Awards and citations:

1997: Le Prix du Champagne Lanson Noble Cuvée Award for investigations into Champagne for the Millennium investment scams

2001: Le Prix Champagne Lanson Ivory Award for

2011: Vindic d'Or MMXI – 'Meilleur blog anti-1855'

2011: Robert M. Parker, Jnr: ‘This blogger...’:

2012: Born Digital Wine Awards: No Pay No Jay – best investigative wine story

2012: International Wine Challenge – Personality of the Year Award

Friday, 16 December 2011

Murcia: Anatomy of Pay for Access

The spark: first email (4th October 2011) posted by Vincent Pousson on Facebook followed by a post on Jacques Berthomeau's blog

(Obtaining and translating these emails would not have been possible without the assistance of Harold Heckle.)

‘Murcia – €30,000 just for a two and half hour conference and masterclass!?’

Series of emails sent within Murcia during October 2011: a month of getting ready for Jay Miller’s visit
(Due to length we have split this article into two – the actual emails can be seen here)

These emails expose the confabulation of ‘official’ and ‘free-lance’ that has been used by Pancho Campo MW, with Jay Miller as an apparently willing party, to give visits to regions like Murcia and Valencia a veneer of respectability.

They show a cash-strapped region trying to find an equitable way of spreading the charge of €30,000 being levied by Campo and the Wine Academy of Spain amongst its members.

They expose as threadbare the defence offered by Campo on 9th December 2011. Far from being just one email, as Campo claims, this is a series of emails exchanged between the regional government in Murcia, the three DOs (Bullas Jumilla and Yecla) and Asevin. It is very clear that the bodegas are being charged both for having their wines rated and assessed by Jay Miller for The Wine Advocate/erobertparker and for the opportunity to have their wines included in the masterclass as well as a possible visit to their bodega.

As this was an official Wine Advocate visit the expenses incurred during the visit to Murcia should have been covered by The Wine Advocate as Campo acknowledges in his December 5th statement:

‘Before TWAS began collaborating with The Wine Advocate, TWAS made clear to its staff that according to Robert Parker’s rules, wineries could not pay for expenses or fees for visiting them nor for Jay Miller tasting their wines on behanlf od (sic) The Wine Advocate. All the expenses were paid at all times by The Wine Advocate.’

The emails, which run from 4th October 2011 to the last week of October, show that the organization and the charging of bodegas for samples sent in for Jay Miller to taste and visits by Miller was discussed at a high level within Spain’s regional government. The email sent by Juan Antonio Ruiz Jiménez on 4th October 2011, which was published on Facebook 26th October), is the beginning of a pattern and not a one-off. Nor was he acting as a maverick as has been suggested. These emails are at variance with the explanation provided by Campo.

These seven emails relate to the organization during October of the visit by Jay Miller and Pancho Campo MW to Murcia (24th-26th November 2011). Some of these have already appeared on Jim’s Loire (29,000 € for a two and a half day visit to Murcia: 24th-26th November 2011:

Brief details of the emails – the full versions are on a separate post.

Email One: Tuesday 4 October 2011 6.38pm
From: Juan Antonio Ruiz Jiménez (secretary of Asevin – private company promoting the exportation of wines from the region)
some 40+ bodegas
This is the one posted on Facebook by Vincent Pousson: 26th October 2011 and sets out the now famous tariff.

Email Two: Wednesday 5 October 2011
From: Juan Antonio Ruiz Jiménez
To: some 40+ bodegas
This is an important email as it establishes that Miller’s visit to Murcia was an official Wine Advocate visit. Jiménez explains that only wines rated by Miller with 85 points or more will appear in the publication.

This directly contradicts Jiménez’s statement sent to me on 1st November 2011 – a statement that bears all the hallmarks of being composed by Campo.

the visit to Jumilla was not included in the official programme of The Wine Advocate, which will take place at the end of November. Therefore, ASEVIN asked TWA to make it possible for Jay Miller to visit Jumilla (Murcia) to offer his opinion on this region’s wines.’

Jiménez’s statement is here (

Jiménez does stress that
Jay Miller SOLO cobra por la Cata Magistral that is to say Jay Miller only charges for the two and a half hour conference and masterclass

Email Three: Monday 10 October 2011
Message from Maria Teresa Torres (technical Manager
General Directorate of Agricultural Training and Agribusiness
Ministry of Agriculture and Water) announcing a meeting on Friday 14th October 2011 starting at 13.00 to discuss the proposed visit by Jay Miller to Murcia.

Email Four: Monday 10 October 2011 14.32
From: DO Jumilla
To: those invited to meeting called by Torres on 14th October 2011.
DO Jumilla forwards email from Maria Teresa Torres (Email Three) to various producers and others invited to the meeting called by Torres.

Email Five: Friday 14 October 5.35 pm
From: Juan Antonio Ruiz Jiménez
To: some 40+ bodegas
Sent after the end of the meeting called by Maria Teresa Torres for 13.00 Friday 14th.
The price of submitting samples has firmed up – €300 compared to €200-300. Price of visit to a bodega doubled from €1000 to €2000. We assume that this reflects decisions made at the Torres meeting.

Email Six: Monday 17 October 10.48
From: Juan Antonio Ruiz Jiménez
To: some 40+ bodegas
JAR Jiménez sends out draft programme for Jay Miller and Pancho Campo MW’s visit 24th-26th November out to the bodegas.
Includes two sessions of tasting samples – 25th and 26th, five visits to bodegas plus conference and masterclass.

Email Seven: last week of October 2011*
From: Juan Antonio Ruiz Jiménez
To: ???
Email sent to a participating bodega asking for money to be paid into bank account – details given. Payment was in advance and we understand that no money paid out by the bodegas for samples and/or a visit from Miller has so far been returned to them.

Pancho Campo MW’s comments on Asevin and the visit to Murcia.
From the statement issued by The Wine Academy of Spain 9th December 2011:


a. One of the wineries that provided one of the wines for the master class and tasting at FENAVIN also owns a property in Murcia.

b. In view of the success of the event managed by TWAS the winery in question requested from TWAS to organize something similar in Jumilla.

c. Again, our commercial department submitted a proposal, which was accepted by ASEVIN. ASEVIN is a non-profit association that gathers the wines professionals of Murcia.

d. In the contract* signed by ASEVIN it is clearly stated that they could not ask wineries to pay for the event, for wines to be tasted at the master class or for possible visits if Jay Miller decided to include a few winery visits during his trip.

e. Before Jay Miller had agreed to the proposed event and contracts were signed, ASEVIN sent out an email trying to raise the money from the wineries, contrary to the stipulations clearly detailed in the proposed agreement. At that point TWAS put the event on hold until the wineries were informed that they could not be asked for any kind of payment for possible visits and for submitting samples.’

* ‘Contract’ was signed on 11th November 2011 long after this series of emails and well after the scandal broke. Signed by only one party – Asevin – with no indication where it was signed.

Our comments:
It is not clear who set the sample and visits tariff – was it The Wine Academy of Spain or the various wine bodies in Murcia? Our best guess remains that the Wine Academy of Spain set the overall price (€29,000-30,000) and Murcia then worked out how to most equitably cover the costs). However, we note that the price (€500) here in Murcia for putting forward a wine for the master class tasting was the same as that charged to bodegas in Valencia.

Miller was to spend part of the mornings of the 25th and 26th tasting samples for The Wine Advocate that had been submitted under the Wine Advocate criteria cited by Maria Teresa Torres in her email of 10th October. It is surely evident that bodegas were prepared to pay to send in samples and for visits on the understanding that Miller’s visit was official and that their wines would be assessed and rated for The Wine Advocate. One cannot imagine that they were prepared to pay €30,000 just for a two and half hour conference/masterclass.

It is also difficult to imagine the producers wanting to pay €30,000 for Campo’s informed views on the Chinese market in the light of having CavesMaître, who have grabbed Castel’s trademark in China, as a major sponsor of WineFuture Hong Kong.

We note that Campo does not indicate in his December 9th statement whether the visit to Murcia by Miller was ‘official’ or ‘free-lance’.

The crucial question is would this proposed visit by Jay Miller and Pancho Campo MW have gone ahead if Murcia had declined the offer of a conference and masterclass? A question of No pay No Jay.

Or would Campo have said “I quite understand that in these economic circumstances you can’t afford our fees, so no conference/masterclass. However, Jay Miller will be there tasting wines for The Wine Advocate and will also visit some wineries”?


Anonymous said...

The smell of guano wafting off of all of this is getting pretty pungent. And this time Parker's errand boy and flunky, Mark Squires, can't sweep it all under the rug as they do on their website. They must be freaking out.

Jim Budd said...

Anon. Thanks for your comment. I think the emails give a pretty clear picture of what was going on and it does not accord with Campo's version of events.

James Bond said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Lee Newby said...

Well, well send this over to The Institute of Masters of Wine they just opened an official investigation. He may become Campo ex-MW, is that like ex-RAF or something ;)

Anonymous said...

You might want to ask Jancis Robinson and Serena Sutcliffe if they agreed to their images being used to promote TWAS. They appear at the bottom of this link.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Jimm for your very professional journalistic approach. What I haven't read about in your stories is what happened in DO Navarra. I seem to remember having read this summer that Jay Miller also did a visit to Navarra, apparantky costing 100.000 euros, which also raised some questions.Any idea what happened there?

Jim Budd said...

Anon. Thanks for your comment. It is true that we have only briefly covered Navarra. This is because we do not have the evidence that we have for Madrid, Murcia and Valencia.

The figure of €100,000 for the visit to Navarra would appear to be accurate and a confirmed masterclass fee for Jay Miller of $15,000. Navarra is I believe the first example of Campo's hybrid approach – the lethally close and cosy blend of 'official' TWA and 'free-lance' well paid speaking engagements.

The photos of Miller tasting in Navarra surely show him working through a phalanx of bottles for The Wine Advocate.

Of course if we were provided with evidence of what took place in Navarra we would certainly treat it with our customary discretion and make sure we did not reveal our sources.

Anonymous said...

"Free lance" would suggest that he was doing a side-project, right? Has he/di he ever done that? People are supposed to believe that he tasted all of those wines just for the hell of it? The bodegas sent those wines to that big, private tasting for what reason? To amuse him? So that he could kick back one afternoon with some fine Navarra wine? If this wasn't so sordid, it would be sad, or maybe even comical.

Jim Budd said...

Anon. Jay Miller said in the Baltimore Sun that Campo arranged 'free-lance speaking engagements' for him. As you point out the Navarra photos surely show Miller tasting and rating wines for The Wine Advocate, so this part of the trip is 'official', while the 'speaking engagement' is 'free-lance'.

Looks like a transparent revolving door – Miller goes in wearing his Wine Advocate hat and emerges the other side as a 'free-lance'. This enables him to collect between $8000-$15,000 a pop in Navarra, Murcia and Valencia – making a minimum of $31,000.

Are the producers paying to have Miller taste their wines or are they paying to have a conference and masterclass?

Gerry Dawes said...

Would Jay Miller, "wine expert," have ever been invited to either the expensive Monvinic luncheon in Barcelona, to speak for 10,000 Euros at the event in Navarra or be paid what he was paid in Murcia and Valencia, if he had not had Robert M. Parker, Jr.'s The Wine Advocate as his employer, er, sorry, as the publication to which he was doing private contracting?

And would he have been invited to all these places and been paid the amounts he was paid had he announced his "retirement" from The Wine Advocate in January, when sources close to Parker said that Parker was supposedly informed of Miller's intention to retire? And would he have been invited to all these places and been paid the amounts he was paid had he announced his "retirement" from The Wine Advocate in January, when sources close to Parker said that Parker was supposedly informed of Miller's intention to retire? (There is no verifiable proof that we know that any e-mails were passed concerning this decision. Supposedly another Wine Advocate writer was told in a telephone conversation.)

And if Robert Parker informed The Wine Advocate contributors by e-mail on November 4th that Miller was "retiring" from The Wine Advocate, did Miller inform the DOs of the Murcia region or DO Valencia of his decision to retire before he accepted those large fees for giving "a master class" or allowed wineries to be charged for his visits by Pancho Campo and his Wine Academy of Spain?

And if he had informed those DOs, would they still have shelled out a reported 64,000 Euros (between the Murcia region and Valencia), knowing that a "lame duck" Wine Advocate reviewer might never publish his notes in the publication again?

If, as early as January as is claimed, Miller and Parker knew that he was retiring from the publication in December, when did Miller tell Pancho Campo?

If he did tell Pancho Campo, why were the DOs not informed of the decision, so they could decide whether paying out those large sums was value for money?

Why the sudden rush to sell Miller's appearance to D.O. Madrid?

Due to the content of the e-mails to D.O. Madrid, it would appear that Campo knew that for Miller it would not only be impossible for him to return for at least a couple of years as Campo and his agents claimed in his sales pitch to the D.O. It seems Campo would have to have known when he was soliciting first 40,000 Euros!!, then 20,000 Euros!! from the modest Madrid D.O., that Miller was NEVER going to be coming back as the critic for Spanish wines for Robert M. Parker, Jr.'s The Wine Advocate.

These are some of the loathing and clownish questions to which this writer would certainly love to hear the answers.

LALAU said...

And to think that in the end, the selection of Spanish wines (and regions) reviewed in the Wine Advocate will be based on the budgets Mr. Campo could secure! Even if Mr Miller did not know, even if Mr Parker was too trusting, the result is there for all to see: a biased review.
Who knows if Mr Parker would not have given better notes to Vina Mein in Ribeiro, or F. Schatz in Ronda?

jmaher said...

I'd like to say again that without Jim's digging away, this episode could easily have passed without creating the major waves it now has. The couple of emails I've seen from Valencian producers relating to the Campo-Miller Valencia visit show them to have been sanguine about paying, just assuming that is the way things are. I'd have though that the existence of such an attitude might have provoked greater concern and comment among wine pundits. The silence from many of the leading voices in the wine world seemed deafening to me, as a member of the public keeping an eye out for more on this since first hearing rumours almost a year ago. I see Jancis Robinson has allowed herself a chortling tweet or two recently. Jamie Goode's deletion of his February 2011 post about Campo and Miller still seems odd ( This is not meant as a harsh criticism of these and other wine writers, who naturally write and comment on what they care to. Gerry Dawes and a couple of others were muttering about things, but there was nothing really out there that I could see until Jim's Loire rode into action. Now everyone seems to be talking about it, but that sure as hell wasn't the case just a couple of weeks ago. Credit to Jim and his posse.

Gerry Dawes said...

"The traveller in wines, finding these topics a little beyond his comprehension, remarked loudly that Sénécal was forgetting a lot of scandals." – Sentimental Education, Gustave Flaubert, whose work was greatly influenced by Cervantes's Don Quixote.

Jim Budd said...

jmaher. Thanks for your comment. I do think that it is regrettable that people didn't demand answers to tough questions before they attended Wine Rioja 09 when Campo MW was on the Interpol list.

Campo's 'entrepreneurial spirit and approach' has been mentioned approvingly. OK as far as WineFuture HK and the Climate Change Conferences are concerned by pay for access? I think not.

Gerry Dawes said...

Still harder to comprehend by me at least is the people who got in bed with Sr. Campo even after the Interpol story broke. I suspect it had to do with the amount of money and airplane tickets to attract them to WineFuture Rioja 2009. It is amazing to see what price some people will compromise any principles they may ever have had when the dinero flag is raised to the top of the pole.

Gerry Dawes said...

Jim, for some background on Campo-Parker 2009, I refer your readers to your column:

Pancho Campo MW: Gerry Dawes updates

Your column leads at my history lesson on the 2009 WineFuture Rioja escapade:

Background to the Pancho Campo-Kevin Zraly-Robert Parker Wine Futures Rioja Affair 2009

Anonymous said...

Leaving Parker's reported windfall for the two WineFuture conferences out, does any wine scribbler command a $15,000 fee for a tasting/appearance or "masterclass" (whatever that is supposed to mean or entail)??? Anywhere close to $15,000? Coates? Johnson? Jancis? REAL wine writers and not drinking pal cronies skated by on reflected glory?

Gerry Dawes said...

Wine Diarist
This Budd’s For You: Pancho Campo’s Past, Jay Miller’s Unpublished Tasting Notes. Another interesting Mike Steinberger Wine Diarist column on the Campo-Miller-Parker affair with some very interesting followup comments.

Gerry Dawes said...

Sorry, forgot to put the link to The Wine Diarist in before my comment was sent. Here it is:

Anonymous said...

Some backround information on Pancho's father. As they say in Spain: "de casta le viene al galgo"

Jim Budd said...

Thanks Anon. I have been aware of this history for some time. It may explain why Campo probably didn't finish his medical studies.