We do not consider disclosure to be an important issue. (Disclosure meaning saying explicitly in connection to an article that e.g. “the trip for background information was paid for by Xyz”, “this tasting was paid for by Abc”, “this tasting note is based on a bottle that we received as a sample” etc.)
What we consider important is the integrity and the ethics of the author and journalist.
Therefore we will not systematically note at the bottom of our articles if the information gathering was partially or fully sponsored by someone. Instead, we assume that you trust our integrity to write honestly about what we think is interesting.
Let’s look at the opposite view: “disclosure is important”. Let’s assume the reader reads an article where at the bottom it says “this trip was paid for by the marketing board of Xyx”. What should the reader then do? Should he think that “the journalist was on a paid-for trip so I will not trust what he says in this article”? What is then the point of writing the article?
Or should the reader think “I trust the integrity of the journalist so I really don’t care if the trip was paid for”? Then what point is there with disclosure?
The fact is that very little wine journalism and wine writing would be possible today without it being sponsored directly or indirectly in one way or another: paid-for travel to wine regions, free tastings for professionals, free samples, free dinners to meet and interview winemakers. It all sounds very nice, and it is. But it is also hard work and poorly paid work in most cases.
Therefore paid-for events are a necessity, and they are not necessarily an evil.
The fact is that very few wine writers manage to get paid decent money for what they write, and very few publications will accept paying for a writer and a photographer to go and explore a wine region for a few days to write and photograph an article. No one in the wine writing industry is today able to pay all expenses themselves. No one, no exceptions.
The fact is that almost all background research for wine writing (meaning travelling to wine regions, visiting wineries, interviewing winemakers etc) is sponsored in one way or another. Or it is done by someone who does not need to make a living from it but does it as a spin-off of vacation travel (or travel for other purposes). And again, that is not necessarily bad. Perhaps not all, but very much. I’d be very interested to hear from anyone who claims differently.
It is also an obvious fact that wine writers, professional or non-professionals (bloggers and others) will be influenced by marketeers and sponsored events. But that is not necessarily an evil either. It is just a fact. Wine writers, just like wine consumers, are influenced by marketing initiatives and events. So a wine writer is more likely to write about a wine region that he happens to have heard about. How could you possibly choose to write about Naoussa if you have not heard about it? But if the Northern Greece wine producers (as an example) make the effort to market their wines to wine writers and wine consumers, then they may get both press and customers for the excellent wines they make. And that is not a bad thing. Believing that wine writers can decide, starting from a tabula rasa, what to write about, which wines to taste, which regions to visit etc, solely on each one’s own merits, is an illusion. For one thing, it would require that you knew everything to start with to be able to chose what is “best”.
Back to BKWine Magazine:
We may occasionally write “disclosures” in our text but generally not. However, many trips we go on are sponsored by marketing or producer organisations, as are many tastings. Much is also based on the generosity and hospitality of various wine producers – many are passionate about sharing what the do with others and wine industry people are generally a very friendly and open-armed lot. We are grateful for all this.
We hope that this does not make our judgement biased.
On the other hand, we have the benefit of also being a wine tour organiser. On the 30 or so wine tours we organise every year it is our choice where to go, whom to visit, which is a luxury many others who write about wine don’t have.
In conclusion, we hope that you trust us and trust our integrity. We will write what we honestly think. Mostly good things. Very occasionally bad things on poor products. Time is too short to write about the bad things and we prefer to focus on the good stuff!
This post is also available in: Swedish