Wednesday, 30 November 2011
Campogate: No Pay – No Jay
Adela Richer (left), Pancho Campo and Jay Miller (seated), Paulina Campo (back row, second left), Rony Bacqué (general manager of The Wine Academy of Spain) standing
(I’m greatly indebted to Harold Heckle, long established wine writer based in Madrid, for shedding further light on the non-visit to DO Vinos de Madrid. In particular it was his persistence that obtained copies of the explosive emails that form the basis of this co-authored post.)
Pancho Campo MW offered D.O. Vinos de Madrid what he called a cut-price deal of €20,000 for a two-day visit to the region by Jay Miller in July 2011. His special offer would have delivered Miller to the DO on 11th-12th July as the American wine writer and Campo returned from a tasting trip to Navarra. However, the small region set around Spain's capital city was so taken aback by the cost that it turned down the offer. In a bid to coax the deal to go through, Campo told Madrid such a short-notice visit ‘off the set agenda’ would normally cost more than €40,000, but that by a ‘miracle’ he had managed to persuade Miller ‘to stay 2 days more, and for half the usual price’.
The two tasters had been set to drive southwest from Navarra, a region that has for decades strived to emulate the success of neighbouring Rioja. It is reported that Navarra shelled out €100,000 for its visit, with Miller collecting a $15,000 fee for a single master class there.
In an email sent via his iPhone from Tuscany at 15.30 on Friday 3rd June to Adela Richer, commercial director of The Wine Academy of Spain and copied to Irene Llorente of Aprovin and Elena Arribas of D.O. Vinos de Madrid, Campo pressured them to close the deal:
‘Asunto: Re: CATA VINOS DE MADTRID POR JAY MILLER, CONFERENCIA, VISITA A BODEGAS Y CATA DE 8 VINOS ENTRE PANCHO CAMPO MW Y JAY MILLER
This is a unique opportunity for vinos de Madrid, seeing as how this DO is not in Parker's plans to be visited in either 2012 or 2013.
Private visits off the set agenda, as this would be, rarely take place, and not for a price below 40,000 euros. The fact that Jay has agreed to stay 2 days more, and for half the usual price, is a miracle and an opportunity that Madrid will find it difficult to have again.
We close our diary next Wednesday. I hope they reconsider, especially considering how difficult the market is for Spain and that any little push like this can help a lot.
A kiss from Tuscany.
The visit proposal, as Richer outlined in an earlier email on 3rd June to Llorente (Aprovin is an organization that provides for Madrid the equivalent of what Asevin does for Murcia) and Arribas, press representative for D.O. Vinos de Madrid, was as follows:
'Dear Irene and Elena,
After talking with Pancho and analyzing your proposition, and since he feels great affection, he wants to cooperate with you, he proposes this:
It would have to be just after Navarra and would last two days (July 11 and 12)
1. Visit to 3 or 4 wineries
2. Tasting and press conference as at Fenavin. They would only taste around 8 wines.
3. Tasting of wines that have a U.S. importer and which Jay has not previously scored. (A prerequisite for their appearance in the publication)
4, The wineries have to organize everything, tasting venue, invitations, tasting glasses, etc.
5. If they can't comply with all this, then Jay won't be able to do it until well into 2012
Cost € 20,000 plus VAT,
I think that it is well worth your effort, and seeing as how we are doing a tasting with Miller in Madrid ... Let's make it a big one.
Invite the whole sector, buyers, distributors, specialist stores, VIP consumers ... they love big tastings and on top of it, these two will involve the winemakers in the wine tasting ...
Let me know, I'm using all my influence with Pancho, let's see if the winemakers know how to take advantage of this unique opportunity.
I need to know something by Wednesday ... Miller has many commitments and proposals from all around the world, and we cannot block-book his diary more than 4 days.’
A kiss to the two of you
Richer was offering those Madrid bodegas that have American importers a chance to have their wines judged and rated by Miller, with the results to be published in The Wine Advocate. Thus, it seems clear that the impression being given was that this was to have been an official visit by Miller.
Llorente was not entirely bowled over by The Wine Academy of Spain's proposition. There are not many wineries in up-and-coming D.O. Vinos de Madrid that export to the USA, and even a cut-price deal of €23,600 struck her as expensive, particularly in these straitened times. Also some wines from the region have, thanks to their importer, already been assessed by Parker and are on sale in Madrid with labels announcing their Parker points. Llorente also pointed out that The Wine Academy of Spain’s proposal was not properly budgeted. Hence her rather guarded response late morning on 3rd June:
Thanks for dealing with the consultation I threw your way over the phone yesterday so quickly.
As I mentioned to you today as well, it all depends on the participation of wineries that export to the U.S. market, roughly 8 or 9 wineries from DO Vinos de Madrid. In turn, it also depends on whether PromoMadrid can approve such a budget, as they always help us when it comes to trying to internationalize the wineries of Madrid.
And regarding the budget that you have sent, I ask you to insert it into a proper document and that you break it down by concepts to show how you arrive at such a figure. I have to make a formal proposal to PromoMadrid and I cannot present it like this, in the rough. I'd appreciate it.
For my part, I am sending this now to exporting wineries to seek their answer as soon as possible, to meet your requirements for them to present their wines to Jay Miller.
Mid-afternoon the same day Richer made a further attempt to persuade Llorente of the benefits of paying for a visit from Miller before Campo turned the screw at 15.30 (see above).
‘Dear Irene, those of us who still have jobs, we must work well, like this!
Look, the comment you've made, that it may be too hasty, and that the July date may not be good, I think that for any winemaker who is interested in sticking his head in the American market, and to have the opportunity to share a day with Miller and Pancho, dates should not matter. If they're on vacation, all they'd have to do is come up to Madrid for one day and enjoy a nice and constructive tasting, a Conference-Colloquium given by two people who are tremendously influential in the sector nationally and internationally
It's a great opportunity that we're providing them with, and that, given the circumstances, they can benefit from. They can talk to Miller and Pancho, discuss their concerns, have them guide producers on how best to aim their wines, what taste trends are and how best to look for an importer ...
And, you know, the bus passes only once. In 2012 things could change and it could be that we may not even be able to taste Madrid wines.
I am convinced that this timing will be interesting for Jeromin, Valverde, Benito, Qbel (sic), La bodega del Presidente, Castejón, Tagonius and some others I leave off this list ... at least I consider them all good entrepreneurs.
July is a busy month, and also with the crisis on us even August would be a good month in which to host this tasting, don't you think?
Well, you've got the opportunity...
I hope you know how to take advantage of it
a hug and thanks for thinking of us
Commercial Director The Wine Academy
Despite Campo’s cut-price deal and ‘the miracle’ that Jay had agreed to stay two days more, and for 'half the usual price,' DO Vinos de Madrid turned down the offer. We understand that considerably less than half of the bodegas expressed any interest. The result: No pay – no Jay.
Campo has claimed that it was DO Madrid who contacted The Wine Academy of Spain, and has given several reasons why the Madrid visit didn’t go ahead.
To Adam Lechmere (Decanter): It was DO Vinos de Madrid who approached The Wine Academy of Spain with a request to organise a visit by Jay Miller. The visit did not go ahead due to a lack of time to organise this visit and that Vinos de Madrid could not afford the management fee. Campo told Lechmere that he is not apologetic about the cost of his management fees, which he described as “the going rate”.
Campo told Lechmere that: “absolutely no money ever changes hands between him and the consejo”. Madrid got in touch with him asking for a Wine Academy event. They could not afford it, nor could it be put together in their timeframe, so the idea was dropped. They wanted a tasting for 200 people, he said the cost would be €20k. Furthermore “no money changes hands for Jay Miller visits but it does for seminars”.
Elsewhere he has claimed that Vinos de Madrid ‘wanted to pay’ for Jay to go and visit wineries and review their wines for The Wine Advocate. Feigning shock, he said this was unacceptable, and he declined the approach.
The series of emails, which read on occasions like a scene out of The Godfather, show starkly that Campo has evidently sought to profit from his position organising Jay Miller’s visits as reviewer of Spanish wines for The Wine Advocate. He has indeed become Jay Miller’s gatekeeper, and charged the struggling Spanish wine industry hefty chunks of their total annual budgets – ‘the going rate’ – for access to Miller. Doubtless Don Corleone also had a ‘going rate’.
The emails highlight the pressure being brought to bear on Vinos de Madrid – ‘unique opportunity’, ‘And, you know, the bus passes only once‘, “Well, you've got the opportunity”, “I hope they reconsider” – all familiar boiler room tactics, but by email.
Furthermore, the correspondence makes it clear that Campo has lied regularly over how Miller’s trips are really organised. Campo has lied not only to people asking awkward questions, but also to some of his staunchest supporters – people who have risked their reputations going out on a limb for him. Back in September 2009 he lied to his proponents over events in Dubai, and clearly he sees no reason to stop now.
Looking at the proposal sent by Richer, it is evident that Campo’s only role in the mooted visit by Miller was to ensure that the illustrious American critic turned up. “The wineries have to organize everything, tasting venue, invitations, tasting glasses, etc.” and if you don’t agree to this, tough, because you won’t see Miller for many a month: it's €20,000 + VAT (€23,600) for access!
Late news flash
Suddenly late Tuesday afternoon (29.11.11) Madrid bodegas were contacted by Vinos de Madrid asking them to send two bottles of each of their wines to the DO for Miller to taste their wines this Thursday 1st December, at no apparent charge! That day Miller and Campo are scheduled to give a 45-minute speaking engagement at the presentation of wines from Spanish cooperatives selected for El Arte de Beber (the art of imbibing).
Why this sudden volte face when Campo had recently said that Miller had no plans to visit or taste Vinos de Madrid until 2014?
Is it just coincidental that yesterday morning I emailed Campo (with no response as of 14.20, 30.11.11) telling him that I would shortly be posting on Jim’s Loire further details of how the Wine Academy of Spain had approached Vinos de Madrid with its proposal that would have included a number of visits to bodegas along with a masterclass and seminar? Judge for yourself.
Pancho Campo MW and Jay Miller (interempresas.net)
See here a response and legal threats by Robert Parker posted on his website late Wednesday evening (GMT).