Robert Parker has called Pancho Campo a 'lightning rod' for controversy as he announced a 'totally transparent' legal investigation into the series of accusations of cash for tasting that have dominated the wine headlines for the past weeks.
Parker, publisher of the Wine Advocate, said he ‘remains appalled’ by the ‘lynch mob rush to judgment’ of bloggers, including award-winning Decanter writer Jim Budd on his blog Jim’s Loire.
Budd, followed by other bloggers, including vinography as well as senior Spanish commentators such as Jose Penin, has since the summer alleged that Jay Miller’s representative Pancho Campo of the Wine Academy of Spain was effectively charging wineries, via their consejos reguladores, for access.
Budd has published emails between the Wine Academy and consejos in Navarra, Madrid and Murcia which he alleges demonstrate that consejos were left in no doubt that hefty sums would have to change hands in order for Wine Advocate correspondent Miller to visit and taste the wines.
Announcing the investigation by Steve Haas of law firm Cozen O’Connor yesterday, Parker said, ‘Our lawyers are interviewing Pancho Campo today, and all relevant contracts and emails have been translated into English and reviewed.’
He added, ‘Jay clearly and irrefutably has taken no money for a wine review or winery visit, but I will await the lawyer’s final report.’
At the same time Parker appeared to be distancing himself from Campo, at several of whose conferences – notably the high-profile WineFuture Hong Kong this year and WineFuture Rioja in 2009 – he has been a keynote speaker.
In a comment on erobertparker.com yesterday he said, ‘Of course hindsight suggests Pancho Campo is a lightning rod for controversy, and has plenty of enemies for reasons I am at a loss to understand given his success with conferences on climate change and wine. Hopefully our investigation will shed some light on this.’
Haas said, on the same bulletin board, ‘In light of allegations and innuendos posted by various internet blogs concerning visits made to Murcia, Spain by Jay Miller…the law firm of Cozen O’Connor [will] conduct an investigation to determine whether our strict policy of independence in the review and tasting of wines for publication in The Wine Advocate or posting on www.eRobertparker.com was compromised by any conduct of The Wine Advocate or any other party associated with tastings in that region.’
Jim Budd welcomed the investigation but regretted its terms were limited to Miller’s visit to Murcia, he said on Jim’s Loire.
‘All of Jay Miller’s Spanish visits since Pancho Campo MW was entrusted with their organization in 2009 should be investigated.’
These should include visits to Navarra and Valencia as well as Murcia and ‘all regions and bodegas in which Campo and the Wine Academy of Spain had a commercial interest.’
Pancho Campo – who has vigorously denied all allegations of impropriety, and who has launched his own legal investigation – told Decanter.com they had ‘been in contact for the past several weeks with Joe James, Parker´s manager, in regards to this matter.
‘We are also in contact with Steven Haas [and] we welcome an independent party to investigate the matter, hoping that the results of such investigations will bring light into the matter and help clear our name.’
In a four-page statement released yesterday Campo said, ‘The rules imposed by the Wine Advocate were respected and followed at all times by TWAS [The Wine Academy of Spain].’
Written by Adam Lechmere