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12.04.2011

"Big Jay" Miller Departs Wine Advocate in Wake of Scandal

With eerily similar rhetoric to Herman Cain's "suspension" of his campaign for President this week, and amidst an equally scandalous set of allegations, Robert Parker announced today on his bulletin board that Jay Miller would be leaving the Wine Advocate to pursue "wine consulting, lecturing and wine retail."

Miller's departure occurs even as the scandal known as "Murcillagate" or "Campogate" continues to heat up, with suggestions by Parker that legal action against "the bloggers" who have been involved may be imminent.

"Campogate" refers to a story broken by fellow wine blogger Jim Budd who managed to obtain e-mails indicating that a regional wine authority and/or Pancho Campo was charging wineries an exorbitant fee (20,000 Euros) to supposedly "secure" a visit from Jay Miller on his upcoming trip to Spain. While there is not yet any smoking gun to suggest that any of the money referred to in the e-mails would have gone to Miller, the whole incident is yet another splat of egg on the face of The Wine Advocate as a result of Miller's actions. Miller first got into hot water in 2009 after it became clear some of the trips he had taken while on the Wine Advocate's payroll violated the magazine's stated ethics policies.

The announcement of Miller's departure also included a personal statement from Miller to the subscribers of the Wine Advocate: "Finally, some may believe my stepping down is in response to my critics. Nothing could be further from the truth. I have felt constrained in responding while still on The Wine Advocate staff. While the office has defended my actions, justifiably, now it is time for me to speak for myself. In what format I will do that remains to be seen. This much is clear....I have never accepted (or requested) fees for visiting wine regions or wineries."

While Miller and Parker both took pains to indicate that this was a voluntary departure on Miller's part, and Parker referenced the travel schedules and tediousness of tasting mediocre wines that can "burn out the best of us," the overall explanation had the same thin veneer of professional gloss over an irrecoverable situation that marked Mr. Cain's similar announcement this week.

This was something that simply had to be done. That Miller was not asked to leave after the first incident was quite surprising, considering the amount of controversy that already existed around what many felt like were overly generous scores for the regions he covered. Miller has done much damage to The Wine Advocate's brand, and this latest incident seemed beyond the pale, even if Miller himself remains innocent of any ethical violations.

Parker seemed to finally understand this, noting in this announcement that "change is never easy, but often essential...", as he announced that Miller's Spain, Chile, and Argentina responsibilities will be taken over by Neal Martin, while coverage of Oregon wines will go to David Schildnecht.

While the final outcome of "Campogate" has yet to be played out, it is at least forcing what I think is some needed house cleaning at the Wine Advocate.

Comments (12)

12.04.11 at 10:49 PM

Cain? I was thinking of Jay Miller as more the New Gingrich of wine criticism. People were forking over huge sums to hear Jay's vinous insights, in much the same spirit as Freddie Mac giving Newt all that money for his historical analysis.

WD wrote:
12.05.11 at 3:12 AM

Maverick wine journo gone bad - whatever next. Leaves a bad taste in the mouth (possibly)

Steve wrote:
12.05.11 at 5:19 AM

While this has been a nauseating affair to watch unfold in tabloid style, clearly Parker is willing to do what it takes to defend and preserve his brand equity. You've got to give him credit for that - even if it is a little tardy. Hopefully Miller's questionable conduct is an isolated anomaly - or, if nothing else, a clear example of what is not acceptable in an industry that continues to struggle at the intersection of promotion and ethics.

Thomas wrote:
12.05.11 at 10:14 AM

Now Parker has the opportunity to clean up his entire operation. He can finally dedicate a reviewer based on style, rather than the willy-nilly way his regions are divided now. I would give greater creedence to a Pinot noir review if the reviewer also covered Pinot noir and other cool-climate grape growing regions. The idea that Jay Miller could review Australian, Spanish, Chilean, Washington wines, and then not have a bias for those flavors when also reviewing Oregon Pinot noir is absurd. Mr. Parker, take this opportunity to clean and straighten up your house a bit.

Jason Parmentier wrote:
12.05.11 at 1:08 PM

Mr. Parker is nothing if not loyal.
He should have asked Miller to tender his resignation a long time ago. The failure to do so until now has hurt the brand.

Now that Miller is out of the way, will things improve?
Somewhat, but not entirely. The ethical lapses at WA are endemic, and stem ultimately from the fact that Parker's commitment to an ethical stance is half-hearted at best.
In the long term this incident will be seen as but one blip on a slow downward curve.

Alfonso wrote:
12.05.11 at 4:09 PM

Why stop here? Why not assemble an OWA (Occupy Wine Advocate) protest?

How about a Million Point March?

How about a slogan? Like “The only solution is Wine Revolution!”

Come on people, get off your duffs, let’s take this protest to the street!!

Chris wrote:
12.06.11 at 10:23 AM

I'm glad to see this published. As wine consumers we need to know about this type of thing before we listen to their reviews and ratings. Hopefully this will get more people asking questions and we can figure out if this goes any further.

John Cesano wrote:
12.08.11 at 3:45 PM

"This much is clear....I have never accepted (or requested) fees for visiting wine regions or wineries."

This statement does not preclude the possibility that he had others request those very same fees on his behalf, nor are other non-fee inducements that may have been sought or gained mentioned.

His very political statement leaves more unsaid than said.

José María wrote:
12.10.11 at 2:56 AM

Hallo,

This is the point of view of quite a few people in Spain.

http://winediarist.com/miller-time-one-more-time/comment-page-1/#comment-1935

Best

JM

Jack wrote:
12.11.11 at 10:45 AM

It seems that the real bad actor in this is Campo and this is not the first time his promotional activities have gotten him in hot water. He is a huckster to the extreme and bad for the world of wine.

David Larsen wrote:
12.11.11 at 11:24 AM

Ouch. You failed to mention that David Schildnecht will also assume coverage of Washington State wines from Miller.

Michael wrote:
12.13.11 at 12:56 PM

In case Antonio Casado and his readers are interested. I have known Pancho Campo for the last 20 years and there is a long list of things that people should know about this man. First let’s start by saying he is Chilean and not Spanish and that he spent most of his life in the tennis world. Pancho is the ultimate showman. Unfortunately he lacks the ethics and all of his different businesses/schemes have failed one after another. Let me outline it for you:

Pancho bought the rights to use the Bollettieri Tennis Academy name and by association Andre Agassi’s image; to launch several tennis camps in Spain back in the 80’s. This led Pancho to start the first European Bollettieri tennis Academy in Alicante, Spain. Although this venture was initially very successful, Pancho opted to cash out after a few years and left behind huge debts at the resort (Hotel EuroTennis). The Bollettieri tennis academy terminated the contract with Pancho after they also realized they had been mislead and no revenues ever reached Nick Bollettieri back in Bradenton, Florida.

As Pancho still had a decent reputation in the tennis world in Spain he started to organize weekend tennis camps where clubs would pay him a fee to show up, bring a celebrity from the tennis world (the likes of Manuel Santana) and entertain the members for a couple of days. As it was not quite the “pay day” Pancho had anticipated he tried opening another tennis academy, this time in Madrid Spain. After a couple of years and following the same patterns, the academy had to close its doors and after a few other business attempts Pancho went to the Middle East.

In Dubai, with the help of his rich father in law, he started as a concerts and events promoter. Although there are many stories to tell about Pancho’s ventures in Dubai…all that really matters is that his business antics caught up with him and landed him in the Interpol most wanted list and had to leave Dubai for Spain.

Onto his third career. In trying to replicate the successes of his father in law. Pancho tried opening a U.S. style junior college in Marbella which unfortunately for him and his wife went south quickly. Again racking up huge debt.

Right…so three failed careers so far.

And now as you all know Pancho Campo is in the wine business and believe it or not a Master of Wine. It will not be long before he is looking for a fifth career as people in the wine industry, realize he is full of hot air and no substance. The way he uses Jay Miller and the likes of him for his personal enrichment is just another example of his antics.

Good luck to those dealing with Pancho Campo the showman/businessman.

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