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Pancho speaks out on Campogate and his plans for the future

We spoke to Pancho Campo in his first interview with the wine press since Wine Future Hong Kong closed its doors and the Jay Miller scandal erupted.

Over the following pages you can read Campo’s candid views on the wine trade, as well as why he appeared on the Interpol register, what prompted his decision to resign from the Institute of Masters of Wine, and his perspective on the so-called Campogate affair involving Jay Miller.

Campo was the first Spanish Master of Wine and the first person to organise a conference on climate change and wine.

He also founded Winefuture, which, in November 2011, brought Robert Parker to Hong Kong to present his Magical 20 – a tutored tasting for 1,000 people on the 2009 vintage in Bordeaux.

Campo established The Wine Academy of Spain and is president of the organisation.

He is has not retired from the wine trade and says he is planning another Winefuture for 2014.

A Q&A follows with Campo, and click here to read the first page of the interview.

Firstly, what you are up to at the moment, both broadly and in terms of any wine related activities.

Event management and marketing is my passion and my true talent. I am working for Chrand Management organizing the company ́s sports, lifestyle, environmental, gastronomy and music events. We always try to include wine in some of our events in the form of corporate hospitality, gala dinners, etc. I am also involved in the conferences of Future Economy Barcelona 2012 and Thinking Green. In addition, we have developed a new programme called Enjoy Spain, which will tour around 8 countries promoting Spain based on its sports, music, gastronomy, wine, lifestyle and nightlife. As far as wine activities, I help The Wine Academy of Spain conduct some of their courses, especially a new programme developed last year on marketing and event management for the wine industry.

Would you consider running another World Conference on Climate Change and Wine, or Wine Future event? And if not, why not?

The conference on climate change has been replaced by Future Economy Barcelona. We wanted to take a look at the two most important issues for society today: the economy and the environment, which also affect the wine industry. Future Economy 2012 has a much broader approach and it is not limited to just one industry. Winefuture will probably take place in 2014 but with a totally different approach. It will not be an event packed with writers, critics and trade people. The focus of the next edition will be the consumer. We realized that there are almost no high-profile events directed to the consumer. The industry needs to develop programmes and events that target potential consumers but which are not the conventional trade fair, guided tastings and walk around tastings. Its going to be bigger than Rioja and Hong Kong but totally different.

Speaking about such high-profile events, what do you feel you brought to the trade, and did you achieve what you set out to do?

We were the first organization to create a conference to study the impacts of climate change in the wine industry. We got the recognition of the Ministry for the Environment for being the first industry to apply the results of the scientists to a specific sector. We managed to convince vice-president Al Gore and Kofi Annan to take part in those conferences. When I created Winefuture it was when the recession started in 2008. The main goal was to gather the most relevant names of the industry to discuss the challenges that affect the industry and how to solve them. Wine needs high profile events, to create awareness and to be at a similar level of other competing industries. The environment, consumption and sales are perhaps the most relevant concerns for this industry and that is exactly what we tried to analyse at those high-profile events.

What impact do you feel you had on the wine trade?

We were pioneers in creating awareness about the impacts of climate change in the wine industry. When we organized the first conference in 2005 very few people were talking about this issue. Al Gore and Kofi Annan were of tremendous help to make wine people aware of the problem and to show that the wine industry cares. At Winefuture we managed to gather the most relevant names to discuss the challenges that the industry is currently facing providing solutions, ideas and inspiration for the sector. Winefuture has been one of the greatest events ever of the wine industry, no doubt about it. It was designated by the Hong Kong Tourism Board as one of top events ever hosted in the city. It is currently used in their catalogues and advertising to promote Hong Kong as a conference venue. I believe that the Spanish Wine Education Programme has been our most important contribution to promote Spain and its wines internationally. Since 2006 we have visited more than 60 cities, in over 25 countries and conducted more than 100 seminars where we educated more than 2000 professionals on Spanish wines.

Through our programmes we have helped more than 300 Spanish wineries to find importers, distributors and sell their wine overseas. When we managed Vinoble it was the only edition in 14 years that did not lose money. The 2012 edition was cancelled and its future is very uncertain. We tried to bring to the wine industry the event management and marketing skills we have gathered in the last 20 years in sports and music. Unfortunately, many traditional and conservative names in this industry want to keep marketing and high profile events away from wine.

Looking back, why were you on the Interpol register?

Let gets things clear: firstly, a warrant never existed according to headquarters and to Spanish authorities; secondly, I have never been accused of fraud or of embezzlement. To make a long story short, my ex-partner and I parted ways back in 2001. There was a court case in absentia for a commercial breach of trust, which is a misdemeanour and in Europe such case would have been treated as a civil matter. My ex-partner demanded from the court a compensation for the inconveniences and possible damages. Once we found out about the situation only in 2009, I contacted headquarters in Lyon, sent the papers they requested and my name was removed immediately. It was so clear that I didn ́t need a lawyer. The information they had regarding my name was not in accordance with the case and it should have never been listed. Also, until very recently the authorities in Dubai were putting hundreds of people on the Interpol list every year. In any case, this whole issue got out of hand and was conveniently used by many to attack my person and my business interests. If I had something to hide or if there was really a warrant, I certainly would not have been involved in doing high profile events. It was done in a very dubious manner, it was unjust and a mistake that should have never happened.

Do you feel you were unfairly victimised in the so-called Campogate affair?

What do you think? This started back in 2009, when blogger [Jim] Budd called me regarding the Interpol isuue. At first I did not think anything of it, but then he began to demand answers to his questions, or else he would assume that the accusations against me were true. Quite frankly, I did not feel obliged to answer to him. I guess he never forgave me for ignoring him, so then his obsession got out of hand, to the point he has harassed some of my collaborators, my closest relatives and some of their business associates who have nothing to do with wine, quite disturbing because he has done this non stop for more than 3 years. Harold Heckle who lives in Madrid acted as his associate and has been contacting people in Spain for the last 3 years trying to find out irregularities about our business. You see, in the wine sector I have refused to enter the game of the wine establishment, I do things my way and some do not like that. I guess they were looking for something, whatever it was. So, they came across an email (illegally published, I might add), copied, pasted, and took it out of context… as to change its meaning, and well, you know the rest. Interestingly enough, both “scandals” saw the light right before Winefuture 2009 in Rioja, and Winefuture 2011 in Hong Kong.

And would you like to present your side of the story?

I have never been a wine critic or a wine writer. We organize events and we were hired to do so for several wine organizations. We got paid for putting together such events, hiring the speakers, logistics, glasses, audio-visual equipment, travel, hotel, staff, etc. Not a single winery ever had to pay for visits or for their wines being tasted. Not one! Two prestigious law firms from the US and Spain conducted serious, meticulous and independent investigations. They clearly stated in their report that there was no impropriety in our conduct. These are the only facts that count: 1. The reports from the mentioned law firms are clear. 2. We have official documents and legal contracts that clearly show we acted ethically and professionally. 3. The accusations were based on emails taken out of context, not originals and published illegally. 4. No one has ever produced a single original and official document to support the accusations. 5. We received written statements from each and every winery visited and Consejos Reguladores supporting Jay Miller and us, as well as certifying that we acted professionally and ethically.

Last May we filed several criminal court cases through Spanish courts. Although our legal system is very slow, we are confident that sooner or later some of these people will be prosecuted and convicted.

If you are stepping back from the wine trade, what does that mean for The Wine Academy of Spain?

I am only stepping back from organizing events with critics, writers, bloggers, and that gang. Also, I needed to pay more attention to events management and sports, which have been my professional interests forever. We have continued conducting our courses with a lot of success, even under the current economy. My role in The Wine Academy of Spain has been secondary since Winefuture Rioja and my only involvement was to manage the Hong Kong event, conduct some WSET and SWE courses as well as some corporate events. The Wine Academy of Spain has been running its programmes since 2009 with a fantastic team of people and with the help of other professionals and educators.

Knowing how much work the MW requires, are you not devastated to no longer be a member of the Institute?

I wanted to be an MW for the knowledge and the experience you gain during the educational period. I needed a good education to be able to direct The Wine Academy of Spain as in the days we were involved almost exclusively in education. I passed all the exams and the dissertation and I even got the Villa Maria Award to best viticulture paper. No one can ever take that away from me. Not because I am no longer a member means that I have lost my knowledge and experience. It was not that difficult because I have the discipline of my sports days and I was highly motivated because I love wine. I did it for my self-satisfaction and fulfilment more than anything else. I also believed that I was part of a “society”. However, once again, anything that does not conform to the unwritten norms and is outside of the establishment is frowned upon. I cannot live my life being investigated because some people do not think that my way of living or doing business conforms to their ideals. The IMW rules state that I could request to be readmitted in years to come and if approved by the council I could be a member again. Would I do it again? Probably not because in those four years I could have obtained an MBA which would have helped me more to manage the company. Do I regret it? Absolutely not. It was a nice experience, I met some really nice people and I enjoyed the process of becoming an MW.

After all your time and work in the industry, what are your views on the wine trade?

The wine industry needs to make drastic changes in the way consumption and sales are promoted. Definitely a new and different approach is desperately required to communicate and market wine. A lack of interest in wine by younger generations in many markets, a generalized decrease in consumption plus world economical recession is forcing the industry to come up with new strategies. For the last so many decades the industry has relied on trade fairs, competitions, ratings, reviews and guided tastings in order to promote sales and consumption. These strategies have been abused and that is why they are no longer as effective. Social media and the internet, which are tools for communication and interacting, will not be the solution to the problem unless the message and the image are changed. It is not the messenger that fails, it is the message. Wine needs to be more appealing to the younger generations; needs celebrities and high profile names, to be sexier, and must improve considerably its events and marketing strategies. The stars of the show must be the consumers and the producers with wine as the vehicle that connects them. Until the industry understands this fact and stops paying so much attention to gurus, writers, competitions and ratings the change will not start.

And finally what is your wine future?

The same as it always was. I love good wine and helping people to enjoy consuming it. I have continued and will continue to conduct some courses and advising wine companies in marketing and event management. However, we have changed the focus to consumer and lifestyle oriented events as well as luxury wine experiences that companies and individuals request from us.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

I would like to thank the hundreds of wineries, producers and professionals that have supported us through the years and especially in the last year. We have received numerous emails and private messages of support and encouragement.


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