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February 25, 2005

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I'm in a bit of a unique (well actually crappy) situation. As per Utah law, there is no such thing as a 'press/media sample' or wine schwag of any kind. Thus, all my wine reviews are about wine that I've bought with my own pennies. So if I drop $25 on a bottle and it tastes like dookie, then I'm going to let everyone know about it through my review.

Having said that, I admit, if I lived elsewhere and could get media samples and/or schwag, I would be first in line. However, I would still be honest with my review. And if for some reason, a winery complained about my review and witheld future samples, then I would probably write about that too.

I don't think it's necessary to add an "*" to your comp'd reviews. If you are less than honest, we wine blogger and drinkers will find out soon enough...(not that you would ever be anything less than honest, Lenn).

Now go sniff, slurp, and spit with a clear conscience.

-beau

Per you comment on Vivi's, there's nothing wrong with putting a "*" out there. I thought I was sensing an inclination that bloggers' ethics were in question because of marketing people handing out samples. Glad you agree. And, no, there isn't a difference if they send it to you or you get freebies in the tasting room - its all part of a marketing campaign. Like Tom says, a good PR person expects nothing in return. A good PR person may also be upset if you pass on it because they believe in their product and its almost offensive if you leave it out. Thats just passion for their own product or client's product. And if they're a consultant, its their job to do everything they can to get thier stuff included in publications so you may very well feel pressure if you don't include it.

I'm saying, that pressure is normal not a ding on your ethics. Beau puts it nicely, go sniff, slurp, and spit with a clear conscience. And use a "*" if you really want to, but samples, even a sample bottle or free tasting, are just part of the marketing budget.

Cheers!

Right you are! I still may do the *...but I definitely don't feel like I need to anymore.

This is a good discussion though...it's just not something I ever really thought about before..always figuring that samples were/are "just how it's done"

I haven’t read all the Wine blog postings on this but essentially you have to decide whether there is a conflict of interest. Some would say that a conflict arises when a wine reviewer/critic accepts any sort of free item, be it a wine sample, T shirt, a meal, anything, from a winery, distributor, or wine shop. Tasting at wineries is not a problem as this is something that is open to the public. However if you receive special treatment from the winery then that clearly needs to be stated in a review as it is a potential conflict. Robert Parker Jr. argues that he accepts no inducements of any kind and that he buys all the wine he tastes in bottle. (I’m not sure how he addresses his high ethical standards when he does barrel tastings.) He has positioned himself as the consumer advocate for wine drinkers and so any conflict of interest has the potential to bring him down. His is an extreme case as very few of us have the resources to purchase the numbers of wines he tastes; but then he has an empire! I prefer to be a mini-Parker and buy all the wines I review either in bottle or via tastings at wine shops. When I write up any visits to wineries I include all the details of any special visits that may be outside the normal visit by the public. On a recent visit to the Barossa Valley several winemakers did give us unfinished bottles of wine to take with us to finish at our leisure, usually over a meal that day. I made sure I noted those “gifts” and where possible included a second review of the wine with the meal.

Another example of potential conflicts are friendships. A longtime friend of my wife married a wine maker several years ago. I made the decision that I would not formally review his wines on my blogs, but I have commented several times about the wines wining medals and awards. That would be a conflict of interest in the eyes of some individuals because as someone with wine blogs I am showing preferential treatment to a friend; essentially free advertising. Its something I am going to have to stop doing.

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