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Bettane: producers who pay critics are idiotic

Leading French wine critic Michel Bettane has blasted wine producers that pay high profile critics to taste their wine as “idiotic”.

Picture (c) Armand Borlant

Bettane (left) said: “We’ve got to the stage where producers tell critics ‘I’ll pay you €2,000 for you to taste my wine and judge it’. Is this acceptable?”

Speaking at the World Wine Symposium at Villa d’Este on Lake Como over the weekend, Bettane attacked both the producers for paying to have their wines tasted, and critics for accepting the payment.

“Producers who pay critics are idiotic,” he said. “They really shouldn’t be doing this. If “critics” accept compensation for tasting wines, then I don’t believe them to be true critics. Corruption exists quite obviously in the wine world today.”

Chairing the debate alongside Bettane, The Wine Advocate writer David Schildknecht said certain producers view critics like machines: “They want to find out how many points you will spit out if you insert your credit card.

“Producers are naïve. They think they have to pay to have a wine writer visit – this will start happening more and more,” Schildknecht added.

Bettane spoke of the difficulty for complete financial independence in wine writing and explained the differences between intellectual and financial independence.

“You can’t avoid depending on the generosity of producers who allow you to taste their wines by donating them. But it’s important to be independent from the pressures of those who read your articles.

“Today’s consumers are like judges; they’re like greedy children that want to know everything immediately. It’s a hard task, but writers must maintain their independence.

“We’ve got to find a way to make it possible for young wine writers to be able to learn about wine independently, but also to have the financial means to make ends meet.”

Bettane believes we will see an Asian equivalent of Robert Parker emerge, with equal power and influence. “It’s a basic rule – if China is the first world wine market, then it will have the most important wine critic in the world whose taste suits the Asian palate.”

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