Jay Miller's resignation: The background

Last week Robert Parker threatened legal action over the steady drip of allegations from bloggers, as well as some of Spain’s most senior wine critics, that Jay Miller’s representatives in Spain were effectively charging wineries, via their consejos reguladores – for tastings.

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One of the main targets of Parker’s ire is Jim Budd, a Decanter writer, winner of the prestigious Roederer Award, regional chair for the Loire at the Decanter World Wine Awards, and a prolific blogger, specialising in uncovering investment scams via his site invest-drinks.org, as well as general wine news via another blog, Jim’s Loire.

Budd had posted a series of emails between Spanish consejos and staff of the Wine Academy, and its founder Pancho Campo MW.

Campo, via the Wine Academy, is the organiser of high-profile events such as last month’s WineFuture Hong Kong, at which Parker, Jancis Robinson and other luminaries of the international wine world were key speakers.

He also, as he makes clear on his profile on the Masters of Wine website, ‘Collaborates with Robert Parker and The Wine Advocate organizing their visits to Spain.’

Budd’s main post relates to correspondence in June between Wine Academy staff and staff at trade body Vinos de Madrid.

The email discusses a possible Wine Academy event and tasting by Jay Miller in Madrid, offered at half the usual fee for such an event. Among many emails that Budd secured, one of the most damaging was one sent by Pancho Campo MW on 4 June 2011, to his staff at the Wine Academy:

'Private visits off the set agenda, as this would be, rarely take place, and not for a price below €40,000. The fact that Jay has agreed to stay two days more, and for half the usual price, is a miracle and an opportunity that Madrid will find it difficult to have again.'

In the event, the tasting in Madrid did not go ahead.

A previous post, published in the summer, relates to similar correspondence between the Wine Academy and Asevin, a body which organises tastings in the Murcia region of eastern Spain.

Although Budd states his intention was not to suggest Miller was being paid for reviews, Parker, in a posting last week on the bulletin board of his website erobertparker.com, previous to the announcement of Miller’s departure, said, ‘This blogger posted about Miller/Campo charging for tasting Spanish wines or for visiting Spanish wineries a while ago. We launched an investigation at that time despite the fact that both Miller/Campo denied all the allegations. We found no substance or truth to any of the allegations.’

‘Now he has brought similar charges. This time we have requested our lawyers to fully examine every allegation again, and they have also retained an additional lawyer, from Madrid, to study the allegations, and if again false, consider legal action.

 ‘Until we are 100% certain of all the facts, I think this subject, which appears to be a reckless and malicious disregard for the truth and clearly aimed at damaging Miller, Campo, and TWA, needs to be closed.’

Budd told Decanter.com, 'Although I was not accusing Miller of taking bribes for visiting Spanish wine regions or tasting wines, Miller’s position was undermined by publication of Pancho Campo’s email offering Miller at half price. It became untenable when yesterday José Penin expressed outrage at Campo’s exploitation of Miller.

‘I’m sure that Neal Martin, who takes over responsibility for Spain, will stay as far away from Campo as possible.

‘As an aside I imagine that Parker’s description of Spain as an ‘emerging wine region’ will not be well received.'  

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