Mike Steinberger on Antonio Galloni's New Venture

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Mike Steinberger on Antonio Galloni's New Venture

Post #1  Postby Lewis Dawson » April 2nd 2011, 4:41pm

"I pointed out that hosting a for-profit tasting with producers whose wines are reviewed by The Wine Advocate seemed at odds with Parker’s ethical guidelines. Galloni said he made clear to the wineries that participation or non-participation in the Barolo event would have no bearing on their ratings..."

Steinberger says the Barolo producers invited to the event were asked to comp all the wine and their travel expenses.

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Doesn't pass the "smell test" regarding conflicts of interest, IMO. What say you?
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Re: Mike Steinberger on Antonio Galloni's New Venture

Post #2  Postby Eric LeVine » April 2nd 2011, 5:08pm

It seems to be dangerous grand. Nonetheless, Antonio also seems to be supremely confident in his own integrity. I am impressed by him (have had lunch with him once and spoken on a number of occasions) and hope that this doesn't create issues for him. I was impressed by the candor of his responses in the interview and also over on the eBob thread.
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Re: Mike Steinberger on Antonio Galloni's New Venture

Post #3  Postby GregT » April 2nd 2011, 5:24pm

Yeah he comes off fairly well.

However, it's cashing in on the WA name and the whole story of the WA was that it's entirely funded by subscriptions. I don't have a problem if they try to make some money from the name and rep, but that's kind of what every magazine does isn't it? So why not accept ads? It's not like they have any moral high ground any longer once they start selling the name for commercial purposes other than subscriptions. Moreover, since they don't taste blind, it's kind of interesting that they'd ask the producers to ante up something for an event when the proceeds go straight to their pockets.

Shanken and co have been holding money-making events for years, but they taste blind so there's at least a plausible argument that they can make if they're accused of shaking anyone down.

Anyhow, I think it's a bit weird but I give Galloni credit. At least he's ready to deal with the issue head on and didn't get overly defensive. More importantly, he says he's willing to re-think the issue if it becomes a problem. Smart. Makes it harder to bitch too much when he doesn't throw up all kinds of defenses and excuses.

Mike did a good job, as always.
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Re: Mike Steinberger on Antonio Galloni's New Venture

Post #4  Postby Kris Patten » April 2nd 2011, 6:45pm

This whole thing worries me in the least. Without a person like Antonio, what is the chance of WA subscribers getting to go to a dinner with such monumental personalities from Piedmont, and for them to be in front of some of their best customers. For me it adds to the value of the WA, as long as he does an event in Seattle [stirthepothal.gif] at some point and continues to be forthright in his actions and intentions. Parker has been above reproach as has Antonio and David, the rest not so much and put themselves in those positions by not being upfront about their actions.
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Re: Mike Steinberger on Antonio Galloni's New Venture

Post #5  Postby WvanGorp » April 2nd 2011, 9:36pm

I don't think anyone has an issue with Antonio's integrity or intent. That point is settled.

But Bob has been so vocal about not having such arrangements. In a recent exchange I saw with Eric LeVine on the Parker board, Bob stated that the main reason he didn't want to partner with CT was that he wanted to remain "totally independent."

Seems he wants to have it both ways. (I'm talking Bob here, not Antonio)

To me, the problem isn't Antonio's having these wine events. The problem is that Bob has set up (and reminded everyone at every opportunity) that he wants to remain fiercely independent and, as Mike quoted in his article, he has said "It can be no other way."

TWA now finds itself talking out of both sides of its mouth--having a principle that they invoke when its convenient to crow about maintaining the moral high ground, but then they deviate from it when monetary interests are involved.

It would have seemed obvious to me that this violates Bob's policy. Either change the policy (and stop getting on his high horse about it constantly) or change the behavior but I don't see how you can have it both ways. THEY (Bob) set the policy; we didn't.
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Re: Mike Steinberger on Antonio Galloni's New Venture

Post #6  Postby Lewis Dawson » April 2nd 2011, 10:38pm

I agree with the replies above lauding Antonio's integrity, his intent to rate wines fairly, and for his openness about this question. However, the next time he goes to Piedmont to rate a Barolo vintage, he will meet and taste with a range of producers. Let's say he visits 35 domaines, just to pick a number. And 15 of them have been "sponsers" of his event, in that they have contributed time, wine, and expenses that helped make Antonio's event successful and profitable. How could I read his reviews, and perhaps spend big bucks influenced by his judgements, without some concern over his objectivity. Even if my concern is on a subliminal level, rather than overt distrust, it still undermines the clarity of The Wine Advocate's message, IMO. Critics have to work in a lot of grey areas of judgement... Is this wine truly complex? Is it balanced? Will that oak absorb with cellaring? Are those tannins merely firm, or are they astringent? Etc, etc. This kind of grey area will always be grey, and always difficult. I'd prefer that additional greyness based on direct contributions to Antonio's bottom line not be introduced. JM2C.
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Re: Mike Steinberger on Antonio Galloni's New Venture

Post #7  Postby Nick Ryan » April 2nd 2011, 11:32pm

A bit of arrogance and naivety on Galloni's part here. Either remain completely independent or don't and don't claim that using the TWA name to make money off events including TWA-rated producers cannot possibly be a conflict of interest. We're not mind readers here, which is why the perception of conflict of interest is of importance.
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Re: Mike Steinberger on Antonio Galloni's New Venture

Post #8  Postby Frank Drew » April 3rd 2011, 6:52am

"Galloni acknowledged that the controversy involving Miller and Squires has brought heightened scrutiny to The Wine Advocate. “I’m not naïve—I recognize that some of my colleagues haven’t behaved in the most forthright manner,” he told me."

Eessh! That won't help employee relations at TWA!
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Re: Mike Steinberger on Antonio Galloni's New Venture

Post #9  Postby ybarselah » April 3rd 2011, 6:58am

I find this straightforward. He's using his and TWA's name and brand to put together for-profit tasting events that include producers and their wines that are routinely reviewed by him and TWA. My understanding is that these aren't one-off events, for charity, or done blind -- these seem to be a new revenue stream for Galloni based on his power as the heir apparent to Captain Bob.

I personally have no issue with this and assume that Galloni's intentions are pure.

But then there's this ridiculous document that sits on ebob: http://www.erobertparker.com/info/wstandards.asp

This goes beyond conflict. This is schizophrenia.
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Re: Mike Steinberger on Antonio Galloni's New Venture

Post #10  Postby David M. Bueker » April 3rd 2011, 7:09am

This is what I just posted over there, and it expresses my feelings on the matter:

I've thought long and hard aobut this (which says something - I am not sure what though), and this is just too much of trying to have it both ways. The Wine Advocate cannot state that it is independent AND have FOR PROFIT events like this organized by its (now) principle writer.

I'm done. subscription will lapse next time it comes up for renewal. I will be sad to no longer read David Schildknecht's writings on German wines, but Antonio, who I trusted as one of the bastions of WA integrity, has crossed - no - he has erased the line.
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Re: Mike Steinberger on Antonio Galloni's New Venture

Post #11  Postby ybarselah » April 3rd 2011, 7:24am

To be clear, if Antonio crossed a line, it's a really stupid line. I don't see any good reason why reviewers shouldn't be able to do these kinds of events -- especially if the producers are donating their time and wines and are fully aware of the financial arrangements of the events. If Antonio turns into a shill for these producers later on, the market will respond accordingly -- it's not in Galloni's best interest to act that way.

TWA subscribers aren't looking for divine purity in their reviewers, or at least they shouldn't be. They want good information quickly on what to buy. They want reviewers with the best inside access. Scoops, etc.

Parker's repeated pompous grandstanding on these issues is the problem. Not Galloni.
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Re: Mike Steinberger on Antonio Galloni's New Venture

Post #12  Postby Randy Sloan » April 3rd 2011, 7:59am

The costs (and profit) of putting on an event was born partially by participating wineries. That happens all the time. By default, those wineries received a recommendation by Galloni just by mere association with his name and the event. These kinds of ties are created all of the time with all sorts of products.

While wine-dine-review cruises are obviously over-the-line -- or at least over-the-line to 99.9999998% of the population -- we shouldn't think that our professional critics can be totally detached from the industry they write about and still provide the kind of access and insight that we want. It's what they do with the access that must ultimately pass the smell test.

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Re: Mike Steinberger on Antonio Galloni's New Venture

Post #13  Postby David M. Bueker » April 3rd 2011, 8:40am

Randy Sloan wrote:While wine-dine-review cruises are obviously over-the-line -- or at least over-the-line to 99.9999998% of the population -- we shouldn't think that our professional critics can be totally detached from the industry they write about and still provide the kind of access and insight that we want. It's what they do with the access that must ultimately pass the smell test.


I can agree with that, but don't put out a code of ethics that requires more than that & then just violate it when convenient.
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Re: Mike Steinberger on Antonio Galloni's New Venture

Post #14  Postby Richard T r i m p i » April 3rd 2011, 9:31am

Wilfred's point about integrity and intent are a worthwhile starting point. I follow in step with those who are impressed with AG's character, charm, generosity, talent and genuine passion for fine wine.

I believe he unintentionally stuck his foot in to this quagmire. But stuck it seems to be. A new line needs to be drawn. Some sort of non-profit entity? Organization managed by a 3rd and neutral party? Careful and unbiased invitations to a variety of producers? Don't know the answer(s). There's no doubting that the recent Barolo evening was a very popular success. The most extreme shift would be dropping the neutrality/independence policy at WA, which would potentially cripple the brand.

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Re: Mike Steinberger on Antonio Galloni's New Venture

Post #15  Postby dave cuneo » April 3rd 2011, 9:42am

The wineries provided free all time great wines and I'm supposed to think this will in no way influence Mr G.?

"It will not effect future ratings". Sure, Mr. G, and "I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Ms. Lewinsky".

I know if it was me in his shoes my ratings would be affected, I would not want to displease potential future "donors" to events that make my reputation.
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Re: Mike Steinberger on Antonio Galloni's New Venture

Post #16  Postby Keith Levenberg » April 3rd 2011, 9:47am

ybarselah wrote:Parker's repeated pompous grandstanding on these issues is the problem. Not Galloni.

That sums it up pretty well. Wine Spectator's been doing events like this forever and nobody cares. The only reason it's a big deal for the WA to be doing the same thing is because Parker decided to invest so much of his brand identity in his holier-than-thou grandstanding about his independence. No doubt about it, this type of thing violates Parker's (stated) standards, but it's fair to question whether those standards serve much purpose other than feeding Parker's ego.

I do have to wonder, though, if the producers contributed the wine and paid their own travel expenses, why was it $700 a seat? That sounds like quite a hefty profit.
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Re: Mike Steinberger on Antonio Galloni's New Venture

Post #17  Postby Rick Gregory » April 3rd 2011, 10:00am

Lewis Dawson wrote:I agree with the replies above lauding Antonio's integrity, his intent to rate wines fairly, and for his openness about this question. However, the next time he goes to Piedmont to rate a Barolo vintage, he will meet and taste with a range of producers. Let's say he visits 35 domaines, just to pick a number. And 15 of them have been "sponsers" of his event, in that they have contributed time, wine, and expenses that helped make Antonio's event successful and profitable. How could I read his reviews, and perhaps spend big bucks influenced by his judgements, without some concern over his objectivity. Even if my concern is on a subliminal level, rather than overt distrust, it still undermines the clarity of The Wine Advocate's message, IMO. Critics have to work in a lot of grey areas of judgement... Is this wine truly complex? Is it balanced? Will that oak absorb with cellaring? Are those tannins merely firm, or are they astringent? Etc, etc. This kind of grey area will always be grey, and always difficult. I'd prefer that additional greyness based on direct contributions to Antonio's bottom line not be introduced. JM2C.



Bing bing bing! This is the issue. The fact that WS does similar things isn't relevant since they've always taken ads etc. Note, too, that there's always rumors and slanders around the WS reviews being biased toward advertisers etc. That issue dogs them and there's a level of distrust in their reviews that doesn't haunt Tanzer, Gilman, TWA, etc because those newsletters have always maintained one source of money - the reader/subscriber. Parker has been very vocal about this... that Antonio is getting away with it is the most persuasive argument that he's in some ownership position.


Richard T r i m p i wrote:I believe he unintentionally stuck his foot in to this quagmire. But stuck it seems to be. A new line needs to be drawn. Some sort of non-profit entity? Organization managed by a 3rd and neutral party? Careful and unbiased invitations to a variety of producers? Don't know the answer(s). There's no doubting that the recent Barolo evening was a very popular success. The most extreme shift would be dropping the neutrality/independence policy at WA, which would potentially cripple the brand.

RT



Or, NOT DOING THE EVENTS... It doesn't matter how nice AG is, how much people trust him, etc. Those of you who know him are and always will be a tiny minority of TWA subscribers. And please... AG's not a dumb person. He didn't wanter blindly into this. He knows precisely what he's doing.
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Re: Mike Steinberger on Antonio Galloni's New Venture

Post #18  Postby Alan Rath » April 3rd 2011, 10:05am

Devil's advocate: since many or most of the WA reviews are actually done while the reviewer tastes with the producer, on the property, for me the "bias" question has long ago been answered (it's questionable, at best). Without blind, themed tastings, the ability to minimize bias is definitely in question. Given the methodology of WA tastings, at least for the most famous producers, does a dinner like this really alter anything about the relationship between WA and those producers? Personally I don't think so.

What I'm saying is that this is completely consistent with existing WA principles. You either accept those, or not, but this is nothing new in my mind.
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Re: Mike Steinberger on Antonio Galloni's New Venture

Post #19  Postby ybarselah » April 3rd 2011, 10:16am

Keith Levenberg wrote:
I do have to wonder, though, if the producers contributed the wine and paid their own travel expenses, why was it $700 a seat? That sounds like quite a hefty profit.


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Re: Mike Steinberger on Antonio Galloni's New Venture

Post #20  Postby R@y.Tupp@+sch » April 3rd 2011, 10:22am

Have you ever inquired what the cost is to rent out Del Posto on a Saturday night? I have and it ain't cheap. Plus, there was the NYC sommelier all-star team of approximately 20 serving everyone's wine needs. And I know what some them charge for their services - again, not cheap. I believe Antonio when he said there was a profit but it wasn't that substantial.

Disclaimer - I consider AG a friend.

Keith Levenberg wrote:I do have to wonder, though, if the producers contributed the wine and paid their own travel expenses, why was it $700 a seat? That sounds like quite a hefty profit.
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Re: Mike Steinberger on Antonio Galloni's New Venture

Post #21  Postby Andrew Hall » April 3rd 2011, 10:32am

I agree with yaacov et al - the real issue is the long-standing pretense of objectivity from the Wine Advocate. That is a large part of the Parker's schtick and it has been utterly fake for a long time. Time to grow up. The world is full of relationships and tensions between objectivity and interest. Disclose and let people decide how honest and useful you are.

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Re: Mike Steinberger on Antonio Galloni's New Venture

Post #22  Postby Ken V » April 3rd 2011, 12:24pm

dave cuneo wrote:The wineries provided free all time great wines ....

I was at the tasting and the dinner and this does not reflect accurately what occurred.

First, the afternoon tasting consisted of a modest pour of one wine from each producer. It was a wine that they currently have for sale in the US. These were all very good wines, but these are the kind of wines I would expect these producers to pour when they visit the US to promote their wines, as most of them often do. For example, among the producers there, Giacosa, Voerzio, Vietti, Scavino, G. Mascarello, and G. Conterno routinely make a riserva, but no reservas were poured. No Le Rocche del Falletto, no Villero Riserva, no Monfortino. So as far as what the producers were "giving" to Antonio (wines to pour to their potential customers and their own travel), I don't see it as being any different from what they would normally do to promote their own wines.

For the dinner, the winemakers each brought one magnum of a special wine, but generally not a very old one. For example, Bruna Giacosa brought a magnum of 2004 Barolo Riserva Le Rocche del Falletto, but I brought a magnum of 1990 Bruno Giacosa Santo Stefano Riserva. She and I traded tastes. I think she did ok by me. I sat at the table with Beppe Rinaldi. He brought one magnum of 1999 Barolo Brunate/Le Coste. I had a glass, he had a glass of the wine I brought. At our table, Greg dal Piaz brought mags of 1993 and 1989 Barolo Brunate/Le Coste. Jamie Wolff brought a 1.9L of 1964 Bartolo Mascarello. You can check out this thread to see just some of the amazing wines people brought:

viewtopic.php?f=1&t=39361

AFAIK, the winemakers did not pay for their dinners. So how could anyone say they were giving something to Antonio? I think they did very well.

None of this is intended in any way as a complaint or a criticism, just a perspective on what actually happened at this event.

I do agree with Wilfred's comments above. The WA should update the page that Yaacov linked to so that it reflects what they are doing. But I don't see this event as being that far off what is actually stated there.
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Re: Mike Steinberger on Antonio Galloni's New Venture

Post #23  Postby R@y.Tupp@+sch » April 3rd 2011, 1:42pm

To go a bit further on what Ken has already clarified - Roberto Conterno and three of what I presume were his employees sat at our table. I doubt any of the four paid for their dinner. As a group, they brought a magnum of '02 Monfortino. The five of us sitting at the table with them got a pour each from the mag - the four of them got a pour and sometimes multiple pours of a bevy (at least 20) of wines that we brought including a flight of Monfortino's from '41-'78.
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Re: Mike Steinberger on Antonio Galloni's New Venture

Post #24  Postby Nathan Smyth » April 3rd 2011, 1:45pm

Wow - ethical or not - that was one helluva wine dinner.
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Re: Mike Steinberger on Antonio Galloni's New Venture

Post #25  Postby Nick Gangas » April 3rd 2011, 1:50pm

Many valid comments above and nice to see them being handled in a mature fashion. It's hard to see the difference between an event like this and the WS Tour for instance. That being said the lines in wine criticism have always been blury. What about Steve Tanzer or AM hosting tastings for high end retailers around the country ? Suckling regularly blogs about dinners with winemaker friends. IMHO, as Ken has pointed out it wasn't exactly a wealth of cellar treasures from the winemakers. Just what they would pour on normal promotional tours. I would think maybe it's time for the WA to alter their draconian policy. Does anybody really care ? If I feel the reviews are helpful I'll continue, if not cancel.

By the way, Ken you got really screwed there huh ?

Squires did react violently to the comments about his and JM's expoits. I'm sure the next staff meeting will not be warm and fuzzy.
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Re: Mike Steinberger on Antonio Galloni's New Venture

Post #26  Postby Ken V » April 3rd 2011, 2:00pm

Nick Gangas wrote:By the way, Ken you got really screwed there huh ?

No, I didn't. That's the one thing that could have made the evening better. [wink.gif]
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Re: Mike Steinberger on Antonio Galloni's New Venture

Post #27  Postby Eric LeVine » April 3rd 2011, 2:03pm

Nick Gangas wrote:It's hard to see the difference between an event like this and the WS Tour for instance.

It's not different. It's not really a problem. Except for the fact that Parker's credo pretty much denigrates exactly this sort of activity. In essence, Parker is choosing to bind all of their hands behind their backs with regard to this sort of activity. Or he can do as he is doing now, turn a blind eye, and expose himself and Antonio to criticism.
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Mike Steinberger on Antonio Galloni's New Venture

Post #28  Postby WvanGorp » April 3rd 2011, 3:28pm

Nick Gangas wrote: Does anybody really care ?



Apparently Parker who was so critical of others.
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Re: Mike Steinberger on Antonio Galloni's New Venture

Post #29  Postby Graeme Gee » April 3rd 2011, 4:00pm

WvanGorp wrote:But Bob has been so vocal about not having such arrangements. In a recent exchange I saw with Eric LeVine on the Parker board, Bob stated that the main reason he didn't want to partner with CT was that he wanted to remain "totally independent."

And yet he's quite happy to compromise in his deal with US Mail, who actually deliver his tatty little rag all around the country. The hypocrisy of it all...
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Re: Mike Steinberger on Antonio Galloni's New Venture

Post #30  Postby dave cuneo » April 3rd 2011, 4:33pm

So the guests brought bigger and better wines than the winemakers??? I hope you all charged them a fee by the glass, as Mr. G. charged you! :~)
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Re: Mike Steinberger on Antonio Galloni's New Venture

Post #31  Postby Evan Dawson » April 3rd 2011, 6:27pm

I'm confused as to why Parker's past grandstanding even has to be relevant here. I mean, I understand the point, but independent of Parker, consider:

Galloni is hosting dinners on which he is making a profit, and the quality of the wines at the dinner -- the wines that he reviews! -- directly affects his ability to attract people to pay for the dinner.

There's a whole lot to like about Galloni, and I trust people like Eric and Ken and others who have good things to say. But in terms of journalistic standards, there's not a serious debate about this, right? Who cares what Parker said? This would be enough for me to cancel a subscription. But maybe, as a journalist myself, I missed the memo about changing standards. Sigh.

One other point: Galloni promises this won't affect his ability to remain objective. That's nice. I don't think he's lying or obfuscating. But we're talking about human beings here. There's a reason these standards (used to) exist: To make sure we're not put in the position to be tested.
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Re: Mike Steinberger on Antonio Galloni's New Venture

Post #32  Postby Andrew Hall » April 3rd 2011, 6:49pm

Evan Dawson wrote:I'm confused as to why Parker's past grandstanding even has to be relevant here. .


It is not past. He is still selling the idea of the Wine Advocate under those premises.

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Re: Mike Steinberger on Antonio Galloni's New Venture

Post #33  Postby Evan Dawson » April 3rd 2011, 6:52pm

Andrew Hall wrote:
Evan Dawson wrote:I'm confused as to why Parker's past grandstanding even has to be relevant here. .


It is not past. He is still selling the idea of the Wine Advocate under those premises.

A.


My point is, it doesn't matter that Parker is creating those standards. Those standards should have been created by journalism itself. Common sense. Parker didn't invent objectivity and basic ethical behavior, contrary to legend.
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Re: Mike Steinberger on Antonio Galloni's New Venture

Post #34  Postby Pasquale De Marco » April 4th 2011, 5:03am

Objectivity, journalistic or otherwise, is a myth.

Once that is accepted the issue is defining standards which provide a metric of how close one is to it. For example, this case is hardly as bad as accepting advertising in a publication where that advertiser’s portfolio is being reviewed.

It certainly seems like Mr.Galloni is saying that a few steps from the original Parker standard is not too far. In the end I agree with Yaacov, the quality of his recommendations will be the final determinate.

Galloni us apparently being transparent – which is all he can do at this point.

It might be of some value if he provided some general principles which define where he thinks the line is for him and why.
In the end it's a free market for recommendations and some may leave him. That's the risk he takes.

Pat
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Bill Klapp
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Re: Mike Steinberger on Antonio Galloni's New Venture

Post #35  Postby Bill Klapp » April 4th 2011, 5:38am

Ken V wrote:
dave cuneo wrote:The wineries provided free all time great wines ....

I was at the tasting and the dinner and this does not reflect accurately what occurred.

First, the afternoon tasting consisted of a modest pour of one wine from each producer. It was a wine that they currently have for sale in the US. These were all very good wines, but these are the kind of wines I would expect these producers to pour when they visit the US to promote their wines, as most of them often do. For example, among the producers there, Giacosa, Voerzio, Vietti, Scavino, G. Mascarello, and G. Conterno routinely make a riserva, but no reservas were poured. No Le Rocche del Falletto, no Villero Riserva, no Monfortino. So as far as what the producers were "giving" to Antonio (wines to pour to their potential customers and their own travel), I don't see it as being any different from what they would normally do to promote their own wines.

For the dinner, the winemakers each brought one magnum of a special wine, but generally not a very old one. For example, Bruna Giacosa brought a magnum of 2004 Barolo Riserva Le Rocche del Falletto, but I brought a magnum of 1990 Bruno Giacosa Santo Stefano Riserva. She and I traded tastes. I think she did ok by me. I sat at the table with Beppe Rinaldi. He brought one magnum of 1999 Barolo Brunate/Le Coste. I had a glass, he had a glass of the wine I brought. At our table, Greg dal Piaz brought mags of 1993 and 1989 Barolo Brunate/Le Coste. Jamie Wolff brought a 1.9L of 1964 Bartolo Mascarello. You can check out this thread to see just some of the amazing wines people brought:

viewtopic.php?f=1&t=39361

AFAIK, the winemakers did not pay for their dinners. So how could anyone say they were giving something to Antonio? I think they did very well.

None of this is intended in any way as a complaint or a criticism, just a perspective on what actually happened at this event.

I do agree with Wilfred's comments above. The WA should update the page that Yaacov linked to so that it reflects what they are doing. But I don't see this event as being that far off what is actually stated there.


Ken, I have no doubt that every word of your post above is an accurate, eyewitness account. Its only shortcoming is that it is not at all responsive or relevant to the issue being discussed on this thread, which is whether or not Antonio's commercial tasting enterprises conflict with the WA code of ethics or not. I know your longstanding passion for Nebbiolo firsthand, and I am fully supportive of tasting/dining events that provide once-in-a-lifetime opportunities such as La Festa did. I am, like yourself and others above, a believer in Antonio's honesty, integrity, humility and tasting skills. Indeed, I was the primary and loudest agitator on the Squires board who insisted that Daniel Thomases be fired and replaced by Antonio. While I have never tasted with Antonio, it speaks well of him that perhaps 20 people whose opinions I trust, all of whom have tasted with him, all confirm those qualities. Thus, we can dismiss totally anybody who resides in the "Galloni is corrupt" camp. There is no basis for that point of view.

In addition, the WA code of ethics aside for a moment, Antonio has been responsive to Steinberger and others who are exploring this issue with him, and I submit that he is now on record, albeit via a telephone interview and multiple posts on multiple wine boards, as to where he stands ethically and where he believes that the boundaries are. He has exhibited far greater transparency than Parker ever has, and without any of Parker's arrogance. (Antonio has never alluded to anti-Parker conspirators living in their mothers' basements, for example.) I say that all of us chickens are now in position to judge Antonio's performance against his own yardstick in the future, be satisfied or not, subscribe to the Wine Advocate or not. And I, for one, am a realist about Antonio's need to make a buck. I believe that he could go so far as to judiciously accept advertising for the WA without compromising his principles, but I respect the opinions of those who believe that is a can of worms that heads the WA down the WS path, with an increased risk of bias and compromise of principles. And indeed, wine criticism is already a field where the totally subjective, biased (palate or otherwise) opinions of many different critics are counted upon to yield something akin to objective, unbiased truth. As a follower of all major critics and a tracker of their scores and notes, I believe that a largely objective truth is achieveable, and essential for the wine educations of generations of wine enthusiasts.

The rubber meets the road only here: the Wine Advocate code of ethics EXPRESSLY does not allow what Antonio is doing with La Festa and the Masseto tastings. Personally, I will be satisfied if that code is overhauled and the ground rules for events like La Festa incorporated. I understand that Antonio may not be in position to do that just yet, and I am fine with it. However, only an idiot would deny that the code in its present form is being violated. Likewise, in this time of transition, given the ethical quagmires that Miller and Squires got themselves into, and the fact that Neal Martin seems to drink for free at the tables of British retailers and importers more often than he drinks out of his own cellar (never failing to mention the source of such largess), Antonio needs to be doubly careful about his own activities. This is one of those issues where perception counts for more more than reality. We will never know what is in Antonio Galloni's heart and mind, but that should not keep us from trusting him if he sustains his track record of honest, accurate reporting, any more than it has kept many from trusting Parker and most from trusting Tanzer...

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