Hey, ho! Please let Pancho go! ~ Time for some wine drinking. | Catavino
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Hey, ho! Please let Pancho go! ~ Time for some wine drinking.

Despite our continued posting, we still plan on closing Catavino. Gabriella and I are finished here, onto bigger and better things, but strangely, we can’t stop just yet. I have a few more things to get off my chest, and after my recent post on the Pancho affair; I know I need to do it sooner than later. I’m overwhelmed by the response to my last post, and maybe this blogging thing could pay off if we could pump out a post like that more often.

The truth is though, I don’t want too.

I love wine. Actually I love flavors. Wine, beer, booze, food, foams, gels, confits and stacked culinary creations of unknown heights. I love it. If it tastes good and passes through my mouth, I like it. If it’s weird, or unusual, I probably will love it. This is why we started Catavino, and ironically, this is why we ended it. We want to move onto covering more about things we eat, and drink outside Iberia, our adopted home.

I’m saying this now, because I think some of the people reading this should consider moving back to the topic of wine too. As I said, I personally do not want to write posts like I did yesterday very often.

I have no love for Pancho Campo. Our relationship has been a mixed affair; of myself begrudgingly accepting an opportunity that I thought could lead to better exposure for my own brand. Wine Future 1 was great, and I thank Pancho for the opportunity to be there, and for being given a voice. It helped me immensely but that does not mean that I have to like the guy who organized it, just respect what he did. Nor do I need to love the event as a whole. Wine Future is stuck in the past. It claims to predict the future by inviting pillars of the industry that point out what is wrong with the present, while lamenting the past. Asia may be the future of wine consumption, but it is not wine’s future.

In addition, despite great networking opportunities, I don’t think the event helped the industry as a whole. There weren’t many groundbreaking theories or thoughts beyond the ability to cram so many egos into such a small stage all at one time, myself included – an effort Pancho should be commended for. It made great photos and fodder for us all to riff on. But most importantly, Wine Future wasn’t good for Spain.

It is true that Pancho’s Spanish Wine Academy has done a lot to spread the good word about Spanish wine, but at what cost?  Pancho has consistently brought the shadow of scandal, something that no innocent man has ever had to deal with as much as he has. Spain has put a lot of money in Pancho’s pocket, and what’s amazing is not Pancho’s ability to extract it, so much as Spain’s willingness to let it go!

That said I don’t want to beat up Pancho either. My post yesterday was not about picking on Pancho. I realize there was some snark, and I’m not apologizing for that, but I am getting sick of hearing all this “Pancho did this…” and “Pancho did that…” commentary on the blogosphere. LAY OFF! Pancho did NOTHING ILLEGAL (or so I believe, I am not a lawyer here). Yesterday was my attempt to say that the industry has a problem as a whole.  I do believe he corrupted the ethics of the Wine Advocate, a magazine that I have held a lot of respect for, and for this I think Pancho should get a firm wag of the finger, but he did nothing illegal. Between you and I, I think that the order of importance of things in Pancho’s life goes something like this: Pancho, Family, Money, Ferraris, Skiing, Jet Skiing and Wine. But that is not a crime. Wine pays the bills so the rest can be enjoyed.

So what?

The real issue we need to talk about is a simple one. How can we continue support a wine industry that allows for a Pancho to be born? Why do we continue to give SO MUCH POWER TO SO FEW PEOPLE? Why do we continually make lists of the best wines, and the “highest” rated wines, and allow these opportunities for corruption to enter into our special world? Idolatry did nothing for the wandering Jews, and it’s definitely failing the curious wine drinker. This problem is not unique to the wine industry, but I believe in the wine world we might as well try our best to fix it.

Wine is for drinking. It’s really not that important in the grand scheme of things. High alcohol wines, are not going to bring Armageddon, nor will over-oaking kill small children. Sure we like to debate these things, and claim that the “industry is being threatened by x, y, or z”, but the industry is only being threatened by people who think that wine tastes are OBJECTIVE and quantifiable. That there is a right wine and a wrong wine. By allowing people like Parker to have so much power, we create people like Pancho who want to harness their influence for their own gain; thus leaving us angry when someone finally figures out how to make money in this industry! Pancho is not the first nor the last to sell points to someone/region/winery. Nor is he the only one taking advantage of the wine industry.

Pancho has made a killing on Spain. We shouldn’t be shaming Pancho however, as I tried to point out in my last post, we need to be shaming Spain. Spain handed over the money, taking what they hoped would be the easy way out. Valencia, I ask you,  why pay 35,000 euros for three days of Pancho and Jay? Really? Give me 35, 000 euros and I’ll give you 1 year’s worth of original engaging content on your wines, foods, and culture, all freely yours to distribute and use. I’ll also throw in a seminar for your wineries on how to set up Google alerts and other mysteries of the web; and then I’ll invite over a few importers who actually buy wines and don’t just spit and score. They actually buy wines! You might even make your money back!

Look, I’m not trying to be snarky. Oh wait, I am. Jim Budd, I like you, but seriously get over Pancho. I think your wife might be missing you; the affair has lasted too long. You exposed something corrupt, and great, we’re all looking now, but please go back to being a wine writer! Snide comments about him only undermines your efforts at good investigative journalism. I and many others than you for your efforts. To everyone else, myself included, I say move on and create a voice that will change the industry, rather than pointing fingers at the ones who you think are doing it wrong. Make a difference. Don’t make excuses. Show us wine’s future. Offer solutions, don’t just cry sour grapes!

Oh and Robert, Mr. Parker, Bob. I really like you. You are the reason I am in wine. You made me fall in love and now I’m in it for life. You’ve taught me so much that I feel I need to return the favor by saying, WAKE UP. Criticism does not mean that the person criticizing you necessarily is wrong, or bad, or a blobber! It means they might have a point, so at least listen. Grow a thick skin and realize you are not better then the people who read your magazines, or more moral than the bloggers who hope to one day have a voice of their own.

Engage. I love what you did for the wine industry. You changed it, but today your points at times corrupt the industry. You are smart enough to see this, even though you claim that people give your points too much credit. It might be that you haven’t given them enough yourself.  Speak honestly about the trouble points have created in the wine industry. We are not going to get rid of them, they are part of the wine industry love them or not, but help us to work through our addiction to them. Teach us to use this force wisely. We don’t need a Ralph Nader of wine anymore, what we need is a wine lover who shares our passion and their knowledge. That should be you. You should help us to be better as an industry.

Finally you, and now the rest of the world can see Pancho has corrupted your ethics policy. No one thinks he didn’t. Move on. Don’t try to make excuses, just admit this mistake, you are human after all. We love to forgive mistakes, not snide dismissals. We want to be your advocate.

So I guess I just want to say in the end. Can we all get back to drinking wine? There were no laws broken. So what if the magazine we all like to make fun of just got caught with a bit of pie on their face(or was the pommace?). Shit happens. The only ones with their panties in a bunch are a whole lot of wine journos’ who, myself included, are a bit jealous that an outsider walked into our closed garden and sucked out a ****load of money from it. Spanish wine still is suffering from a lack of support. Let’s work as a group to show them the light, a new way, a new future; hopefully without pay for points deals happening seedy back alleys.

Ok, I’m going to open something red, or maybe white, but definitely wet; and the only point I’m going to attach to it is the end of a corkscrew.



PS: Jim, before you comment, I know that Pancho has alleged crimes in Dubai, which may or may not be criminal. I really don’t care. When I say no laws were broken in the post, I mean within the wine industry. Which, and correct me if I’m wrong, they were not. Oh and we’re definitely getting together the next time I’m in London! 🙂

  • Juan Carlos Chávez Fernández

    Ryan, I agree with your point of view about Mr.Parker, and Mr.Campo. But may say that I consider that things will not change, nor in Spain, nor in USA, nor in México, people like them unfortunately will still continue to act unmoraly, gain money, and spoil other people’s opinion of certain wines.
    Let’s look the other way, let’s avoid their point of view, let’s enjoy and trust our senses…
    ¡ Viva el vino !

  • Ryan, to start positively, once you get there I just love your plea to Parker – if only he would listen, but bloggers, apart from ‘some bloggers’ are off his radar it seems. Not sure how much he cares, he is looking forward to retirement, it seems.

    As to Jim, well I don’t agree with you that he should lay off, Jim is doing what he does in his own style, in his niche (or one of them) that he has created for himself. We bloggers/writers need niches, remember? Who are you to tell him to stop?

    I realize why YOU feel the need to write your previous post and this one, because this issue is taking place bang slap in the middle of what has been ’till now your specialist area. But what I think is becoming tedious is not Jim’s posts on the Miller/Parker/Campo affair but the fact that so many other bloggers seem to feel the need to get on the bandwaggon. I’m not takling about comments on Jim’s post (which are fine and useful) but of bloggers/journos writing their own posts/articles on the subject, with only a couple of them offering any new material – the others are simply recycling in other words. These are the ones who should get back to tasting, drinking and writing about wines and return to their own niches, or to creating one if they haven’t got one.

    • Jim is in his niche, it’s just at this point I feel like he’s poking for the sake of poking. Not really doing much to move the conversation on. Snarky posts like the “iphone suing” were just silly, and seem to be more to egg on Pancho than to get to the bottom of the scandal. 

      I really like Jim, as you know, and I’m only trying to point out that it might be good to  at least tone down the snark in “investigative” pieces. 

      As for Parker, a guy can dream. I doubt he cares, but I had to say it. Silly me. 

    • “But what I think is becoming tedious is not Jim’s posts on the
      Miller/Parker/Campo affair but the fact that so many other bloggers seem
      to feel the need to get on the bandwaggon. I’m not takling about
      comments on Jim’s post (which are fine and useful) but of
      bloggers/journos writing their own posts/articles on the subject, with
      only a couple of them offering any new material – the others are simply
      recycling in other words.” Wink Lorch

      Dear Wink, Have you ever been threatened with a lawsuit by Pancho Campo?  Both Jim Budd and I have. So have some writers in Spain. Perhaps both you and Ryan can understand why Jim nor I reluctant to stop commented on the issue at hand.

      • Being short of time and not a specialist on Spain I haven’t read what you’ve written on PC, Gerry. But I have read what Jim has written and as I said very clearly, I want him to continue down the track he is going. Personally I do not usually write on contentious, or at least potentially libelous issues, and have never written anything about the PC issue nor do I intend to, I prefer to leave this to more qualified people who are working on finding the real issues and facts.

        • Wink. I will put myself voluntarily in the category of those who wrote about the story only recycling the info Jim, Vincent and Harold found out and published. And I am glad I did because at one time it seemed virtually nobody wanted to write about it – certainly not any of the writers who had been invited by Mr Campo in Hong Kong, so I thought it might be useful to spread the word, at least in the French language. Anyway, I had no clue where to find direct sources of info – real info, not rumours.
          But I agree with your point, some of us, journo’s or bloggers alike, are better at investigating than others.

          On last thing; the kind of blog I like to read and the kind of blog I’m trying to do must be varied in its contents; one cannot only publish tasting notes or winery reviews, or scandal stories, or business stories, but a little bit of every thing. A blog is a log, a sort of diary, so anything can make a nice post, be it serious, be it comical – Ryan cited Jim’s post about Campo’s IPhone. I loved it, personally, and it’s the kind of things I write at times, a bit nonsensical, but often with a small part of truth. Like this, for instance:
          (Don’t feel compelled to have a look)

          Anyway, I really appreciate this world of blogging which allows us to share thoughts, feelings, and I feel privileged to have met you all, Jim,  Wink and Ryan. We all gain in the exchanges, the brainstorming. Now I think I could not do without as a wine journalist.

          • I like you too Hervé! 🙂

            The point about Jim’s article, is not that I don’t like it. But it seems to give Jim a bias that thus hurts, in my opinion, how his investigative pieces are perceived. THus I think it hurts the “investigaion”

  • Finally a voice of reason. Thank you!

  • I love your sight of things. And when a young winemaker asks me if there’s something to pay for being mentioned on my not really big and important site then I know that the wrong system is all around!

  • Evan Dawson

    I love you, Ry, but I’m not fully on board here. First of all, what we need more than anything is thorough investigation of every angle of this. That’s the only way we’ll know what has actually occurred. Do I agree that people should wait before judging? Yes. Do I think there is enough evidence out there already to form some opinion? Yes. Do I think this is an important matter? Vital, in fact. It has elements of everything that is wrong with wine criticism today. If you’re tired of reading about it, you have the luxury of reading something else, right? Parker himself has said we need more investigation. We need facts. And if it’s uncomfortable for Pancho or others, too bad.

    Also, I realize you hyperbolized for effect, but no one is saying that high alcohol or over-oaked wines are the harbinger of doom. However, the consistent criticism of these common practices has led to reevaluation from winemakers and growers. I don’t have any problem with people who are tough on that style of wine, just as a writer has a right to attack what they perceive to be “thin” wines. The net effect is a kind of counter-cultural movement, if slowly. I welcome it.

    Finally, I think it’s clear that you’re not ready to retire, nor are we ready for you to retire…

    • Thank you Evan for your response! I see what your saying, and I agree when there is “evidence” or an actual story to report, please Jim, go for it! But when it comes to poking at Pancho for the fun of it, like this: http://jimsloire.blogspot.com/2011/12/breaking-news-pancho-campo-to-sue.html Well I think we can agree to let those go. Really I do believe Pancho’s wine career is winding down though, and I would love to see some smart posts written about the cause of  the issue and not only about one person who is taking advantage of loopholes in the system. Why not look at what can be done to change the issues that underly Panchos opportunism. In the real world what Pancho did, did not affect many wine consumers. Maybe some wineries pocket books, but not much else. 

      As for the winemaking. I say this only because we think that wine is so vital to life that these things should be our obsession. I think we need to realize that wine is for drinking. I know you do. While it’s fine to talk about this, I do feel that we tend to obsess a bit too much about it at times. 

      As for blogging, I’m not going anywhere. Catavino may end, but I have a lot of locations to blog from. 
      Thank you again. 

  • Great column, Ryan, with some great points, not all of which I agree with, but some of your observations are brilliant. 

    As Wink Lorch’s comment that some bloggers are merely re-cycling the works of others, I don’t think it has occurred to WL that maybe some of these bloggers are trading information with each other behind the scenes and some of what has appeared has been a communal effort to ferret out the truth. 

    Your points, Ryan, about what Campo has done not be illegal may be correct, but according to the tenants laid down by Robert Parker in The Wine Advocate, it appears that a slew of his canons for himself and his writers have been broken and, thus, the prestige of The Wine Advocate has been diminished.

    And it certainly appears that the prestige of Robert Parker and The Wine Advocate were being traded on for personal gain and that Robert Parker let the situation go on for far too long. 

    Pardon me, if I tell you that after 40 years of running the wine roads of Spain, like you seem to insinuate about yourself, I resent people who have never been to Navarra nor to a Navarran winery showing up and charging outlandish fees to pontificate knowledgeably about Spanish wines.  Not a crime for sure, but climbing the heights of monumental bullshit. 

    Then again, an organization that pays that kind of money for what they must have thought was buying access, makes one stop to think, who really profited from this dog and pony show?  And who beyond Campo and Jay Miller (now being categorized as a “freelancer” was responsible for sucking 100,000 Euros out of the local economy to put on such a wine tasting?

    As to quitting this to go drink some wine, I think that most of us can go drink some wine anytime.  Ah, Hell, why fight the low-down political situation in the United States when I can quit that and just go off and drink some wine?  A tu salud!!

    • Just to put the record straight, it’s not only occurred to me, Gerry, but I know that Jim Budd acknowledges the ongoing help of Spanish based journalist Harold Heckle in getting to the bottom of this story, and that the original incriminating email was brought to light on Facebook by Frenchman Vincent Pousson. Since then there have been a couple of excellent posts digging deeper into the story from US-based bloggers.

      Jim is well respected and you are right that there is a communal effort behind the scenes. In my comment I said “the others are simply recycling ….” This was my little effort to applaud some of what Ryan wrote – I think too that some bloggers should stick to what they are good at, writing about wine, leaving those who are skilled in investigative journalism to do just that!

  • “High alcohol wines, are not going to bring Armageddon, nor will over-oaking kill small children.” Ryan Opaz

    That depends what the person with his finger on the nuke button has been used to drinking when he decides to push it.  Types that favor 12% – 12.5% wines are less likely to push the button than those who believe table wines are should be 14.5% – 16% to go with their “macho’ egos.

    As to over-oaking not killing small children, a friend and I were going to make a present of a rocking cradle made out of a new oak barrel to a Ribera del Duero winemaker, whose wife was about to give birth, but we abandoned the idea because we decided that the new oak my be harmful to the kid’s health!!

  • ‘Oh wait, I am. Jim Budd, I like you, but seriously get over Pancho. I
    think your wife might be missing you; the affair has lasted too long.’

    Ryan. As it happens I’m in London, while my partner is at present in the highlands of Scotand with no electricity along with her 87 year old mother. They have three candles for light and no immediate prospect that the electircity will be back on anytime soon due to the severe storms. She had travelled up yesterday to be present at a family funeral. 

  • frank Haddad

    Good comments, now lets all have a glass or two of Spanish white

  • Todd (Benito Santos)

    I have to say, your comments are quite brilliant. i hope you dont close this blog as it is my first exposure to it. I hope your newer and bigger things help us out in spain. and to all Drink a glass of white wine. As the only american making wine in spain, i hope you all realize what a sceene the people have made over the affair and i hope our sales in spain are not destroyed. thanks for you blog and i hope you continue.

  • Great post, Ryan, I know exactly how you feel about getting stuff off your chest! I had to do the same thing a few weeks ago when I just “had to” write a mega-post on natural wine on my blog. Now I can get on with it, ie with producing wine (and with drinking and enjoying it too of course!).
    I think I agree with your view of the the wine world in Spain and of Spanish wines, ie that there are a lot of great and good and interesting wines out there, and that the best way to promote them WOULD BE for wineries to work together for their mutual benefit. But I’m afraid I’m more pessimistic about that actually happening.
    I don’t think that Mr PC has done the Spanish wine world any good with his doings, just tarnished whatever reputation it had a bit more. I hope that he moves on to another sector, and that people like yourself can come up with different and better ideas on how to value Spanish wines to everyone’s mutual benefit.
    Maybe some good will come out of this affair, who knows?

  • From a winery’s point of view, I think Jim Budd has done us all a great service in his untiring  investigative work into this whole untasteful affair.  A task with more risks than obvious rewards, that many would have shirked from. 

    It’s rare to meet a wine journalist who is not living on a shoestring budget, and needs to find help to finance their traveling expenditures, which they often can do through generic wine marketing bodies like ViniPortugal, or one of the Regional Wine Associations, like our Alentejan CVRA, or even sometimes from larger, well healed  wineries themselves. What most obviously keeps a lot of these journalists going is a great amount of passion for their jobs, as the financial rewards must be more modest. 

    What we as a small winery fear most, as do the generic wine bodies like VIniPortugal, is this to change, and being asked to fork out hefty sums as ‘fees’ to these same journalists, something we have personally, been spared so
    far.  With thanks to the good work and perserverance of the Jim Budds out there, we hope that a lid can be kept on this sort of greed. 

    Re. Parker, Wine Spectator, WIne Enthusiast points etc, no matter how much some people disdain them, there is just no getting around the fact that they are a useful marketing tool for wineries and wine distributors globally –  something that can easily be communicated across borders and language barriers, where marketing one’s brands and wine education is very complex for a winery with limited resources. 

    Jim, I do hope you enjoy your glass of wine at the end of the day, but do, please do, keep up your good work! 

  • ‘Jim, I do hope you enjoy your glass of wine at the end of the day, but do, please do, keep up your good work! ‘

    Carrie and others thank you for your support and please be assured that I do always enjoy a glass or so of wine at the end of the day. For the moment the story continues to envolve.