free meals, free private jet rides, free admission and free lodging. I have no problem with reviewers tasting wines non-blind while on junkets and then scoring them. You folks have to eat after all, and you need a ride to get there. Why not do it in style?
While I donâ€™t condemn Parker for whatâ€™s happened, I am extremely pleased at recent events.
Why? Because it has given me the perfect opportunity to convince key influencers to stop comparing themselves to the pseudo high standards set forth by Parker in the WA and in his books.
Citizen reviewers on Twitter, blogs, cellar tracker and vinfolio should all be viewing themselves as mini Kermit Lynchs, not mini Robert Parkers.
The same way that bloggers can post affiliate links to books that they review and earn a commission from Amazon, I believe that bloggers and others in social media should be able to post links for others to purchase the wines that they review and earn a set dollar commission.
Further, I believe those links should go straight to the wineryâ€™s website. Reviewers should acknowledge the fact that they are earning a commission. They should also be paid handsomely for it, because they are the channel of the future.
Itâ€™s transformational. Imagine social media links on multiple platforms all driving recommendations and reviews right to the source, to where the wine is made. All done transparently. All done ethically.
How? As you point out, credibility is earned and folks must take critics on their word. They wonâ€™t read you if they donâ€™t trust you.
The same logic applies to citizen reviewers. And if they disclose that they are getting paid if you click a link after a good review, there can be no conflict of interest. Why? Because if their readers begin to sense that they are giving wines that they earn money from good reviews simply to earn a comission, they will stop clicking those links. They will stop trusting those reviews. No readership, no trust, no revenue.
The system is self policing. This disperse channel will coalesce, and it will be the most transformational event in wine since the repeal of prohibition.
These are exciting times. And we will have Parker, Jancis, and you Steve to thank for helping speed its arrival with your candor.
Agree? Disagree? This was not tongue in cheek stuff. I mean it. And while some conservative wineries may question the legality of affiliate links, I am firmly in the camp that believes that set cash commissions for affiliate sales though links does not endanger a winery’s license.
And as for the ethical questions: to use Heimoff’s term, it truly is a tempest in a tea cup.