Ethics–And Why Your Wine Will Not Be Reviewed

no wineLet me describe a perfect example of an ethical lapse where it comes to critiquing a wine for a readership: If I, as a publicist that represents wineries, were to engage in the practice.

This is my annual post in which I inform fellow publicists and wine producers that I do not and never have reviewed wines and that all the wines that show up at my front door do in fact get drunk, but they don’t get written about…and never will as long as I am in the business of marketing or public relations in and around the wine business.

Now let me be clear, this is not to say that I would be no good at reviewing wine. In fact, I think I’d be darned good. I possess a certain flair for writing and when necessary I can use that skill in an economic way. I’m opinionated too, certainly the first requirement of a critic of any stripe. And, my palate isn’t too bad either. At the very least, I can tell the difference between a Cabernet and Chardonnay.

However, the principle at play is this: It is unethical to professionally assess a product that is a competitor of yours or of those you represent because you have a professional interest in convincing others to buy your product over a competitors. If it is not clear to you why this would be unethical, then I beg you warn me which side of the street you plan on walking down because it will be in my interest to use the other side. You simply can’t be trusted to understand right from wrong.

Of course there is also another good reason why I don’t review wines and won’t review any wines that wind up on my front step: The last thing the world of wine blogging and wine writing needs is another critic. Already there are numerous extraordinarily competent and useful wine critics out there. They do a fantastic job, particularly those that have been at it for some time. My addition to that crowd would likely be of very little value.

So, to put it bluntly….if you send me wine, I will drink the hell out of it. But it will result in no review. If you want to subsidize my wine drinking out of the goodness of your heart, send me your wine. If you want a good recommendation from an experienced public relations hand on where to send your wine where it is likely to get reviewed, then hire me.

Posted In: Personal, Rating Wine


9 Responses

  1. C Wells - February 11, 2013

    So do you write a thank you note ? If not I’d probably go on the side of the street with the ‘other’ guy.

  2. Tom Wark - February 11, 2013

    C. Wells,

    Always write a note of thanks and also always explain the wine won’t be reviewed and always offer to help arrange that it be returned.

    • C Wells - February 11, 2013

      Good practice.

  3. Marc Hinton - February 11, 2013

    Great article Tom. It amazes me how many people there are who are in conflict of your statement regarding ethics and they still continue to review wines. The fact that PR folks are still sending wine to writers/bloggers who have moved on to making their own label or are involved in wine sales or distribution is even more amazing .Nice to see someone shine a light on this subject.

  4. doug wilder - February 11, 2013

    I somewhat disagee with your comment that the world of blogging and writing doesn’t need another wine critic. I would suggest that specializing in a particular niche that hasn’t been explored (Jeb Dunnick’s Rhone Report, or Hawk Wakawaka’s photo essays, cartoons and notes both come to mind) are the best avenuues for new voices in wine criticism to emerge. As far as generalists there may be plenty of those already, but who is to say that someone new couldn’t put their special twist on even that? Personally and professionally I don’t stop to consider if there are already enough wine PR people. But then again, who would have a qualified opinion on that?

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