I generally try to stay out of the politics and scandals of wine writing. In most cases the kerfuffles are more about personality than substance and really don’t affect me or my readers very much, if at all.
However, recently noted Canadian wine writer, Natalie MacLean, whose last book I reviewed at her request, has been accused of both stealing other writer’s content and asking for payment from wineries to review their wines on her website. These allegations were made by the Palate Press, a respected wine blog featuring many outstanding wine writers. You can read the story for yourself.
The gist of it was that 1) she had lifted other wine writers’ content and posted it at her paid site without attribution to the writers or the sources, essentially giving the appearance that it was her writing, and that 2) she was asking for payment from wineries in exchange for reviewing their wines on her site.
These allegations come on the heals of last year’s allegations that she utilized a “sock puppet”, an alternate online persona, to refute a poor book review. In essence she pretend to be somebody else and posted positive things about herself and argued on “Natalie MacLean’s” behalf on the website of a Canadian newspaper which had published a book review that pointed out factual errors in her last book.
All of these events and allegations have left a bad taste in my mouth regarding my interactions with her. I do not know if the sock puppet allegations are true, though I believe them to be true based on the published evidence. I suspect that the new allegations are also true.
What does this mean for me? It means that I have to be transparent about my dealings with wineries. For the record, I have never asked for money to review a wine. I pay my tasting fees and, Lord knows, I have paid for every bottle in my “cellar”. A few bottles have been bartered for copies of my book. Some wineries have sold my books in their tasting rooms. I did ask if they wanted to sell my books, but there was never a quid pro quo, as the asking happened AFTER the book and the opinions in the book were published. I have never used another writer’s work without giving credit where credit is due. All opinions expressed here and in my books are my own unless otherwise credited. I am too low on the wine writing totem pole to receive free samples, but if I should receive free wine and I review it, I will disclose that fact.
It also means that I have removed my review of her book from my site. I can’t in good conscience recommend a book which has the whiff of unreliability about it.