Signed DW | Published on DoctorWine N°202
Code of ethyl
What would you think of a famous Italian wine critic who allowed a surprise ‘secret’ birthday party to be organized for him by an equally famous wine producer who invited other producers who opened some very expensive bottles to pair them with some fine food? And what if everything was paid for by the organizer?
What objectivity could there be, what critical impartiality could one expect towards these wines, consumed while celebrating this critic with an over-sized ego, from this journalist when he is called upon to taste and evaluate them? This ‘secret’ party did in fact take place last January but I will not name names because I am not interested in gossip or ‘roasting’ anyone, only in a question of principle.
I will name names, however, about another event because their actions deserves praise. Monica Larner, a collaborator for Robert Parker, was invited by Francesco Ricasoli to Castello di Brolio for a special tasting of Vin Santo. She arrived in her own car, did not ask to be reimbursed for her expenses and even paid for her own room at the guest house. And she did this in accordance with her code of ethics and that of her publisher. The cost was not that much, a little more than 50 euros, but she wanted to do the right thing. Hers was a lesson for us all and a fine example of independence and even if, at least for me, she may have been a little too strict with herself, her actions exemplified what a code of ethics means for an influential American journalist.
We Italian journalists also have a code of ethics, drawn up by our colleagues at the economic daily Il Sole 24 Ore, which sets a ceiling of 150 euros for how much one can accept for an invitation or gift. And at DoctorWine I ask that all our collaborators respect this code. This means they must not accept invitations to restaurants that are excessively expensive nor gifts, including bottles of wine, the value of which exceed that limit. Producers who want to send us their wine for evaluation need only submit one bottle or a maximum of three if the wines are different. We rarely ask for wine directly and only if it was not possible to sample them at organized pubic tastings or at producer association meetings. We also taste them at events organized by others than producers and where the wine that was consumed remains with them for future tastings. The advertising we accept at DoctorWine is always out in the open and we organize three events a year, two in Italy and one abroad (this year in Washington D.C. which was a huge success) to present ourUltimate Guide to Italian Wine and nothing more. And so you can see that with us everything is above board and while we may not be perfect, we try to avoid any slippery slopes in regard to our objectivity and in respect of our readers.
I point this out not to tout myself as an example of correctness, Larner did so much better, but only to underscore that in a country like Italy, where it is still not clear that some things need not be free, it is important to find other and diversified systems of financing. What is important is that everything is transparent and everyone knows how it works. ‘Secret’ events, even birthday parties, have no place in our book. Unicuique suum (to each his own).