Jay Miller is out at Wine Advocate. Claiming innocence in a payola scandal that has rifled through the rolling hills of Spain and the wine community as a whole, Mr. Miller has stepped down from his role as editor of Spain, South America, and the Pacific Northwest. It’s a fascinating story of claims of strong-arm tactics, little-known-wine-regions looking to ascend to the world stage and the power of the blogosphere.
The story in a nutshell? A string of emails released by blogger Jim Budd of Jim’s Loire, supposedly blew open the doors on some of the behind-the-scenes negotiations between Pancho Campo and the D.O. Vinos de Madrid to arrange for Jay Miller, internationally acclaimed wine critic, to stop in and taste some wines in the hope he’ll shine his big old spotlight on some of Spain’s newest vino talent. Such passive-aggressive, near-thuggish comments were used to sell the deal as “Private visits off the set agenda, as this would be, rarely take place, and not for a price below 40,000 euros. The fact that Jay has agreed to stay 2 days more, and for half the usual price, is a miracle and an opportunity that Madrid will find it difficult to have again.”
There’s big money involved–to the tune of € 20000 ($25,980.77)–so these allegations aren’t simply over peanuts. Wine Advocate is one of the more respected chapels of wine writing and this threatens its principles to the core. This is not likely to go away any time soon…
A number of wine bloggers picked up on the story right quick and now its shot straight up the media ladder. As a beverage writer/blogger, myself, I’m stoked to see the community ignited by a passion to get to the truth behind the accusations but it’s become a white hot pile-on. Are the accusations overblown? –“Wait, Miss Abigail, now that you have our attention, WHAT did you see Mr. Proctor do?” In fact, I’ve been a little surprised by all the attention the Wine Advocate scandal has been getting lately. I guess it makes sense in the grand scheme of celebrity hierarchy, though: we love to build them up, and then we love even more to tear them down. And if the Advocate is going to sit on the catbird seat of wine criticism, then they’re going to have to expect to be under the microscope…especially in today’s age of information saturation.
A round-up of just a few of the internet articles dealing with the scandal:
- NY Times: “A Parker Reviewer Departs After Questions About Payments” by Eric Asimov.
- Jim’s Loire: “Campogate: No Pay – No Jay ” by Jim Budd.
- Vinography:” ‘Big Jay’ Miller Departs Wine Advocate in Wake of Scandal” by Alder Yarrow.
- Decanter.com: “Jay Miller’s resignation: The background” by Decanter staff.
- The Gray Report: “Dear Robert Parker: You MUST address the latest Jay Miller scandal” by W. Blake Gray.
- Terroirist: “The Jay Miller Scandal Gets Weirder” by David White.
- Gawker: “Professional Wine Snob in Booze Junket Payola Scandal” by Hamilton Nolan.
You want more? Simply google: “Jay Miller Scandal” and it’s on. And so, even in the world of rarified wine criticism, we get to see what happens when the media blows up in a maelstrom of drama. We’ll see how it all pans out…
Will a nugget of gold await Jay Miller? Or will he be washed away in the tailings of time? Stay tuned for next week’s episode of “Media Rush: Wine Scandal!”