I am not a mouthpiece.

March 31st, 2009



I just received an email from a winery’s PR person telling me how so-and-so magazine gave their wine this really great score and included the wine in one of those best-of lists.

I have a few questions for winery PR staff, and I truly do not mean to sound flip:

I write about wine, I review wine. What purpose does it serve for the winery to send a critic a press release telling them how another critic rated their wine?

What am I to do with this “90-some points” information?

I am familiar with the producer and their vineyards. I have visited the property and interviewed the vineyard and cellar crew. It is likely that I can say more about the vineyard and the wines than the critic in the aforementioned magazine could.

To set the record straight, my ego is not slighted. I believe in the quality of this particular label’s wines and, while I may have a different approach to rating wines and tend to value somewhat different characteristics in wine than the quoted critic, it is likely that the wine in question deserves the accolades.

However, this is a common occurrence. Winery PR staff send out emails boasting of the newest 90-some point score. So my beef is not with the producer or the individual PR person. It is with this practice of sending out alerts to people who review wines, telling them that someone else who reviews wines (possibly with a different standard of wine assessment) has awarded some great score or rating to a wine.

It is possible that my email is on a general distribution list or on a general “wine biz people” list. However, presuming that the wineries who send me these emails have some sort of “media” or “press” email list, I have to ask: do they notify Parker when Kramer says something nice about their wine (or vice versa?).

If you are a wine PR professional and want to get attention for your brand, offer the writer a media kit (sans scores) or ask if they want to taste your wines – either when the winemaker is in their area, the next time the writer is in your area or offer to send them some samples – just keep the scores out of the media copy.


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6 Responses to “I am not a mouthpiece.”

  1. Steve Heimoff Says:

    Arthur, you’re absolutely right! The same thing happens to all of us. I try not to get irritated — and generally don’t — but sometimes… It falls into the category of “What were they thinking?”

  2. Dylan Says:

    You’re justified in your reaction. The wine is meant to stand on its own merit, and, simply out of respect to you or any other reviewer, there should be no mention of what someone else says. The whole point of them reaching out to you or anyone else is so you may try the wine for yourself and, if pleased (or displeased) enough, give your own evaluation. I’m forwarding this to our team and asking them to show it to our PR team as well. What you’re saying is just and worth imparting, even if we believe it goes without saying.

  3. Pete Says:

    You frequently receive emails touting another critic’s review of a wine? As a wine PR person (Terlato Wines International), I’m aghast. I sometimes include accolades in promotional materials that consumers will see, and some writers might occasionally be exposed to those same materials. But never the kind of thing you are talking about. I would LOVE to see such a communication, to fully experience the absurdity of it. Maybe you could share it, taking out information that might identify the offender, if you wish to protect their identity?

  4. Michael Wangbickler Says:

    Hi Arthur,

    Great post. To Steve’s point, I think you should be irritated. And, I think you should let them know it. Those of us who have been doing Wine PR for ANY amount of time know that this is NOT an acceptable practice. Why would one writer CARE what another writer has said about any given wine? They will be evaluating the wine themselves. It either reflects a lack of knowledge (likely), a lack of homework (probably), and/or laziness (definitely). The worst thing I can think of as a Wine PR & Marketing professional is lazy PR. It aggravates our media contacts and reflects poorly on the field as a whole. I hope that person learns from their mistake.

  5. Arthur Says:

    Thanks for contributing to the discussion, Michael.

    I actually am not that miffed – even if it is bad form on the PR person’s part.

    But the message I see in these emails is (indirectly) that since they got a good score, they either want me to trumpet that to my readers (who may not appreciate the particular critic’s way of rating) or they don’t need my help since they got big props from one of the Troika of wine critics.

    The simplest thing a Wine PR person can do to avoid this is create separate distribution lists in their email address books.

  6. John Kelly Says:

    Arthur – this strikes me as the PR person (people?) just not understanding their target audience.

    Get a good score – by all means trumpet it to wine buyers by email, and maybe mention it in the cover letter with samples sent to other reviewers who also use scores. MAYBE. Or better – with a line like: “I hope you enjoy these wines, which were well-reviewed by so-and-so.” Still and all its a bit pushy. Were I a reviewer and were I to receive an interesting wine, I would search online and find this stuff out for myself. Don’t all reviewers do this? :)

    But there is the implicit: “you’d better give us a good review” and in your shoes I would be irritated by that. Just as I am personally irritated when I am offered “advice” on making my wines “better.”