Pancho Campo hits out against bloggers


Pancho Campo hits out against bloggers


I have just had a lengthy phone conversation with Pancho Campo, in which he explained all the details of the trip he organized for Dr Jay Miller of the Wine Advocate, and how all the expenses were borne by the Wine Advocate. He also explained that he has been the subject of a lot of criticism because of this episode, some of which has been very personal.

Pancho also apologised for his broad-brush attack on bloggers.

In the light of all this, I’m deleting the post I made. I should add that I was never put under any pressure, by anyone, to take this step.

42 Comments on Pancho Campo hits out against bloggers
wine journalist and flavour obsessive

42 thoughts on “Pancho Campo hits out against bloggers

  1. For Jay miller in Spain, the problem is not only a trip in helicopter! What about this big wine bill left in a restaurant in Barcelona and payed by 2 wine estate owners?

  2. Jamie

    Thanks for the link of my “summary”

    This is all quite amusing. Much ado about nothing. If only Parker just admitted that his guys took all those free trips, got free meals, and are inherently biased because of all of this, then we could all move on.

    So long as he claims the WA’s independence, he is going to continue to run into these issues.

  3. “He has helped to expand the category of fine wine, by allowing cash rich yet time poor consumers a helicopter to the top, when it comes to choosing wine.”

    To me it seems it’s been mostly about expanding the sphere of status drinking not without problems. To me the category of ‘fine wine’ seems all too often a lackluster playground for the technocratic minded who are into collecting butterflies. This engineer mentality so prevalent in contemporary society meets it’s match with WA’s ready chewed points and definitive taxonomy of wines. This ‘Helicoptering to the top’ is a bit like drinking from a mirage or borrowing some one’s passion. I put no moral emphasis on it whatsoever. Wine is not something enjoyed only one way. It still seems like a volatile cocktail with implications.

    Anyway, thanks for the post Jamie. Enjoyed it quite a bit.

  4. The relationship between Jay Miller and Pancho Campo MW needs to be clarified. Is Pancho employed by Miller? Is he paid by the wineries he takes Miller to? The problem, as Jamie says, is lack of transparency and the ludicrously high standards that Parker set for himself and, by implication, his team. No one can afford to pay his or her way as a wine critic these days. it’s just a matter of how you conduct yourself on trips that really matters. And which trips you take. The consumer needs to believe that a critic’s reviews are objective; otherwise tasting notes cease to have any value.

  5. So if transparency is important where is it? I don’t recall Tim, when writing for the Observer, telling us who paid for his trips.

    As to objectivity, I’m sure that wine critics believe themselves so to be. But if a winemaker pays for your flight, hotel, meals, transport and so on you aren’t going to criticise his wines. Indeed it is striking that how rarely wine is given bad reviews in the press.

  6. That’s why I never take trips that are paid for by individual wineries. If you take generic trips, it’s easier to be objective. Ot at least as objective as I can be.

    I am perfectly happy to tell you who pays for mine. I’m going to California tomorrow, for example. Economy flight paid for by California Wine Institute. On the ground expenses by three regional bodies – Lodi, Sonoma, Paso Robles. Food and drink paid for by me, ditto taxi to the airport, etc.

    It’s the relationship between Pancho Campo and the representative of a powerful wine critic that isn’t clear. What does Pancho get out of it? Maybe he just enjoys Jay’s company.

  7. Richard, this scandal is not only about a travel:
    during the “Jay Miller’s 2011 Wine Tour”, Pancho Campo and Jay Miller went in a wine restaurant in Barcelona (Monvinic), asked for wines (Rayas 2001, Marcoux Vieilles Vignes 2001, Amarone della Valpolicella Bussola, Ridge, Kistler, some great german rieslings, Marcassin) and forget to pay; the owner of the restaurant (also winemaker) and a wine merchant in Barcelona have to pay the big bill. For information, in this restaurant wines are not expensive (like at a wine merchant’s in France).
    The day after, Jay and Pancho came in the Priorat and visit the country by helicopter; everything was payed by René Barbier and Christopher Canaan.

  8. Quand les négociants ou propriétaires bordelais proménent des journalistes en hélicoptére… c’est normal !! Parce que Pancho, Christoper, Jay et René font un tour d’hélicoptére cela prends des dimensions “énormes”… Il est vrai que Jay est plus connu comme “a walking, eating and drinking disaster” (en anglais dans le texte), mais cela ne regarde que lui, sa conscience et son boss, Bon pour lequel j’ai du respect. Un jour Bobdemanderas a quelqu’un de compétent de s’occuper de la péninsule ibérique, et cela nous ferras du bine d’avoir des critiques plus “justes”…..

  9. I don’t have a problem with journalists taking helicopter trips and free travel – it’s necessary to do the job, as Tim points out. My problem is with the way that there has been this cover-up, removal of videos, and attack on bloggers. It’s not a transparent way of operating. I don’t think for a moment that Jay’s reviews are anything other than totally honest. It’s the WA standard that’s the problem, which isn’t adhered to, and then there’s a need for defensive action when this is pointed out.

  10. Jamie, I was one of the winemakers that attended the tasting evening at Monvinic. It was organized by Incavi for those producers which wineries Jay could not visit personally. We were aproximatelly 20 wineries. After the tasting, a group of us stayed for dinner and we sat on a table next to Jay, who sat with other 6 or 7 people. Let me tell you, I witnessed the wines they had because I asked to taste a bit of the leftovers. It was nothing out of this world……..maximum 700 to 800 euros in wine. The menu was exactly like ours, Monvinic is not an expensive place. We all went to pay together because at Mon Vinic everyone pays at a teller when you leave. Everyone paid its share, including Pancho who paid for Jay who had already left. The bill did not exceed 1600 (sixteen hundred!!!) because we went out to smoke a cigarrete and one them showed me the list of wines and the bill and we all praised to fantastic price of Mon Vinic wines. I personally believe that the misunderstanding comes from there, it was almost 1,600 and not 16.000. Hey, just call the restaurant an find out. It should not be that difficult. All the best, David Pérez.

  11. David, thank you for that clarification. Les Picrates: you may want to adjust or delete your comment, and Daniel, you may wish to add a note to your bulletin board post. If the bill was in fact 1600 Euros, then you are being incredibly unfair to Pancho and Jay with your accusations, and you should redress this.

  12. ragazzi

    i think there is not really a way to taste wine without being influenced
    it could be the environment, the hospiatlity, the charming winelady, even the mood you’re in while drinking a glas

    everyone who loves wine knows that
    and it’s up to everyone to taste each wine by himself

    i know there are some objective ways to tell if a wine is bad or well made 😉
    but in the end it’s your tastebuds who “talk”

    i can’t help but think
    please, it’s wine we are talking/writing about, not creating worldpeace…

    i can understand the critics wich arise about TWA ‘we are independent judges because so and so’ and i agree it needs some clarifications and writing

    problem is, i’m not a huge fan about letting others decide which wines i should drink ;-)so i really don’t care that much about what the ‘establishment’ says
    apart from my favorite winemerchant who knows so good what i like and what not!

    just a little blogster from belgium 😉
    who btw, has been invited to a trip to the elzas (payed completely by them)
    and to be honest … i had to cancel some prejudices about alsacian wines

    we tasted wonderful wines – we tasted wines i did not like
    but in the end

    i find it pretty hard to be negative about someone’s “lifework”
    it takes about (minimum) a year of hard work to get from a grape to a bottle of wine – that shouldn’t be judged in a few sips

  13. Tim, I think it would be more helpful to consumers if you revealed information about expenses when you review the wines or write up the vineyards. That is not common practice, at least as far as the UK press is concerned.

  14. Jamie Goode ‘this is the role of the free press, isn’t it?’

    A very pertinent comment, Jamie.

    Controversy and ‘Doctor’ Pancho Campo seem to be rarely far apart.

    ‘Dr’ Campo’s reaction to awkward questions raised in the press appears to be to get either his lawyers, or his employees or his supporters to threaten the offending journalist with legal action.

    Campo’s lawyer threatened Gerry Dawes, the well-known Spanish specialist, in late August/early September 2009 when he started to investigate Campo’s appearance on Interpol’s site.

    I have twice been threatened through a third party of pending legal action. Firstly by Rony Bacqué, manager general of Campo’s The Wine Academy Spain, and then by Radha Stirling of ‘Detained in Dubai’. Neither of these threats ever materialised. Equally, neither Bacqué or Stirling ever contacted me directly.

    I hold the opinions of the renowned former Olympian Chilean tennis coach of no account until he has clarified the current status of his 2003 conviction and prison sentence in Dubai, how he managed to get out of the country while awaiting trial and what happened to his Chilean passport that he had surrendered to the court.

    During the time of his problems with the Interpol red notice, Campo told me that he had been advised that he should not answer questions until things were sorted. However, Pancho Campo did promise that he would give me the full story once he had been cleared.

    Last August when Pancho Campo’s name was removed from Interpol’s list I contacted him and the Wine Academy asking what was the current status of his 2003 conviction and the one-year term of imprisonment.

    Apparently my question was forwarded to the lawyers of his father-in-law, James Butler, who would be dealing with media questions. I have never had any response to my question from either James Butler or his lawyers.

    Later Rony Bacqué told a third party that Butler’s lawyers would not answer my questions because of a potential conflict as they were checking Jim’s Loire in case I had defamed and libeled their client, James Butler.

    As far as I’m aware the only mention of James Butler on Jim’s Loire is that he is Pancho Campo’s father-in-law. It is possible, I suppose, that the old boy might take this as ‘defamation’ but it can hardly be considered libelous.

    See also:

  15. Apparently the comment by Les Epicrates was deleted from several Spanish publications after checking the story with Mon Vinic. By the way, the video about the helicopter and on Monvinic are both in Facebook, not in Youtube. Still there 5 min. ago.

  16. Arto – A very astute comment about butterfly collectors!

    As so often with these incidents, what I find most telling is not the failings/errors against ethical aspirations, but more the attitude shown when the issue is raised.

    Going immediately onto the offensive; trying to denigrate those who raised the issue… for me that gives enough insight into the mindset of the person.

    Contrast with Tim, who when challenged, didn’t claim perfection or attack the poster, but did answer the question.



  17. Jamie,
    It was difficult for us to investigate because our spanish contact is out for the week-end (in a place wher perhaps he met Pancho…). And, in fact, he thinks it’s a problem of translation (!) and confirm they had drunk for 1600 €, not 1600: Rayas 2001, Marcoux vieilles vignes 2001, Amarone della Valpolicella Bussola, Marcassin, Ridge, Kistel, etc… In London, I think you would pay 3-4000 for this because we know Monvinic is one of the cheapest wine restaurant in the world!
    We apologize, but only for this!
    We confirm that the bill was payed by Sergi Ferrer-Salat (MonVinic’owner) and Quim Vila (Wine merchant in Barcelona); these two men didn’t decide to pay, our contact says it’s not their style, they just didn’t have choice!
    For the helicopter trip, we confirm and we have video and photo.

  18. Jamie, the info about the bill is wrong. We spoke with Mon Vinic today: the amount did not exceed 1200 euros and it was paid by Sergi, Quim, David Martinez and Pancho who also paid for Jay. The helicopter video is in Facebook. I spoke to Incavi, which is a Government office for the Catalonian wine industry and they confirmed the story because they coordinated the encounter at Mon Vinic with winemakers. They also confirmed that absolutelly all the expenses generated by Jay’s visit were paid in full by The Wine Academy in behalf of Parker. Apparently, Pancho has been using the same helicopter in various ocassions for recording a TV series about Spanish wines. As far as Epicrates, apart from acting under anonimity, it is clear in their Facebook that there is something personal against Parker and his gang. Just trying to help and add some light because I believe that tris time the comments against have been unfair.

  19. Tomas, are you saying that The Wine Academy organises all of Jay Miller’s Spanish trips? Do wineries pay to have access to him, or does The Wine Academy just recommend its favourite wineries and invite them along/organise visits for free? Clarity needed here, because Jay (through Parker) wields a lot of power in Spain. What does The Wine Academy get out it as an intermediary?

  20. Tim, As far as I know, The Wine Academy handles only flight arrangements, hotel reservations, transportation, translation for Jay, car rental, etc. Sourcing of the wines to be tasted was done by Incavi, by express demand of Pancho, I must say, in a very profesional and transparent way. I am aware of this because official letters were sent out by Incavi to every winery in Catalonia. No one has ever paid a penny, that I can confirm. No consejo regulador and no winery has been ever asked to pay anything. Pancho is also an MW and I believe you know each other, why dont you phone him?. All MWs must have access to each other, no?

  21. Tomas, please!
    The amont in Monvinic was 1600 € wich is a fantastic bill in this unexpensive place; do you want us to repeat the wine list? By the way why did Pancho Campo suppressed the pictures of the bottles (Rayas, Marcoux, amarone, etc…) on FaceBook? Who payed the bill for Jay AND Pancho? Do you know Robert Parker’s ethic rules?
    About the helicopter, it’s written by Pancho Campo on his Facebook’s wall (we have a picture…):
    “Rene Barbier y Christopher Cannan nos invitaron hoy a visitar a los viñedos de Priorat y Montsant en helicóptero, vaya experiencia.
    Rene Barbier Christopher Cannan invited us to visit the vineyards of Priorat and Montsant in a helicopter. Amazing experience.”

  22. The great thing about the internet: with all these contributions we begin to get a clearer picture. Pancho has deleted his angry post, which is a good thing – he presumably has decided that it was too broad an attack, and that there are some good bloggers out there.

    In the quest for the truth, we need to remember to be nice to each other, and, as much as possible, to think the best of people – until the evidence is so clear that we cannot think otherwise.

  23. On behalf of Monvínic, we would like to clarify the misunderstanding that occurred in relation to the dinner held by Jay Miller on January 17th in Monvínic. The dinner cost €1,215.80 and the bill was paid by 4 people: Sergi Ferrer-Salat, Pancho Campo, Quim Vila and David Martínez, enologist. If you want a copy of the invoice, do not hesitate to contact us. We regret that this dinner led to some misleading comments – we can assure you that we do not know the source of this information. Sincerely, the Monvínic team.

  24. Jamie,

    I’ve just had Monvinic actually write a comment on my blog stating the actual bar bill was €1,215.80 – whether this includes VAT or service charge or is the total, they didn’t say but I think we can assume it is correct!


    Who is the ‘we’ you refer to? In my experience, when you phone up a restaurant and ask what someone else paid for dinner a few nights ago, the head waiter tells you where to stick your enquiry. The same is true of asking Tim to simply call up Pancho – why doesn’t Pancho simply call up Jim Budd, answer all his questions, and set the record straight? This, also, would be very simple, would it not?

    But, I’ll agree with Jamie, as this is his domain, that we should think the best of each other. Therefore, if indeed all of this is above-board, unquestionably professional and totally undeserving of any untoward comment, why remove the video from YouTube, why did Pancho send out his Twitter post?

    If this is all a big mistake by us bloggers – as you imply – there is only one deduction: that it was a highly elaborate practical joke, that Pancho planned to take the video down to make it look like he was hiding something and the Tweet he posted was only an addition to the elaborate ruse. Personally, while angry that people with supposedly greater standing than I choose to mock me (with the additional knife-in-the-wound that I am called poor, uninfluential, totally frustrated, etc.), I commend Pancho Campo MW for such an elaborate telling-off.

    Nonetheless, if this is indeed the case, I think the likes of Jamie and myself are owed an apology.

    You can’t win, can you? ;¬)


  25. “Beaucoup de bruit pour rien”.

    It is quite funny to see such a buzz for something which is usual, though maybe not at the same level while nobody is discussing the factthat, for the “primeurs” in Bordeaux, more and more producers want the journalists to come to the Châteaux and so, they put a score which is too often, biaised by the reputation of the cru.
    It is so obvious that when the wines are tasted blind, it will bring different results.
    So, safely this year, as in the past years, I cangiveyou the scores of all the first (not lower than 95) and you may go on that way for all the classified.
    This is a real problem to be discussed since some châteaux at UGCB are still playing the “blind” system inside the crus of their own appellation.
    Jay Miller (I do not know the Man) knows perfectly that his reputation as well as the value of his scores are linked to what he will write.

  26. Jamie,

    Based upon the post by the restaurant, it is clear and evident that the Wine Advocate did not pay for that meal, in any manner whatsoever.

    While, I appreciate that you show both sides of this story, your rush to judgement, by deleting your initial post, shows that you have trusted everything that Pancho has told you.

    Well, he just lied, according to the restaurant.

    In addition, here is a video clip, at the 3 minute mark, Pancho tells all of us (in Spanish) that he and Jay have all of their lunches and dinners at wineries, to save time.

    Is the WA paying for all of these meals?

    You are correct, I also do not have a problem with free meals, free helicopter rides, free trips, etc. I have a problem with nondisclosure of these items. This type of “covering up” has been going on for years now. Enough is enough. As you say, the WA and their point of view, is important for Spain. But how they get to that point of view and opinion ought to be disclosed, or at the very least, not lied about!

    I hope you reconsider your initial post.

  27. @ MONVINIC: what we want to see is not the invoice but the payment…
    Of course, we have to trust you, OK for the amount, why not?
    It’s funny: you’re Spanish, so you protect the spanish Pancho Campo when you tell us that he payed for this invoice. But Dr Pancho doesn’t need any protection, he never said anything about ethic rules… In addition, we know his philosophy: “money, influence, reputation, etc…”
    You protect Pancho Campo, by the the way, you confirm officially (if you are Monvinic) that Jay Miller didn’t pays for this dinner, that he offended against Parker’s ethic rules.
    Thank you.
    PS: hope we’ll can visit your place who looks fantastic, with incredible prices; we know Jay always choose the best, if he went there, perhaps it’s because you’ve surpassed El Bulli an Can Roca.

  28. Jamie, with all due respect, your behavior, what with deletions, editing the posts of others and repeatedly noting for us what a great guy Campo is after deleting his diatribe against bloggers, is disingenuous at best, and frankly, it smells of retraction and redaction of someone who has been threatened with legal action by somebody who has the reputation for same. In the grand scheme of the wine world, Campo is nobody (except perhaps personal wine consultant to Julio Iglesias). Regardless of where one stands on all of this, there are serious ethical questions raised by the behavior in question, and ethics does not hinge upon the size of a restaurant bill, as you suggest above. If I tell you that NO expenses were borne by the Wine Advocate (based upon nothing, by the way), will you be just as quick to believe me?

  29. Daniel, he’s born in Santiago, Chile, but we think he’s spanich; he says himself that he’s “the first spanish MW”.

  30. Jim Budd

    I, for one, appreciate your candor with that situation. I recall reading your articles, with great interest, at that time.

    Maybe Pancho will tweet the 2003 story, for all of us!

  31. Bill, I realise this seems to be a bit messy – I went out on a limb to make the original post and was genuinely concerned about the risks, but felt that some attention needed to be drawn to this issue. Since posting the original article, things have become clearer – the edits were to do with quoted restaurant bills that were 10 times higher than the actual bill – I felt it better to remove these wrong figures. I didn’t do this lightly.
    I think the issue began to take a life of its own, and after speaking to Pancho my call was that in this case, he was being hard done by, as was Jay. There are still unanswered questions, but I want to be fair.

  32. Totally irrelevant, but when did Pancho Campo move to Spain? It appears that he did his schooling and Central and South America. So how is he Spanish? versus Chilean?

    Totally relevant, Jamie thanks for responding to Bill, but I still find it astonishing that you can believe what Pancho Campo has told you about this situation. You are right, there are many unanswered questions, but by deleting the questions, you end up harboring a criminal. Pardon the pun, Pancho!

    I hope you continue to ask the questions that need to be asked, until honest answers come out.

    I, for one, would love to know the lineup of wines that were consumed on that evening. Thus far, Rayas, Marcassin, Ridge, Kistler and a few others have been mentioned. Is it possible that the bill should have been much higher, but the restaurant comped many btls, hence the reason for the confusion on the cost of the bill?

    In the end, 1600 or 16000, that is just a red herring argument.

  33. I guess this one ended for Jaime.

    Point of information, you mention, to Bill, that you deleted the misquote on the restaurant tab, however, to me, the whole post is deleted.

    Is my computer seeing something different?

    If a free meal is 1600 euros or 16000 euros, it is still a free meal, right?

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