Gault Millau controversy: publisher responds

Gault Millau controversy: publisher responds

The current controversy is finding its way into mainstream media. The Süddeutsche Zeitung, one of Germany's leading newspapers, published an article entitled "Aufstand der Winzer" (rebellion of the vinters). This almost sounds like the title for Star Wars 7, and inevitably it would have to be followed by "The Publisher strikes back" - which they did. But first things first.

The Süddeutsche article starts with an introduction to Gault Millau's Wein Guide and explains the 195 Euro "voluntary" contribution issue. It then quotes Werner Knipser who thinks it is outrageous to pay to be reviewed. Knipser feels this would be a dingy practice and equivalent to paying for the actual ranking. He said he wanted to start a broad discussion. Contrast that to Jörg Bauer, who is quoted saying that charging was a common practice with regards to tests and that it was only to be expected that Gault Millau would introduce that; Bauer also feels that less well known wineries needed the publicity of the Wein Guide.

Next the German Agricultural Association (DLG) is mentioned as an example for an institution that charges for tasting wines, but a manager of the DLG Testservice mentions another key issue: unbiased tests have to be blind tests. The Wein Guide does not do blind tests and this is seen as problematic by "many vinters". Agnes Hasselbach, Weingut Gunderloch, is then quoted saying that Gunderloch have never paid to have their wines tasted - if they were to pay it would be like paying for an advert. But with adverts, Hasselbach says, you can at least decide what they say. The articles concludes with a statement from the Wein Guide publisher who promises that wines will be tasted and reviewed without any connection to who pays or does not pay the contribution; the last word is given to Knipser who suggests everyone should boycott the Wein Guide - this year.

I find this quite interesting as the letter of the "renegade" vintners did not say that their refusal to even be mentioned in the Guide might be limited to just one year. Perhaps this is Knipser trying to point to a way out of this situation. Another party interested in finding a way out of this mess has to be the Wein Guide publisher. Wine blog The Drink Tank has posted a response sent to the vintners: Basically, the publisher guarantees that the reviewers will have no way of knowing who paid the contribution or not and it is also emphasised that wineries will be reviewed whether they pay or not. Clemens Hahn, head of Christian Verlag, also expresses the hope that this will clarify the issue so that the vintners will agree to have their wines reviewed for this year. The Drink Tank also publishes a short interview with Hahn. Basically, Hahn says that he could have handled the communication better, but that he thinks asking for the contribution is acceptable.

Wine journalist Nikolas Rechenberg interprets the publisher's letter as an honest peace offering, but he feels Gault Millau should suggest a better way of funding the Guide. Blogging winemaker Dirk Würtz thinks that the controversy should really be over after the publisher's letter - unless the vintners found a new argument. In another blog post, Würtz also questions Knipsers refusal to pay to have his wine reviewed. While Würtz does not argue against the statement in principal, he does however wonder why Knipser competes in the Vinum red wine contest that has a 40 Euro fee per wine...

So much for some of the latest reactions. Personally, I hope this debate does now turn to a more fruitful discussion of what features we would want to see in a wine guide that meets the needs of the early 21st century (and the economic situation).