The breakup of the Wine Advocate’s Robert B. Parker with his former lead wine critic Antonio Galloni is getting ugly. You might remember that Parker sold a substantial interest in his influential wine newsletter, the most powerful in the country, to Singapore investors last December. Though Parker isn’t exactly retiring, he is stepping down as editor-in-chief. And that position has been claimed not by Galloni, his heir apparent, but by Lisa Perrotti-Brown, a Master of Wine who was a Singapore-based correspondent for the publication.
Fast forward to Feb. 12: Galloni leaves to found his own website. End of story, or so it seemed.
But now the Wine Advocate is suing Galloni for breach of contract—and fraud. According to a story up at “the Wine Cellar Insider” by founder Jeff Leve, “the problem is that prior to the sale of The Wine Advocate, Antonio Galloni, who was being paid $300,000 and expenses per year, contracted to write about and review the wines of Sonoma, California and other regions for Robert Parker and The Wine Advocate. Galloni refused to deliver the work product once he ended his business relationship with the company. He claimed that he was unable to finish his report on time as it would not do justice to the region.” Read more of Galloni’s side of the issue at his site.
First thought: $300,000 is an astonishingly high salary, especially since I remember seeing a tweet sent by someone at The Symposium for Professional Wine Writers at Meadowood Napa Valley in February. Only three of the wine writers in the room earned more than $25,000 per year from their writing.
Galloni’s proposal for resolving the issue is to publish the Sonoma report when he finishes it early next month on www.antoniogalloni.com and to give readers of the Wine Advocate free access to it.
But that seems just a little disingenous, because, of course, doing so would drive Wine Advocate readers and members of the popular erobertparker site to Galloni’s competing site. And why would the Wine Advocate want to do that? Especially since the tasting expenses came out of its budget?
Each side has its points, but how will the judge rule?
The situation looks even more complicated if you read further. Evidently, Parker let loose a blast from Bordeaux where he’s tasting the 2012 vintage, explaining to his readers that “we have taken appropriate action to retrieve the report Antonio was paid to produce. It’s a disservice to you and to the vintner associations and winemakers who put in massive efforts coordinating tastings for this report in hopes of getting a Wine Advocate review. 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. We regret having any delay and appreciate your patience as we sort through details via the proper channels.
“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; we continue to wish him our very best.”
For legal buffs, a copy of the lawsuit is posted on the Wine Cellar Insider.