Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Two Wine Critics Walk Into A Bar...

How big a story is it that The Wine Advocate is suing one of its former correspondents, Antonio Galloni, for fraud? It's this big: The Wine Cellar Insider broke the story with an opening sentence that ended with an exclamation point: "The Wine Advocate filed a law suit (sic) against their (sic) former wine reviewer Antonio Galloni today!"

In the wine community, this is juicy stuff, a delicious and personal distraction from commentaries about what foods to pair with late-harvest zinfandel, the 100-point scoring system, and how to define "natural" wine. It's also sad, petty and so smelling of hokum that the first judge to weigh the issue will throw it out of court, though it is likely to be settled amiably long before then. The lawsuit runs to 11 counts and 176 points, but The Wine Advocate and its founder (Robert Parker) or its present owners (a group of Singaporean investors) are seeking a mere $75,000 in compensation. Read the lawsuit and see if you don't agree that Parker and Galloni sat down and collaborated on what they perceived as a script worthy of the Hosemaster of Wine, Saturday Night Live or Judge Judy. "How am I going to boost my sagging circulation without you on board?" Bob asks Tony, who replies, "Let's cook up a ludicrous scrap; it will invigorate your franchise while helping me get my start-up off to an robust start."

In short, the lawsuit seems to claim that Galloni missed a deadline to deliver to The Wine Advocate tasting notes on wines he sampled while visiting Sonoma County. Instead, so goes the suit, Galloni is plotting to use those notes for his own newsletter or website. Sonoma County? Now that's a refreshing twist. Is Lance Cutler still writing wine humor?

Of course, every wine blogger in the country will be posting on this spat tomorrow. Most won't be able to help note that when Parker owned The Wine Advocate it was paying Galloni $300,000 a year, plus expenses. See what I mean about this lawsuit sounding more fictional than realistic? It is only March 20, right, not April 1?

Seriously, I don't know well any of the parties to this matter. I do know that Parker and Galloni are talented tasters and writers. They've made helpful and influential contributions to wine appreciation, and could still, but I suspect that this sort of animosity and the fallout to ensue will derail their continued effectiveness.

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