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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


American Tom Perry, a Long-time Veteran Wineman Living in La Rioja, Weighs in on the Pancho Campo-Jay Miller-Robert M. Parker, Jr. The Wine Advocate Fiasco

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Tom Perry, long-time Rioja veterand and author of the blog Inside Rioja.  Haro, La Rioja, June 6, 2011.  
Photo by Gerry Dawes, copyright 2011/

Don Geraldo (my nickname),

(Tom Perry) The email below, the first as far as I know from a winery concerning this mess, has moved me to respond.

"As you know, I've been in the wine business in Spain for 37 years as export director of three wineries (two in Rioja and one operating in several regions) as well  the person responsible for international PR for Rioja for 14 years. So I humbly think I know what I'm talking about."

Antonio David* says (in a post today, Sunday, Dec. 11, 2011 on Mike Steinberger's Wine Diarist):

"We as winemakers, winery owners, vintners, enologists need a voice to be heard and Pancho provided us all with paid access to Mr. Miller. He said, they said, we said doesn’t matter, it is our bottom line and that is why we paid access to Mr. Miller.

My wine is not yet rated and not imported into the US. If I don’t secure some way of having the Big US Critics to discover my wines and write about them, I will never export. 

The amount of money we all paid Campo was obscene, but what choice do we have? None. "

(The rest of Antonio David's post on The Wine Diarist, here in parenthesis, was not in Tom Perry's e-mail to me, but I reproduce it here in its entirety:

"The amount of money we all paid Campo was obscene, but what choice do we have? None.

Questions on the expenses and how the money was spent?

We were told a large portion of the money went to Pancho for arranging the trip, airlines, transfers, hotels, meals, video, and publication in The Wine Academy of Spain portals.

I hope Mr Campo gets run out of Spain as he is nothing more than a vagabond. While I struggle to pay for my tractor repairs, Pancho if flaunting around in his Ferrari, having lavish 50th birthday & anniversary parties in Marbella (all on the social media to see), and acting like a jet set multimillionaire. Fuera Pancho Fuera!

He has no shame and no place among the good people of Spain. Any winery supporting him now are only doing so because they are holding on to a thread of hope that he still has some tricks up his sleeves to sell them.

Gracias for letting me speak, Antonio David"

(*GD: In fairness, as yet the full identity of "Antonio David" has not been verified.

(Tom Perry) "Yes, Antonio, you have a choice.

If you decide to follow the 'point path' and belong to a denominación de origen, your DO should have contacted Miller and offered to put the wines from the DO at his disposal in a tasting at the Regulatory Council without the presence of a middleman such as Pancho Campo, whose role, from what I can see, has been to make the whole process enormously expensive and has cast doubt on the impartiality of the whole process.

If you have read Elin McCoy's book about Parker, The Emperor of Wine, you will have no doubt read how, before his international success,  RP would fly across the pond, rent a car, pay for his own hotel and visit wineries. He thought that this was taking the correct ethical path.

Today, the Wine Spectator, the New York Times and a host of other publications insist on paying their own way to wine regions and wineries so as not to compromise their impartiality.

In the course of my PR experience with journalists, most freelancers do accept having their travel and hotels paid for but there was always an understanding that this in no way would color their reports and tasting notes.  Believe me, Rioja received its share of negative publicity from these trips.

Getting back to the Wine Advocate, RP has stated on anumber of occasions that his tasting team has to adhere to the highest ethical standards.  This seems to preclude the use of middlemen.

We have to get back to basics, staring with ethics.

Spain is not a hard place to visit.  You book your flights and a hotel, rent a car, get a map and go.  Today with the appellations of origin and winery associations it's easy to send an email requesting wines to taste.  You sit in a tasting room and work your way through 100, 200 or 1000 wines.  No winery people around.

An alternative is for the DO to organize visits to wineries.  But no financially motivated middlemen promising, for example, a seminar about the US market as an excuse to generate expenses to a group of wineries that hope their presence will call attention to their wines.  Everyone should get an equal chance to have their wines tasted.

I remember once I (in my PR capacity) insisted that all the wines be tasted blind to avoid label bias.  As a result, some very good but hitherto unknown wines were highly rated.

That's what we would do in Rioja when someone wanted to do a comprehensive tasting of Rioja (ask John Radford). 

The other choice (aka 'the hard way') is to tell your story passionately to everyone who will listen (for example López de Heredia here whose wines can hardly be called 'Parkerized'). You have the internet and a huge number of consumer forums that in my way of thinking, are the way of the future. But you have to work hard.

Winemaking is all about passion that you transmit to your customers.

I guess the bottom line for me is that we have become lazy instead of working hard to develop distribution and a consumer following.

Gerry, I don't mind if you send this out and get me publicly involved.  It's what I believe.

Un abrazo,Tom"

Thomas Perry
Inside Rioja
General Vara de Rey, 77-1ºD
26002 Logroño (Spain)
+34 639 70 09 14

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