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36. Gerry Dawes's Spain: An Insider's Guide to Spanish Food, Wine, Culture and Travel

"My good friend Gerry Dawes, the unbridled Spanish food and wine enthusiast cum expert whose writing, photography, and countless crisscrossings of the peninsula have done the most to introduce Americans—and especially American food professionals—to my country's culinary life. . .” - - Chef-restaurateur-humanitarian José Andrés, Nobel Peace Prize Nominee and Oscar Presenter 2019; Chef-partner of Mercado Little Spain at Hudson Yards, New York 2019


Update: Background to the Robert Parker-Pancho Campo-Jay Miller-Kevin Zraly Wine Futures Rioja Scandal 2009

* * * * *
by Gerry Dawes ©2009

First Published October 19, 2009

On Sept. 4th, 2009:, Decanter published Arrest warrant posted for Spanish Wine Academy director co-authored by investigative reporter, Jim Budd, and Decanter editor, Adam Lechmere. 

And on October 2, Decanter published Pancho Campo resigns to 'focus on clearing name', this time also signed by Adam Lechmere and Jim Budd:

"Pancho Campo MW has stepped down as director of the Wine Future Rioja conference next month and resigned as president of the Spanish Wine Academy.

Kevin Zraly of New York's Windows on the World wine school, and a highly respected wine critic and writer, has taken over as chair of the conference, at which Robert Parker, Jancis Robinson MW, and Decanter's consultant editor Steven Spurrier are due to appear.

Campo's brother-in-law Rony Bacqué will replace him as president of the academy.

The beleagured Campo has been embroiled in a complex battle with authorities in Dubai for the last few weeks, after a Madrid journalist came across a type of arrest warrant or 'location notice' for him on the Interpol website.

The warrant relates to a 2002 complaint brought by former business partner Jackie Wartanian to do with a fee paid to singer Enrique Iglesias. At the time Campo ran a sports and music promotion company in Dubai.

It now appears that in June 2003 in Dubai Campo was found guilty in absentia of breach of trust and given a one-year custodial sentence followed by deportation."

Jim Budd, on his Jim's Loire weblog, has detailed the chronology of the  Campo affair under Pancho Campo, MW: the essence.

Campo was pushed to resign as Director of WineFuture-Rioja 2009 because he is the subject of an Interpol arrest warrant and he said he "wanted to concentrate on clearing my name."  

Campo also resigned, on paper at least, as President of The Wine Academy in early October (See the Time Line on this case by Jim Budd, the Decanter magazine writer who finally broke the story with the help of  several contributors in Spain, in the U.S. and in the Caribbean).  Campo named his brother-in-law, Rony Bacqué, as President of The Wine Academy of Spain and his wife, Melissa, is still one of the directors.

On October 1, Kevin Zraly was named to succeed Pancho Campo, President of The Wine Academy of Spain, as "Technical Director" of WineFuture Rioja 2009 to be held in mid-November in Logroño (La Rioja), Spain.Many, including journalists, winemakers and political figures in La Rioja, believe that Kevin Zraly, who lives two hours northwest of New York City and does not speak Spanish, is un hombre de paja, "a straw man," or figurehead who will allow Pancho Campo to continue to direct the conference behind the scenes.

Campo's The Wine Academy of Spain is still the organizer of the event and still stands to profit from the revenues.  On the Wine Academy website, a statement says that WineFuture-Rioja 2009 is the propiedad (property) of The Wine Academy.  Some reports emanating from La Rioja place The Wine Academy's gross profit on the WineFuture Rioja 2009 conference at 1,000,000 Euros (approximately $1,500,000) and others have placed Robert Parker's fee for appearing at the conference at 100,000 Euros ($150,000).

The WineFuture-Rioja 2009 conference is being underwritten by the government of La Rioja--they are also providing the venue for the conference, Riojaforum, free-of-charge--and by several wineries and other entities, including the very recent addition of the government of Aragón as a sponsor.  The event is also very strongly supported by the Rioja Consejo Regulador (Regulatory Council), with whom Kevin Zraly's wife, Ana Fabiano, signed on earlier this year to promote Rioja wines in the United States.

And, notably, WineFuture-Rioja 2009 is also supported by a number of periodicals, specialized wine publications and websites, all of which to date have been silent (at least to the knowledge of several writers following this story) for almost two months about what has come to be known as "The Pancho Campo affair."

Aragón, the Spanish comunidad (group of provinces) neighboring La Rioja, who signed on as a sponsor after the Pancho Campo Interpol affair broke in Decanter magazine, seemingly stands to gain more than La Rioja from WineFutures-Rioja 2009. Aragón promotes its wine regions and its wines under as the "El Reino de La Garnacha" banner. Aragonés wines from Garnacha, a native Spanish grape, produces big, rich, soft, smooth wines, albeit with alcohol levels that seldom drop below 14.5% (and are often even more potent), wines which are known to be favored by Robert M. Parker, Jr. and Dr. Jay Miller of The Wine Advocate.

The reason that Aragón stands to benefit as much or more than La Rioja, the main underwriting region, is because the "cata magistral," the tasting with the maestro, at WineFuture-Rioja 2009 will be conducted by Robert Parker and was originally planned to include nothing but "Grenache-based" wines (Garnacha is a native Spanish grape and should always be referred to by its Spanish spelling).  Only five Spanish wines are included in this tasting, but
three of them come from Aragón and none of them from La Rioja, which is famous for its Tempranillo-based wines.  The rest of the wines announced for the tasting come from France, Australia or California.

After mounting pressure from local press and Rioja politicos, plus complaints from many Rioja wineries, shortly before he "resigned," Pancho Campo came up with the "surprise" addition of two Rioja wines, a 1945 historical wine from Marqués de Riscal, one of the conference sponsors, and, supposedly, a Contador 2007, neither of which contains Garnacha.

The Marqués de Riscal 1945, which contains 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Tempranillo, is one of the greatest wines ever made in all of Europe, but it is now 64 years old and certainly does not speak for the Rioja of today, in fact, many forces in Spain, including most of Madrid's wine press corps, have spent considerable ink trying to paint La Rioja's historical wines as dinosaurs.

The latest rumor about the Contador, a wine given 100 points by Parker's Spanish wine reviewer, Jay Miller, is that there is not enough of the 2007 remaining to serve at the tasting, so it will have to be replaced.  Contador, like two of the wines from Aragón, are wines that  Jorge Ordoñez, Robert Parker's most favored
Spanish importer,  brings into the United States. That makes the score in the Parker tasting:  Aragón 3, Jorge Ordoñez  3, La Rioja 2!

According to Campo, he had this "surprise" planned all along although he did not reveal his "little homage to La Rioja" until his ass was already in the big-time vise grip and "the surprise" was too little, too late. Campo, who then went on to describe has gesture as a "little homage" to Rioja benefactors infuriated many Riojanos, including politicians such as Miguel González de Legarra, spokesman for the minority Partido Riojano. González has written several long editorials recently denouncing the whole WineFuture-Rioja 2009 process and focusing in the fact that La Rioja is underwriting the conference, which is basically the Pancho Campo Wine Academy's own profit-generating business venture.

In one editorial, González wrote, (In spite of the Rioja wine powers-that-be contracting someone sought by Interpol to run the conference. . .) "Neverthless, I consider the programming of Wine Future Rioja 2009 the most scandalous, "an event that is paid for by Riojan grape growers and wineries," there has been no inclusion of the wines from the Rioja D.O."

"It was indicated that the main event of the congress is a tasting led by the renowned media guru, Robert Parker, that is dedicated to Garnacha, when Rioja wines are known for the Tempranillo variety, but they are going to taste 18 wines, of which only five are Spanish, all of the them from Cataluña y Aragón."

In the opinion of González, "the situation is a bloody farce," especially when one takes into consideration that "the Rioja Regulatory Council lied when they now say that they had always planned to have two Rioja wines" (both put belatedly into Parker's Garnacha tasting, where they are totally out of place). 

González continued, "The program has been finalized for months and until yesterday no one mentioned two Rioja wines, y besides, Tempranillos, which are not part of the tasting (of Garnachas), and are not comparable to the rest of the wines (in the tasting); they are jumping in and trying to fix what is not fixable, nor justifiable."

The Pancho Campo affair has created an ever widening whirlpool of crosscurrents involving high-powered wine interests in Spain and abroad, a number of well-placed Spanish wine and food figures, importers of Spanish wines to the United States on Robert Parker's most favored list; and politicians, not only in La Rioja, but in Sherry country as well, where Campo was selected to run the "noble" desserts and fortified wine fair, Vinoble, and an uproar  ensued that  brought the woman mayor of Jerez de la Frontera under fire  from opposing politicians and is still ongoing.

Even the King of Spain, Don Juan Carlos I, has been caught up in these swirling waters, since it has been reported that he was influenced by high-placed people known to have had business dealings with Pancho Campo to offer dinner to Robert Parker at his official residence, La Zarzuela Palace, just outside Madrid.  However according to Victor de la Serna, Deputy Director of the newspaper, El Mundo, in a post on the website's Sobremesa section, Parker is only receiving a "brief audience" on the afternoon of November 10, though there have been many reports of a lunch or a dinner.  On October 7, De la Serna wrote on the Sobremesa board, "
Ni hay ni nunca hubo cena de Parker con el Rey. (There is not, nor was there ever a Parker dinner with the King.)"

Some of these same "enchufados," the people wired into the Royal House of Spain, had a powwow  after they heard that Campo had resigned, and told Campo that he would not be permitted to attend the Parker audience (lunch/dinner?) with the King.  Some of the journalists investigating this story have it on good authority that at least one of the Campo cohorts with connections to the King of Spain has known about the Interpol arrest order for several months.

Add to this potent mix, the collusion of Spanish wine journalists* who  have been silent almost to the person, along with the attempted stifling of the independent press,  including reports of intimidation and suppression through veiled threats by Pancho Campo's lawyers and, from some reports,  offers of perks that could be interpreted (and were) by some specific sources as attempts at bribing them into silence.** This worked for awhile until a couple of  journalists in Spain, armed with overwhelming evidence, were finally able to file some stories, after nearly two months of being muzzled. (The journalists' jobs may be at risk in a game where money and the illusion of money overrules principle.)

*The list of 29 media outlets and organizations signed on to WineFuture-Rioja 2009 as "Media Partners" is revealing and explains why so little (almost nothing) has been written in the wine press about the Campo affair.  The list now totals 30 with the addition to The International Federation of Wine Journalists (IFWJ) and Associación Española de Periodistas del Vino (AEPEV), who just signed on (see below).

**On October 13, nearly two weeks after Pancho Campo “resigned” as Director of WineFuture-Rioja 2009, The International Federation of Wine Journalists and its Spanish Chapter, the Associación Española de Periodistas del Vino (Spanish Association of Wine Writers) gave their support and backing to the event, which is still being run by Campo’s Wine Academy. According to María Isabel Mijares, Vice President of IFWJ and President of AEPEV, “All members of this Association can attend this congress, enjoy the conferences and round tables that are offered on the program, as well as cover the event for their respective media outlets, thanks to a collaboration agreement that has been reached.”  Mijares, as an official in both these organizations, has confirmed her personal support and underscored that she will be attending WineFuture-Rioja 2009.

So, into this maelstrom steps Kevin Zraly and this is where Gerry Dawes and Gerry Dawes's Spain comes in, since the aforementioned "unnamed American journalist" warned by Pancho Campo's lawyer was me, Gerry Dawes*, writer of this blog; contributor for decades to numerous publications on Spanish wine, food and travel; and recipient of the Premio Nacional de Gastronómía Marqués de Busianos award for writing and lecturing about the quality of Spanish gastronomy over many years.

On August 31, 2009, this writer had an extensive phone call (see below) with Kevin Zraly, during which I forwarded a third-party e-mail (a scanned copy  is available) with information about the Pancho Campo case to Zraly. Two days later, on September 2, as described below, I received a phone call threatening various actions from someone saying he was Alfonso Martínez, Pancho Campo's lawyer. This was followed by an e-mail by Martínez to the same third party e-mail address requesting a meeting with me the following week in New York.  The Decanter article was published on Sept. 4.  So far, I  heard from nothing more from Martínez.

As with America's Watergate, the attempted cover-up may be worse than the crime, in this case the crime for which Pancho Campo is the perpetrator according to Interpol and from news reports in Dubai, Decanter magazine and other periodicals.  By attempting to silence journalists and by having his lawyer "warn" this writer, in particular, Campo's offenses against freedom of speech and the collusion of the Spanish press and of well-known wine and media figures, both Spanish and American, and  have become the real story in this ongoing saga.

But, for the sake of fairness, let me offer these ringing video endorsements--from Jancis Robinson, Robin Kelly O'Conner of Sherry Lehmann and Ana Fabiano, Kevin Zraly's wife and a contracted promoter of Rioja wines, and wine book author John Radford--
of Pancho Campo, his Wine Academy and the wines from wineries such as Gonzalez Byass (where Campo signing a barrel is a major video event, putting him in the same league as King Juan Carlos I, Orson Welles and Stephen Spielberg), Freixenet and the regions of Rioja, Rias Baixas, Jerez and Jumilla who support his efforts, plus a really quite glowing article about Kevin Zraly in The New York Times (the banner My Dubai Diary advertisement running next to the article on Zraly has nothing to do with him, but it has really quite a prescient, you-can't make-this-stuff-up irony to it.)

About the author

Gerry Dawes was awarded Spain's prestigious Premio Nacional de Gastronomía (National Gastronomy Award) in 2003. He writes and speaks frequently on Spanish wine and gastronomy and leads gastronomy, wine and cultural tours to Spain. He was a finalist for the 2001 James Beard Foundation's Journalism Award for Best Magazine Writing on Wine, won The Cava Institute's First Prize for Journalism for his article on cava in 2004, was awarded the CineGourLand prize in 2009 and received the Association of Food Journalists 2009 Second Prize for Best Food Feature in a Magazine for his Food Arts article, a retrospective piece about Catalan star chef, Ferran Adrià.

Experience Spain With Gerry Dawes: Culinary Trips to Spain & Travel Consulting on Spain

Gerry Dawes can be reached at; Alternate e-mail (use only if your e-mail to AOL is rejected):

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