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

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Pancho Campo MW: investigation or witch hunt?

Pancho Campo MW

'Michael Bishop said...

Stop the witch hunts guys and stop acting like dick Tracy .....u seem to be Playing with peoples lives without solid evidence. Investigate first and then comprehensively publish. This hit and miss Public baiting is not good or professional.'

Michael Bishop posted this thought-provoking comment on Jim's Loire on 21st December. Thought-provoking because I think it displays a fundamental misunderstanding of investigative journalism. It implies that a journalist has some clear idea of how the story or investigation will develop and how it will end. In my experience this is rarely the case.

Although there is no way that that 'Campogate' is any way comparable to Watergate, when Bernstein and Woodward started investigating the break in to Watergate and its cover up they surely had no idea that it would lead eventually to the resignation of President Richard Nixon. It is most unlikely that they would have got the full story if they had followed Bishop's advice to 'Investigate first and then comprehensively publish'.

When I was contacted in the late 1990s (1998 – I think) by a bondholder in Ryman's Château Jaubertie who was having problems getting her annual consignment of wine, I had no inkling that this would lead to the discovery of Hugh Ryman's serious financial problems, his failure to pay and support young female winemakers some who were left virtually destitute far from home and then that he had bought Spanish table wine (vino de mesa) which he passed off as DO Conca de Barberà in Norway and other countries.

It was the publication of known parts of the Ryman story that then provided me with further leads and information. It has been the same process with the Pancho Campo MW story. When I was told back at the beginning of September 2009 about Campo being on the Interpol wanted list it was not at all apparent how the story would develop. This isn't and hasn't been a witch hunt – more a process of discovery and reporting and trying to make sense of what has been revealed. It might fairly be characteristised as a witch hunt if it could be shown that the various emails were fake or had been manipulated and that we knew this to be the case. Instead Victor de la Serna (El Mundo del Vino) has stated quite independently that the emails that have revealed 'pay for access' are genuine.

We should know in 2012 the result of the Robert Parker investigation as well as the investigation by the Institute of Masters of Wine and we may discover more about CavesMaîtres, Daniel Li and perhaps what other trademarks he has registered in China. One thing neither Harold Heckle nor I know is whether we are now somewhere in the middle of this story or whether we have reached the end.


Anonymous said...

Hugh Ryman seems to be doing quite well for himself these days, despite ripping off many winemakers and wineries in his time

Jim's Loire said...

Anon. You have to allow Ryman to make a living – hopefully he has now ceased to rip off winemakers and wineries.

Hervé LALAU said...

No one is compelled to read you series, Jim. No one is compelled to like the Truth either. Some prefer to live in fairy tales where all wine consultants and impresari are nice people, all wine guides are complete and unbiased...

I for one prefer to live in reality. Thank you

Luc Charlier said...

« C’est la vérité qui empoisonne l’eau du puits ». Maybe, but then people will start drinking more sound wine. My old university slogan was “Scientia vincere tenebras”. Likewise, the truth will always be worth searching. One thousand percent behind you, Jim.

Vincent Pousson said...

I agree with Jim. And I can add that I knew FROM THE BEGINING (october 25th) that the first email wasn't a fake. Of course, other people in Spain told me more Pancho'stories (Madrid, etc…) but without evidences, I decided not to publish it. As Jim, I can't accept this "leçon de journalisme".

Gerry Dawes said...

In the "Fair and Balanced" Fabrication Division, you might want to have a look at this "Fabricated Wine Industry Scandals? Is Santa Claus Real?" The author is a moderator on (soon to be eRobertParkerPoncho(sic)

CyrilPenn said...

Hey Jim: - to your point - the Watergate story continues to unfold too, Nixon was set up! - check out Family of Secrets by Russ Baker - great book

Ian S said...

Thankfully as a journalist, you also understand the difference between writing and txting ;¬)

Seriously though, I've seen these sort of posts before, mostly from people on a certain ring-fenced wine forum, who believe there is a concerted campaign against their beloved leader.

There remains a very genuine issue, that wineries were asked to pay to put their wines in front of Jay Miller.

I'm reminded of CBTs I've done on money-laundering, where it's important to recognise the steps involved to legitimise dirty money (aka laundering). Recognising this is important in understanding why Jay Miller and the Wine Advocate should care that wineries were asked to pay to get their wines in front of Miller. Everyone in that chain bears a responsibility, not just the one asking for the money. Being one step removed from the transaction does not make it ok. It's the same here, albeit (hopefully) without any criminality.

The current defence appears to be blaming someone else in the chain. I fully expect Parker's investigation to do the same.


Anonymous said...

Nobody really believes that Parker is doing an investigation, do they? Anytime people use overwrought expressions like "launch" and "spearhead" the smell of bullshit fills the air.

Anonymous said...

Especially amusing was Parker going on about his "team of lawyers". Not "a" lawyer, no way for him, that wouldn't do. A "team", a squadron, perhaps! All massed together with a single purpose in mind! Where's the secret decoder ring? This is the fantastical, self-important and hyper-dramatic thought process that you're dealing with here and it should be no wonder that it might lead to trouble. It's a wonder that he doesn't speak of himself in the third person, or does he?

Luc Charlier said...

A lot of comments to your action, Jim.
But why so many anon ?
If an opinion is worth telling – and they are indeed – why not come up front to defend it ?
I truly resent anonymity.
I’ve been told it dates back to a time where bloggers, by and large, used to be adolescents. That age category loves pseudonyms. Methink British (Anglo-Saxon) adults need to grow up a bit. But then again understatement, hypocrisy, inuendo is what you people are told at school.
I hope my slightly provocative (is it ?) remark on the Victorian style education that still prevails will also elicit ... reactions. I’m fully aware of the fact the first Belgian king was a very close relative to that great queen of yours (his uncle I think), and their correspondence was regular (several letters a week). But he was fiercely descriptive in his writing, crude in his opinions, and a beast on the settee. Mind you, I couldn’t care less about royals, it was just for fun !

Finkus Bripp said...


Jim's Loire said...

Many thanks for all of the comments. Cyril will look out the book thanks.

It will be interesting to see what happens with Robert Parker's lawyers investigation. To date neither Harold nor I have been contacted.

It is difficult to see how any properly conducted investigation can completely absolve Jay Miller from accepting lecture and seminar fees which were very closely tied to official Wine Advocate visits. Not a direct payment for tasting and rating the wines but a very adjacent revolving door, assuming that Miller was paid for his masterclasses in Murcia and Valencia.

Tyler said...

RP promised an "investigation" into Sierra Carche and its importer back in 2009.

We are still waiting for the results.

Jim's Loire said...

Thanks Tyler. Will see whether the Campo inquiry is a 'long grass' investigation.

Anonymous said...

Typical journalists caught up in their self righteous bubbles. Bishop is correct in that he may be stating the hit and miss approach to the wider investigation on campos other dealings without providing more detailed proofs.

With all due respect, I think you fail to understand the difference between a concerted negative PR campaign and the true spirit of investigative journalism.

Even by writing that you may have heard negative things about a character, but you will not publish without proofs, are you not leading a reader to form a sceptical view of an individual mr pousson? 'I am not saying Jo Bloggs is a bad person even though I have heard 'things', but I have no solid proof'. Would you not say this kind of attitude builds a negative characterisation of someone in the mind of a reader? Please guys don't lecture about the nature of investigative journalism when taking on such biased tones in your writings. I always thought good journalism was supposed to be objective?

Jim's Loire said...

Anon. The bulk of the evidence in this 'pay for access' and the wider career of Pancho Campo comes from Campo himself as well as bodegas who sent information showing what was going on.

Over the years Campo has made many claims and a significant number have either turned out to be incorrect or exaggerated.