Gault Millau

Gault Millau editor resigns and thoughts on the future of wine reviewing

Following the recent controversy, Armin Diel, the editor of the Gault Millau Wein Guide for Germany, has resigned. According to a statement issued earlier this week, Diel felt he had to protect the Wein Guide, the VDP, his winery and his family from what has turned into attacks on his person. In another statement, the publisher of the Wein Guide also referred to increasing personal attacks on Diel. The publisher reiterated that will be completely independent of wineries opting to pay for the voluntary 200 Euro package that triggered the conflict. Despite resigning from his role as editor of Gault Millau, Diel will continue to be involved with VDP, the association of Germany's premier wine makers - the fact that Diel was both vintner/functionary and reviewer was certainly not popular with everyone.

torsten Saturday, 11/07/2009
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.

torsten Sunday, 05/07/2009
Wine Guide controversy: Tasting blind and tasting open

I'd like to point out one more aspect of the Gault-Millau debate, namely that the way scores come about plays an important part in the sorts of arguments that can be made against a wine guide.

Gault Millau tastes openly, that is to say every taster knows which wine he is about to score. That has a positive side, as a wine can of course be appreciated more fairly when you have some context to go with it, some experience of the kind of quality that a certain producer has shown in the long range, and other things. The negative side is this: Faced with one producer's range of wines, any taster will tend to give scores that reflect the hierarchy of quality that the pricing suggests, rather than a strictly objective evaluation of every individual wine.

Julian Saturday, 04/07/2009

Gault Millau Wine Guide and the critics, continued

The German wine community is in uproar (well, a little). Hundreds of Twitter messages or blog comments are addressing the conflict between the Gault Millau WineGuide and a group of vintners. As is often the case with the blogosphere, most repeat what they have read in other blogs and the discussion can become a little self-referential. However, there are two reasons why I am revisiting this topic today: some of the more knowledgeable bloggers do indeed have a few interesting comments; also, most of the discussion is in German, so it will be hard to follow for our international readers.

The first posting I would like to summarise is Werner Elflein's (yes, this is German for 'little elf') article Quo vadis Wineguides? - published three weeks ago. Elflein starts with a few comments on the structural crisis of the media and the problems wine guides have to make a profit. He argues that winemakers do profit much more from the work of professional tasters than many of them realise and that it is often the producers of third or fourth rank who complain about unfair treatment (Wine Rambler addendum: this does obviously not apply to the winemakers who signed the Gault Millau letter).

German winemakers 'declare war' on Gault Millau

You may be aware of Gault Millau as a restaurant guide, but they also publish Wine Guide Deutschland, the "definitive guide to German wine". Today, a group of leading German winemakers has announced that it will not only stop sending their wines to Gault Millau, they also refuse to even have their wineries listed in the wine guide.

The list of winemakers who have signed the open letter reads like a who is who of German wine: Helmut Dönnhoff, grand master of Riesling, Knipser, who had just won the title "vintner of the year", Pinot Noir experts Dr. Heger and Meyer-Näkel, Josef Leitz (famously called "our friend Josi" by wine merchants Pinard de Picard) and Heymann-Löwenstein, who has redefined the Wine Rambler's understanding of what mineral means in a Riesling, to name just a few.