Wine critic Malcolm Gluck has left satirical magazine The Oldie over what he terms a 'foolish row'.
The circumstances are opaque, but involve an argument about a wine tasting in Bath organised by Oldie publisher James Pembroke, which Gluck was going to host in exchange for selling copies of his book Chateau Lafite 1953: and Other Stories.
The veteran wine writer and author of 1980s phenomonen Superplonk told Decanter.com Pembroke objected to his selling his books at the tasting, and this escalated.
‘I went because I had a foolish row with the publisher [Pembroke],’ he said.
According to Pembroke, the Bath tasting was a minor disagreement that got out of hand, ending in Gluck tendering his resignation, which he and Oldie editor Richard Ingrams accepted, immediately appointing wine writer Robert Joseph in his place.
‘The Bath tasting was a tiny thing, and as usual he made it difficult,’ Pembroke told Decanter.com
For his part, Gluck admited the reason for the fall-out sounds trivial, but it made him realise he was dedicating too much time to the magazine. ‘I was probably spending ten days working for The Oldie a month, all for an article which was paid at the normal rate of 800 words. I couldn’t justify it, but I enjoyed finding terrific wines and selling them [to Oldie readers] for peanuts.’
Gluck is unchastened by the experience, firing off a broadside at a large swathe of the wine industry, suggesting most modern wine writing is ‘clichéd’ and ‘uninteresting’, the notion of terroirs and soil types ‘utter bollocks’ and wine merchants ‘largely liars’.
Joseph, Gluck’s successor, launched the magazine Wine in the 1980s, and is the author of Bordeaux and its Wines and The Complete Encyclopaedia of Wine, among other books.
Since 2006, he has also developed a range of branded wines with winemaker Hugh Ryman, about which Gluck suggested, ‘If you’re a wine producer how can you be a wine writer? It’s a ludicrous conflict of interest.’
Joseph said it was nonsense to suggest it was unethical.
‘Dozens of wine writers, from James Halliday to Steven Spurrier, make wine. Of course I would never write about my own wine – that would be entirely wrong. It’s a matter of separating what you do. If you are paid to write a book about a region, will you always be complimentary about that region in subsequent articles? Of course not.
‘In the end it comes down to integrity and whether you have it or not. Reputation is something you earn, and I’ve been doing this a long time.’
Written by Adam Lechmere