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Thursday 24 April 2014

The Wine Advocate sues Antonio Galloni for fraud and defamation

21st March, 2013 by Lucy Shaw

Robert Parker’s influential bi-monthly publication The Wine Advocate is suing former critic Antonio Galloni for withholding tasting notes and for alleged fraud.

The Wine Advocate's chief executive, Robert Parker

The Wine Advocate’s chief executive, Robert Parker

The lawsuit focuses on Sonoma reviews from Galloni, who left the publication in February, that weren’t published as planned in TWA’s 28 February issue.

It also deals with Galloni’s recent visits to Brunello, Barolo and Burgundy.

The alleged fraud claim states that Galloni and his publishing company, All Grapes Media, used the Advocate’s “personnel and goodwill to deceive wineries into believing that they were representing the publication when they attended tastings of wines from the regions of Sonoma, Brunello, Barolo, and Burgundy.”

While still part owner of The Wine Advocate, Parker is not named as the plaintiff in the case, which is seeking US$75,000 in damages from Galloni.

Striking out: Antonio Galloni

Striking out: Antonio Galloni. Credit: Alfonso Cevola

Parker said of the case to his subscribers on the bulletin board of his website yesterday: “We have taken appropriate action to retrieve the report Antonio was paid to produce.

“At the time of these tastings, Antonio was a reviewer for The Wine Advocate, so it stands to reason the report he was paid to provide should be submitted.

“Our actions are simply a matter of retrieving a service we paid for on your behalf. This is not an attempt to stop Antonio from moving on.”

The case states that Galloni’s withholding of the Sonoma tasting notes has meant The Wine Advocate: “has lost, and will continue to lose, subscribers.”

On 5 March, Galloni posted a letter on his new website regarding the Sonoma reviews stating that Parker’s claim that the reviews had be scheduled for the February issue of TWA were “false”.

“Sonoma has never appeared on TWA’s 2013 editorial calendar,” Galloni said.

“It has never been my desire to intentionally withhold the Sonoma article. I offered to make the reviews available to TWA readers for free on my new platform once the article had been written and posted. TWA declined,” he added.

The case also accuses Galloni of “raiding” TWA’s confidential subscriber information, and “directing them away” from the publication and towards his own website.

Bimonthly publication, The Wine Advocate

Robert Parker’s bimonthly publication, The Wine Advocate

A series of salary reviews raised Galloni’s writing fees from US$12,500 a year to US$100,000, and then in 2011 to US$300,000, according to the suit.

Galloni worked as an independent contractor, with the requirement for all TWA critics to become staff members contributing to his departure from the publication.

The defamation claim alleges that Galloni told The New York Times that The Wine Advocate: “did not have the required level of independence and/or quality.”

What Galloni actually said to new editor-in-chief Lisa Perrotti-Brown MW on his decision to move on was: ”It was clear that the best way for me to guarantee the highest level of independence and quality was to run my own business.’’

The suit asserts that The Wine Advocate is “absolutely independent from wineries, retailers, and distributors.”

This claim may come under scrutiny considering that one of Parker’s new investors, Soo Hoo Khoon Peng, has “close ties” to Singapore wine merchant Hermitage Wine.

Galloni, who joined The Wine Advocate in 2006, has yet to comment on the case. On his recently launched website, he focuses on the wines of California, Burgundy, Italy and Champagne. He is currently looking for investors for his site.

Parker sold a major stake in The Wine Advocate last December for US$15m to a group of Singaporean investors and at the same time stepped down as editor-in-chief.

He remains chief executive officer and chairman of the board of The Wine Advocate.

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