It is exciting to have a new site about wine in Swedish; a site which writes news about wine and which comments and recommends wines. There are not too many sites to choose from. ” VinNet is a news site about wine, which is run by wine lovers “- as they describe themselves. “Wine news on the net” is their slogan. The site has been put together nicely and has a news section, a “wine school” and a section with videos from the vineyards. The site also sends out a newsletter through which they spread the word about great “value wines”. One begins to wonder what is the reason behind such an ambitious bunch to make them write about wine, news about wine and to give wine tasting tips on the Internet. The only information one is able to find is that the site has been created by “VinNet AB”. It is not possible to find the name of the person who is behind this all. Not an email address or mailing address, and no telephone number. There is no contact us page either. This is strange, but not entirely unusual (though mostly seen on less serious sites). On the right margin, they have ads from wine importers (or at least that’s what they appear to be, but it turns out that they’re related to VinNet own site).
Well, maybe they’re just a few enthusiasts who want only to remain anonymous. But one cannot help but to feel curious. So we dig a little deeper … The latest “news story” is called “organic wine – we explain the concepts.” Unfortunately, it is full of errors and confusing statements. Well, stuff happens. Then they have a few short informative texts about new wines in Sweden. These are quite dull and have been written with no apparent inspiration. It’s certainly not the new Hugh Johnson who’s behind the site that’s for sure! But one of the wines is judged as a “really good wine with a reasonable price tag” at VinNet. Upon reading, one would like to know who has made such a positive review on the wine! Perhaps a well-known wine critic or maybe not? Another news item has simply been taken from an article in the Swedish newspaper “Svenska Dagbladet” that has selected eight of the wines mentioned in the Dagger / Mölstad reviews. But why these? It’s hard to know as the reviews have been written by Dagger / Mölstad. By now, our curiosity is really starting to get the better of us. We take a look at the videos. These actually turn out to be pretty boring, but with real winemakers, however – there are no reviews by wine critics. They only stand and recite something that sounds like a description of the wine written by the “Systembolaget” (the Swedish Alcohol Retail Monopoly). And still, there is no information about who is behind the site. Nothing about who made the videos, other than just ” VinNet “.
Let’s take a closer look at the wines being “reviewed” on the video which are: Casa Patronales, imported by Prime Wine. Billecart-Salmon, Prime Wine importer. Misiones the Rengo, imported by Mondo Wine Sweden AB. Arthouse from South Africa, imported by BGS Vinhandel AB. But wait! BGS wine trade and Mondo Wine are owned by Prime Wine Sweden, or Prime Wine Group if you prefer. Weird. Very weird. Not surprisingly, it turns out that all other wines that have been reviewed also come from Prime Wine Group, including wines taken from the Dolk / Mölstad article published in the Swedish newspaper “Svenska Dagbladet” (wines from other wine importers have not been included). But not a word can be found about PrimeWine on the site. The only reference to who is behind “Vinnet AB”. But companies are registered with public information, so with a bit more reserach we find out that Vinnet AB is led by Andreas Kjell-Ake Stahl, who is also Director of Multibev AB. Not surprisingly – Multibev is owned by PrimeWine Group.
By all accounts, VinNet.se is nothing but a carefully masked façade for marketing the PrimeWine Group. News and unbiased wine reviews do not seem to exist. If you dig properly, it seems that all the material on the site comes from PrimeWine and their associated companies. But how can a reader who visits the site quickly be aware of this? It’s just not possible! There is no mention anywhere about this actually being just advertising. They have done everything possible to make what we see look like legitimate journalism. Indeed, “Wine news on the net” was the slogan!
I wonder what Swedish wine journalist think, they who really do write about wine news?
Swedish marketing states that: “All marketing should be designed so that it is clear that it is marketing. It should also indicate clearly who’s in charge of the marketing. A fundamental principle is that of a promotional activity, stating that in the case of advertising, the requirement for Advertising is identification. A commercial advertisement may for example not presented in such a way that it is perceived as editorial text, and a flyer may not look like a newspaper.[…] Another fundamental principle is that marketing should indicate who is responsible for it, a so-called transmission indication.The purpose of this requirement is that the recipient of a promotional message easily identifies who is behind the message and thus be able to reach them. “According to the National Consumer Agency www.konsumentverket.se and www.konsumentverket.se which establishes what is advertising identification and misleading advertising.
It is obvious that Vinnet.se clearly breaches the above and apparently goes deliberately against several of these points. If it is not so, then it is a pure coincidence that now it writes about PrimeWine-wine and next month it will feature Altia’s wines, and then Pernod Ricard, etc..
If you look at the other advertising sites on wine in Sweden, such as Vinportalen and Vinguiden, they have at least a minimum amount of content that is not just advertising (even if it isn’t much), while the content on these websites is advertising (for the most part) and is marked as such. Sometimes it is hard to find the “origins” of the wine as such, but the wine importer’s name will usually be specified. One can also compare other sites such as ProvaGuiden.se which is similar, but where it is unavoidable to note that it is advertising for Pernod Ricard’s products (without warnings).
Vinnet.se however, does everything, with great awareness of what they are doing, by all accounts, giving readers the impression that they are actually reading journalism and indepent wine reviews. And there is an effort to hide who is behind the message. An example of this can be seen in the food exhibition, “De Goda Kökat” where VinNet requested to have a stand but a good distance apart from the showcase of Primewines’ stand, according to the exhibition floor plan. The company’s official address is Vårbacken 7 in Nacka, according to the Business Register; this is a private villa, which earlier this spring was on sale for 10 million. According to “Goda Kökat”, its address is Strandvägen 7A which is a business center. PrimeWine has an address in Frihamnen. Is it Illegal? Well, judge for yourself.
Immoral and unethical?
Yes, perhaps it is due to everyone’s idea of morality and ethics – to pretend that it is producing independent journalism and wine reviews, when in reality they are advertising. Everything in the hope that the reader will believe that it is independent journalism.
What does that say about PrimeWines’ approach to wine consumers?
There’ll be no more visits to the PrimeWine Bar for us …
Translation by U Can Have It (with modifications)