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

Sunday, 24 May 2015

Review of Wine behind the label: am I being unfair?

Neville Blech responds:
Hi Jim

I think you are being a little unfair on us (my review of Wine behind the label) and this is probably because of your intimate knowledge of the region which far exceeds most wine writers including us.  

David is responsible for the Loire section and whilst he would admit that it is not always possible to be completely up to date, it is as up to date as the information available to us is.

He wrote an email to all the vignerons in the Loire who were in the book - in French, even - asking for updates and managed to get replies from less than 15% of them. Many of them do not have websites whereby we could get information from and even when they do, they are not up to date.

Taking the two examples that you quoted of people who have died, if you look at the websites of St. Just and Taluau-Foltzenlogel, show me where one could glean that these two gentlemen were deceased? Both gentlemen are there as large as life, if you will excuse the inference.

Similarly, La Maison Huët is still “dirigé par Noël Pinguet” according to their website. Jacky Blot - if you go to, it still states that there are 25 ha. of vines.

We cannot, of course, visit every domaine that is listed in the guide and have to rely to a great extent on the producers’ websites for contact and proprietorship information such as this. We do not have your intimate specialists knowledge and it is not our fault that these websites have not been updated themselves.

Rest assured that our wine ratings have been updated whenever we have had the chance to taste them.

I would have hoped that you had contacted me for comment with the contents of your blog before you actually posted it. I do hope, therefore, that you will be able to post up the above reply in your blog page as the record needs to be put straight.

So where do we go from here? We have done the best we could. We would love you to be involved as a contributor to Wine behind the label, with your specialist knowledge, by at least keeping us abreast of any changes such as these and also pointing the way to new kids on the block and to those who have fallen back in the quality of the wines they produce, but I don’t know if we could afford to pay you much for it. Reviews like yours aren’t going to help increase our revenue stream. If you would like to quote us the smallest fee you could live with for doing this, we would be happy to consider it. 


Hi Neville,

Many thanks for your your response, which I have put up on Jim's Loire.

I don't think I have been unfair or harsh. The 9th edition claims to be 'fully revised', Steven Spurrier is quoted saying 'For me, by far the best of the wine guides' and you show three awards the previous editions of the guide has received – André Simon, Louis Roederer and Glenfiddich. Purchasers have every right to expect this edition to be up to date. The 9th edition of Wine behind the label must be judged in the light of your claims.   

I acknowledged that you and David have taken on a massive task which is not helped by the low response (probably predictable) from the Loire vignerons and their failure to update their websites – equally predictable.

On page 7 of WBTL you explain the concept: 'Wine behind the label was first conceived as an ambitious attempt to produce an authoritative single volume guide to producers of quality wines from around the world'.

I suggest that your starting point should be: can we make our guide authoritative and as 'fully revised' as possible. What steps do we need to take to achieve this and are we able to fulfil this aim.

The deaths of Yves Lambert and Joël Taluau were both covered by Jim's Loire and elsewhere as was the departure of Noël Pinguet from Domaine Huet – one of the few Loire domaines that is widely considered world class.  Incidentally it is hilarious that the French version of their website still has Noël Pinguet running the domaine, while it is interesting to note that there is no mention of either Gaston Huet or Noël Pinguet in the English version.

Compare and contrast

You gave me access to the new edition of Wine behind the label to review it, which I did in respect to the Loire section. I am under no obligation to contact you to give you a pre-sight of my review, though I did send you an email to say that a review had been posted.

The questions is not 'where do we go from here' rather 'where you go from here'. If you promise an exceptional dining experience it is no good saying, if you get complaints, "well we cannot afford to buy prime ingredients and we only have a single gas burner".

Best wishes




Chris Kissack said...

I'm not sure the response from Neville does the authors here any favours. The scope of the work is clearly grand, and the criticisms made against it wold appear to be fair. It isn't simply a matter of having a few snippets of information wrong, when a winemaker has died it would seem reasonable for that to be reflected in the work. But from the response it would appear, because the work is little more than an email and website-scraping exercise, those who don't respond and don't update their websites (not a priority for domaines without a marketing 'team', i.e. the majority in the Loire I would guess) don't get an update. Dead vignerons could live on in such works forever.

It is interesting to note that the methodology employed has garnered several prestigious awards. What does that say about these competitions and the judging process?

Jim Budd said...

Thanks Chris. Not sure whether the same methodology was used for the earlier editions as it was not exactly the same team. Initially the editors were Philip Willianmson and David Moore.