Suckling Strikes Again! Or, How Not to Write a Wine Article

Readers of this blog know I contribute frequently to Decanter, a magazine for which I have a lot of respect.  This doesn’t mean I agree with every opinion expressed in it, however, and I was particularly troubled to see James Suckling, for whose opinions I have very little respect, featured prominently in the current edition (Decanter, May 2011).

The Suckling’s article strikes me as a textbook example of the worst kind of wine writing.   It’s an opinion piece (rightly so-called because there is hardly a useful or accurate fact in it) about whether the so-called “SuperTuscans” are a fading star.  The cover promises more:  “James Suckling on the Rise and Fall of SuperTuscans,” it says, but that isn’t what the Suckling delivers.  Strange, because this is an issue on which consumers and producers have already voted with their dollars and their efforts.  Since almost all SuperTuscans are now covered either by the IGT category or the many Tuscan DOC and DOCG designations, many producers have moved their formerly maverick wines into the more spacious conventional categories.  And from everything I’ve been able to gather from importers and retailers, with the exception of the greatest stars of the SuperTuscan cast, sales of the whole category have been declining steadily in favor of classifications like Chianti Classico and Brunello.

But this article is a typical Suckling performance.  Let me walk you through it.

Step 1:  Immediately remind your readers how important you are: “People ask me if I invented the term SuperTuscan.” Gracefully concede that you didn’t, and you don’t know who did. Also admit that you don’t know whether these wines have “as much resonance with consumers” as they used to. So much for the “fading star” question, ostensibly the point of the article. Don’t trouble yourself to look up any production, sales, or distribution figures that might suggest an answer. That’s not your style.

Step 2:  Provide an extensive quote from one of your winemaking friends who is, incidentally, a participant in your upcoming, for-profit event, Divino Tuscany (see below for the skinny on this).  Don’t worry that the quotation has nothing to do with the subject of your article: the point is publicity, not relevance. Thus, Lamberto Frescobaldi opines that people “may not have a clear understanding” of the term SuperTuscan, goes on about how they don’t know what a Chianti or a Brunello is either, and concludes that prices for these various wines vary.

Now, as author, don’t use that as an opportunity to explain to your readers what a SuperTuscan is or how it may differ from a Chianti or a Brunello; that would just be information, and too boring.

Step 3: Do talk a bit about the DOC and DOCG wine appellations, which allows you to mention your favorite wines in those categories – none of which costs less than $100 a bottle, which seems to be the lower limit of the Suckling’s interest in wine.  Then admiringly recount the stories of two of the most prestigious (and expensive) SuperTuscans, Tignanello and Sassicaia.

Step 4:  Introduce another of your friends who makes an expensive SuperTuscan  (and is also a sponsor of Divino Tuscany) and have him pronounce a ridiculous opinion on this whole group of (still undefined, unidentified) wines. Here’s Luca Sanjust, who produces the $100+ SuperTuscan Galatrona: “These wines introduced people to drinking wines for pleasure, not just in an intellectual way, like old Barolos and Brunellos.”  (Well, that opened my eyes: I never knew I wasn’t enjoying wine before the SuperTuscans came along.  Just think of all those years and years in which nobody ever drank wine for pleasure!)

Step 5:  Conclude your article by letting your buddy do the heavy lifting of pointing out how stupid all other wine writers are.  Signor Sanjust does that nicely for the Suckling.  He starts sensibly enough by observing that “we can’t become Burgundy or some other region like that.” But then he denounces “all those idiot wine critics and bloggers” who say that Italians should stick with native Italian varieties.  “They don’t understand that there are microclimates and soils that are perfect for other grapes, and that they make great wines.”  Final word, right?  Says everything there is to say on the subject?

Well, no; I think that those idiot wine critics and bloggers know perfectly well about the diversity of Italy’s terroirs, and they have serious reservations about the greatness of the wines in question.  Does the world truly need another $100 Tuscan Merlot?  I have problems with brand-new estates in California offering their first vintage at more than $100 a bottle, and by the same token I have doubts when Signor Sanjust tells me “we are simply trying to give the maximum pleasure to wine drinkers.”  If he really means that, let him lower his price to around $25 – and then we can talk.

A question of propriety:

Almost all the wines the Suckling mentions in this article, and the only two individuals he quotes, are sponsors/participants in Divino Tuscany, a barbarously named four-day event the Suckling is presenting in Florence in June – featuring “the best wineries in the region – all personally selected by me.”  He is charging consumers €1,600 for the event, and that doesn’t include travel or lodging.  This is clearly not a penny-ante matter.

For him to be writing now about only participating wineries, and in particular, giving such inordinate space to self-serving personal promotion by Luca Sanjust, seems a blatant conflict of interest.  This isn’t wine journalism: this is public relations.  Those are two different activities and should be carried out by different people.  The ethics of the wine business can often be murky, but journalistic ethics are pretty clear-cut: you’re not supposed to have any pecuniary relationship with individuals or firms about which you’re ostensibly objectively reporting.  It’s not so long ago that journalists were released from magazines and newspapers for considerably slighter involvements than the Suckling’s with the people he writes of.

Persistent rumors in Italy – admittedly unverifiable: nobody is talking for attribution – claim that the Suckling is charging wineries heavily to be represented in Divino Tuscany.   One figure I have heard is €10,000 per winery.  Should these rumors turn out to be true, would this be the same as what the pop music industry used to call payola, and what politicians now know as “pay to play?”   You tell me.  Even if untrue, it still seems to me a glaring breach of journalistic ethics to write a purportedly unbiased article that hardly mentions a single wine that isn’t a part of your own clearly for-profit venture.  That isn’t journalism: it’s advertising.

77 Responses to “Suckling Strikes Again! Or, How Not to Write a Wine Article”

  1. Anthony Smith Says:

    Truly enjoy reading this and the fundamental reason that any JS rating is meaningless
    Pompous idiots like that give wine drinkers a bad name.

  2. Dave McKenzie Says:

    I am 6+ years late to this party! But I just had to say bravo! Suckling’s inflated ratings are all over the place at our local Total Wine store. It’s infuriating.

  3. Wineboy Says:

    Has anyone noticed that Mr. Sucklings scores on wine have skyrocketed on wines – ever since he’s no longer with Spectator? Giving them away like candies !! Retailers are quoting him in greater numbers because of this – Shame to them (and Suckling)

    • Bryce Says:

      Definitely, his scores are consistently 2-4 points higher than other professionals’. Evidently it works for him: retailers love to quote the higher scores, and Suckling gets more publicity. He also favors points over real descriptors; his “reviews” read like they were written by a second-grader. He cheapens the whole experience for the objective consumer.

  4. Eder Says:

    The worst was : ” No one drank for pleasure before these wines” , Giacomino Suckling non capisce di vino

    What a testa di ….

    American people buying italian wines, listen to Franco Ziliani and real writers!

  5. maurizio fava Says:

    thanks Tom,
    what a great piece of journalism.
    and a master lesson about ethical behaviour, too

  6. Suckling atakuje ponownie, czy może jego atakują? | - Winna Strona Życia Says:

    […] trwa, najpierw Tom Maresca na swoim blogu opisuje artykuł w Decanter, który jest de facto promocją eventu organizowanego przez Sucklinga i […]

  7. John Wheaver Says:

    Thank you for revealing the ‘interest’ of this writer. It certainly is not even hinted at in the writing. I had read it without being very impressed by the sort of thing you read in a local newspaper. “Super Tuscans were bottle with the lowest designation” – well of COURSE they were, they didn’t conform to any existing denomination! (Is he thick, or arrogantly telling me that I am?) And Chianti can cost from $8 to $50. Shock! To a wine-aware readership. Like the English “Nothing like Claret is there old chap?” From £4 to £400 without really trying. Then “flawed wine laws that insisted on white wines (sic) in the blend” – does he mean the proportions defined by the great Barone Ricasoli in his ground breaking Brolio and Meleto Chiantis?
    You just might have seen Letter of the Month in the same Decanter issue; it does say something heartfelt about Sassicaia – but I’m biassed. (To add name-dropping to conceit, I did once say to Lodovico Frescobaldi that the new style chiantis should have the name of the forest rather than the name of the vineyard on the label).

  8. The Suckling: Pomposity and Corruption? - Says:

    […] Tolaini, Tua Rita, Uccelliera and Valdicava. Here’s the link to Tom’s thoughtful piece. As Tom explains, “Almost all the wines the Suckling mentions in [his Decanter] article, and […]

  9. Thomas Pellechia Says:

    Funny, a number of years ago, after I walked away from a wine shop in which I had a financial interest, I pitched an article to Decanter regarding the small wine shops of NY City that cater to supplying special needs based either on region, price, or type of varietal wine. The article covered a number of retail shops in the city.

    In the piece, I included a disclosure that I once had an interest in one of the shops that I mentioned, but that my connection was over, which it was.

    Some smart copy editor at the magazine decided not to include the disclosure in my article, while at the same time, some other writer likely trying to keep me from muscling in on his turf, complained to the editor that I was connected to one of the shops.

    The editor phoned to excoriate me–she apparently didn’t know about the disclosure that I submitted.

    All this is to ask: if Tom is correct about what definitely are ethical breaches, how did Suckling manage to get the article past Decanter’s journalism code of ethics?

  10. Emma Lowenstein Says:

    Hi Tom,

    A little late to the party here, but wanted to send my comments regardless. I completely agree with you here; James certainly was not writing as a wine journalist, simply a PR person, and quite an arrogant one as well. I can say this because well, I am a PR professional. It is my job to send updates, invitations, and samples to all journalists (which no doubt includes critics and bloggers alike) and have them decide for themselves whether they enjoy the wineries/wines or not. Of course, one always hopes for the best, but completely understand if something is not loved and more than anything, truly appreciate honest feedback and comments to provide to clients.

    Thanks for bringing this article to my attention; I am not a journalist and will never try to play that part. James ought to take a moment to figure out what he is, a true wine journalist, or just a plain old flack.


  11. Julie Brosterman Says:

    At recent Napa Valley Wine Writers Symposium ‘elephant’ in the room was how do people who love writing about wine make a living at it.

    Not a fan of Suckling’s writing or opinions about wine (or the ego), but boy, in a short amount of time he’s learned to monetize his influence.

    Wondering what the wineries who are paying 10K euros think they are getting for their money?

    Surely they didn’t count on 10K euros worth of negative PR.

    Thanks Tom for the out-of-the box writing. Very refreshing.


  12. mort hochstein Says:

    tom..i came late to the party, but really enjoyed your expose cum roast of suckling. I worked with him in the early days when spectator
    was still a tabloid. He had an overblown picture of himself in those days and it has only gotten worse. sock it to him
    but i do not know why ron says most wine writers would fear suckling. absurd, ron. he took a shellacking when he first left spectator and began this new and embarassing chapter in the saga of suckling. mort

  13. Guy Woodward Says:

    Guy Woodward, editor of Decanter, writes: James Suckling’s piece was an adjunct to a larger piece about the popularity of Italian wine in the US. Suckling was asked to write an opinion piece to complement this, on the subject of the diminishing relevance of ‘SuperTuscan’ wines, something which, as the reviewer of Italian wines for one of the US’ leading wine publications over a period of two decades, he is eminently qualified to do. Whether or not you like the piece is a matter of opinion. Like any other guest column in Decanter, however, his views and those of winemakers quoted in it do not necessarily reflect that of the magazine. But we believe in being an open church – allowing and airing multiple views. It should be noted that Suckling is not recommending wines for Decanter, nor was his upcoming event – which had not been announced at the time the piece was written – promoted with the piece.

    • Frank de Falco Says:

      I’m not going to join the chorus of responses – virtually all negative – heaped on Suckling. Not because I’m a wine PR professional and am afraid of retribution. To the contrary, the brave Emma Lowenstein is the only other PR person, apparently besides me, to go on record as saying what most PR publicists feel but dare not say publicly: that Suckling’s “pay-to-play” relationships with the winemakers he writes about and/or includes in his tastings represent a serious breach of professional ethics.

      If more publicists, wine producers and fellow wine writers were willing to go on the record, Suckling would be forced to adhere to more rigorous ethics, or at least offer full disclosure. If not, he would be forced out of the business – a possibility that is not as far-fetched as one might think.

      My quibble is with Decanter editor Guy Woodward’s definition of just what constitutes an opinion piece. For example, Mr. Woodward seems to assume that an opinion piece needs no actual facts to back up the opinion or that it need not follow a logic that would make the opinion if not valid at least understandable to the reader.

      Mr. Woodward implies that an opinion piece, by definition, need not offer objectivity. But, even in a one-sided apologia – especially in a one-side apologia – full disclosure is critical to honest journalism. For example, What kind of relationships does Suckling have with the wine makers he quotes? Are they part of his “pay-for-play” initiatives for example?

      Finally, Mr. Woodward seems to be splitting hairs when he said that the pay-for-play Divino event had not been announced at the time of the article’s publication. But the point is not whether it has been announced but who at Decanter knew about the event and when did they know it?

      Even if no one at Decanter did know, for Suckling to withhold that fact from Decanter is lying by omission since I’m willing to bet my bottom dollar that the winemakers quoted in the article will, in fact, be part of the Divino event. Worse still, Suckling’s lie of omission undermines, if only temporarily, a genuinely serious wine publication such as Decanter.

      • Tom Maresca Says:

        Frank: The folks at Decanter have several times assured me that no one there knew anything about the Suckling’s projected Divino Tuscany, and since everyone at Decanter has always behaved honestly and honorably to me, I completely believe them. Such fault as exists originates with the Suckling — and since the focus of my post was the Suckling, and not Decanter at all, I think Guy Woodward’s choice not to get into specifics about his piece is wise. Let’s keep our eyes on the real villain, no?

      • Frank de Falco Says:

        Tom: You are completely correct about Decanter being caught in the crossfire of my response. You and I have long had a great affection for the magazine, me as a reader.

        If I seemed to pull my punches re Suckling – and inadvertently made it seem as if I were pummeling Decanter – it’s because, well, that Suckling is not the only one who’s exploiting his/her journalistic credentials to effectively do for-profit PR work for winemakers, associations, trade organizations.

        So why single out Suckling when there are others about which the same thing can be said (but never is)?

        Maybe I’m missing something here. It would certainly help to know a) who’s in it for profit and b) a clear statement of ethics from each and every wine writer/publication.

  14. Terroirist » Daily Wine News: Interesting Comments Says:

    […] news roundup included a link to Tom Maresca’s questions about James Suckling and his journalistic ethics. Mike Steinberger’s take on the story has […]

  15. Raffles Says:

    Suckling is the Dick Cheney of the wine world. Neocon all the way to the cork.
    Politics in the glass…

  16. Bellissimo Brunello: degustazione di 2006, con Giacomino Suckling “pifferaio magico”, a New York | Parole in libertà Says:

    […] Operazioni che, negli States, sono state criticate aspramente dal wine writer Tom Maresca qui, sul suo blog. Ho già presentato, qui e poi ancora qui, Divino Tuscany, “l’americanata” che con luci ed […]

  17. Terroirist » Daily Wine News: Journalistic Ethics Says:

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  18. » Weekly Wrap – 1/5/2011 Says:

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  19. james Says:

    i am 98 on that! 😀

  20. Mzep Says:

    Reading your comments/criticism of James Suckling I can’t help but get a sense of an underlying negativity u harbor towards him. Your basis for devoting a day’s blog to doing so is far-fetched and clearly unwarranted. I never met, nor do I know James, but I’ve followed his evaluations and read articles by him, and I have nothing but compliments for hi. Sorry for disagreeing with u … but I think ur barking-up the wrong tree. Cheers!! 🙂

    • Tom Maresca Says:

      Well, you’re certainly right about the negativity, but you’re dead wrong about its being far-fetched or unwarranted. Read the piece again: we’re talking here about ethical violations and professional sins of a serious order.

  21. Harry Karis Says:

    Great article???? It’s an easy an cheap way to bash. Not defending Suckling at all but I think you should watch yourself more often in the mirror Tom!!!

    Harry Karis

    • Tom Maresca Says:

      Harry: if you really think what this post tried to do is easy, or that it’s accurately summed up as simply bashing the Suckling, then I have to think you are either a very shallow reader or you have stripped some major moral gears.


  22. Wine Harlots Says:

    Life is a conflict of interest, but this one had us rolling our eyes and calling bullshit. Transparency is key. The facts don’t change, but how people perceive them does.

  23. King Krak, I Smell the Stench Says:

    I say we crash The Suckling’s event with dangerous red wines from Friuli, Alto Adige and Mt. Etna. Force these €1,600 wannabee wine-consuming elitists to drink the Magma!

  24. Damien Says:

    Hello Tom,

    I recently sat down at the Stained Glass Bistro in Evanston, IL with one of my salesmen and had the pleasure of tasting with Al Cirillo. We made the connection to your relationship because I had given my guy a copy of Mastering Wine as a study guide, and Al noticed the book in his things. What relevance to this post? Al added the Riecine Chianti Classico to his list, a wine which wine lovers have been enjoying for years without the benefit of Suckling’s benediction.

    It was a pleasure to meet and taste with Al, we look forward to coming to know him better.


    Damien Casten
    Candid Wines

  25. Finkus Bripp Says:

    Great article! He’s not the only event organizer looking to get rich quick. Pity the producers fall in to the traps laid by those promising a quick fix… € 1.600 consumer price tag? I hope they get to shake Suckling’s hand for that.

  26. Under A Tuscan Cloud | Mike Steinberger's Wine Diarist Says:

    […] friend Tom Maresca, a writer who specializes in Italian wines, has posted a scathing article on his blog about James Suckling. I recognize that we wine writers spend a lot of time talking […]

  27. The Suckling chronicles » New Wine News Says:

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  28. Beau Carufel Says:

    Suckling. A douche. And a shitty writer too. I’m 96 points on that. Great article Tom.

  29. Jo Diaz Says:

    It sucks to be Suckling these days… it seems.

  30. Kevin Callahan Says:

    @ jean aubry:
    Jean Tom’s piece takes a swipe at journalists that speak without facts & figures, and writing what is referred to as the worst kind of writing: “an opinioni piece”. Uhem, you seem to have stepped into such a mud puddle yourself. While you refer to Suckling’s tasting with the SAQ as ‘turning out poorly’, what exactly are you referring to? Do you mean to say that the event turned into lack lucter sales for the SAQ? I don’t have access to sales figures, but a recent conversation with a few of the leading SAQ directors for that event expressed the exact opposite. It was in fact (according to them) one of the SAQ’s most success activities to date and they expect to continue such based upon that success.
    Do you refer to Quebec’s/Quebecor’s acceptance of Suckling’s tasting and of he himself as a taster in Quebec, providing his opinions to the Provence’s resisdents? I can only say that the radio interview with Suckling in Montreal (in which the interviewer clearly attempted to create a contraversy) was a joke and a sham, IMO. It only created an atmosphere that endorsed the outdated enviousness of locals to the outside. Get over it. While I generally respect your collegue “Bill’s” Gazette writings, he left me quite unimpressed with his article supporting such attitudes. Shame on both of you.
    While I fully respect Tom’s outline above, and agree with much of what he is writing about, you are completely out of line to attempt to align yourself with what Tom is referring to. If you are to roast someone and their actions effectively, it is important to stick to the facts and accuracy. Otherwise you completely lose creibility. Something a ‘journalist’ should know intimately.

  31. 1WineDude Says:

    This makes me angry. Specifically, it makes me angry that I didn’t come up with an event that got wineries paying me 10K Euro each to participate!!!


  32. Elin McCoy Says:

    Terrific piece. Fine companion to Mike Steinberger’s appraisal of Antonio Galloni’s Barolo event at

  33. The Suckling chronicles | Dr Vino's wine blog Says:

    […] has yet to detail on his iPad or elsewhere is a statement of ethics. Veteran wine writer, Tom Maresca, has called him out for it on his blog, offering a point by point critique of a recent Suckling column in Decanter magazine. The main […]

  34. jean aubry Says:

    Monsieur Suckling was in Quebec recently for an evaluation of SAQ wines with the local journalist.
    It turned out poorly.
    My collegue Bill fron the Montreal Gazette and I, wine columnist at Le Devoir ( mad a review of the man itself.
    We have serious doubts about the results,

    jean aubry

  35. Gabriella Opaz Says:

    @Evan Yes there are some editors out there still, but alas, they are few and far between 🙂

    @Franco @Tom Why are participants paying 1,500 euros and every winery 10,000 euros for a wine event?! As an event organizer myself (lasting a minimum of 3 days), unless I’m lacing the participant’s bed in gold, that seems like an insane amount amount of money! Which leads me to wonder, is the fault solely James’ or may it also be the people/wineries choosing to spent a huge sum on this event?

  36. Max Morales Says:

    Everyday we will know more and more about wine & marketing. When Mondovino part II would come out?? would be nice isn´t?
    Cheers from Chile!

    Max Morales

  37. discovervin Says:

    I love decanter magazine but I do worry about propriety of them and all the “famous” wine writers

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  39. Evan Dawson Says:

    Guy Woodward tells me he’ll answer to criticism of Decanter on this issue next week. He needs to. Yes, this is Suckling’s piece, but no one had to publish it. If this piece had come from any unknown writer, it would have been laughed off the page instantly. Do they have editors at Decanter? Does anyone vet anything these days?

  40. Greg Roberts Says:

    I disliked Suckling since his asinine comment in mondovino about how french wines were your parents and grandparents wines while Italian wine were for his generation, or something to that effect.

    As Franco confirms in his post he’s charging wineries 10,000 eur to participate his Divino Tuscany tasting. Do the consumers who are paying 1600 eur to attend know that they are going to taste his hand selected wines or only the wineries that can fork over the money?

  41. Kare MacNeil Says:

    Well said, TOM.

  42. Paul Lin Says:

    Good article. But I would have liked it more had you applied those same standards to yourself.

    Step 1: Immediately remind your readers how important you are: “Readers of this blog know I contribute frequently to Decanter, a magazine for which I have a lot of respect.” I think this was unnecessary — and maybe a little self-serving — to display your own credentials here.

    Step 2: Provide an extensive quote from one of your winemaking friends and Step 5: Conclude your article by letting your buddy do the heavy lifting of pointing out how stupid all other wine writers are: “Persistent rumors in Italy – admittedly unverifiable: nobody is talking for attribution – claim that the Suckling is charging wineries heavily to be represented in Divino Tuscany.” OK, not a quotation, but to disclose unverified rumors from friendly insiders (which apparently have been verified in the comments) is kind of an unsavory way to remind others of journalistic ethics.

    But let me repeat again, in a schadenfreude sort of way, I did enjoy the article. It’s always nice to see the air taken out of someone else’s tires.

  43. Ben_E Says:

    Great Article….You’ve won over one new fan here!

    My two cents….
    I have been in Wine retail for awhile now, and cut my teeth training under someone who was a Wine Spectator bible beater. It rubbed off and most of what I learned on was based off of what I read in WS. I became a fan of Suckiling early on and embraced his ratings and opinions. It was not until he left that my eyes where opened to how self serving he is (It also did the same for making me realize that W.S. can be a lot of fluff too). Since his departure I have grown a disdain for him and his style of “journalism”. I now get more enjoyment and education out of “idiot bloggers” than any where else.

    Again, thanks for a great article!


  44. Charmion Says:

    Agree. I sell wine in retail. Canceled my Spectator subscription about 3 yrs ago and don’t miss it at all. Don’t subscribe to any magazines. Yet I make a living selling wine to Mr. & Mrs. customer. Read a lot, news, WBM, lots of retailer and wholesaler newsletters, but no paid subs. I tried reading J. Laube recent stuff on Paso Robles Saxum, on Calif. Rhones. Can’t get any useful info. I re-read it, it has no center, no cohesiveness. Words like bold and opulent. What is opulent? Babbling, like the babies on the E-trade TV commercial. Or being in a boat with no rudder, no compass, no sail, no mast. What a waste of paper.

  45. Tom Says:

    He can write whatever he pleases….but please no more videos…his videos represent crimes against humanity.

    So very par for the Suckling course, he is beyond obnoxious….

  46. Bryce Says:

    I have long felt that Suckling’s post-Wine Spectator venture is based on a false sense of celebrity, dubious journalistic integrity, elitism, and a fair dose of greed. I may not agree with all of Parker’s (for example) opinions either, but I admire that he remains financially disentangled from the producers he reviews. Suckling, with more money, could be the Donald Trump of wine journalism.

  47. Doug Frost Says:

    Great job, Tom!

  48. Chris Lopez Says:

    wow… it’s too early in the morning for me I guess. I must have skimmed over how this article appeared in Decanter and not Spectator. I canceled my Spectator membership years ago for dribble like this, I guess it is just running rampant in the wine press today. I agree with a previous poster that Decanter is just as much to blame, after all they are his soap box for this one.

  49. Daniel Says:

    I love this. Thanks for the skewering of our favorite “Suckling”.

  50. Chris Lopez Says:

    Thank you Tom. Very rarely do I read a piece that so closely mirrors my distaste for suckling (and I think spectator as a whole). I poked around your blog a bit and loved your Christmas article about big whites. For your candidness and captivating (and also informed) writing you have just won yourself a follower.

    Thank you

  51. Tim McDonald Says:

    Tom, nice piece of journalism. Seems that there are quite a few pubs where there is a pay to play for inserts however that is different than objective writing. This is a form of PR and advertising with a little op-ed no?

  52. Rick Bakas Says:

    I can’t tweet this out fast enough…

  53. Tom Says:

    If Decanter lets him get away with it, then they share the blame. And while this is blatantly commercial, plenty of mainstream wine writers plug conferences/events they’re organizing without acknowledging how they might benefit. This example seems more egregious but not unusual.

  54. Roger Sleigh Says:

    Bravo ! There’s a surprising amount of this kind of writing about.

  55. Ben Says:

    Tom, I’m 99 points on that.

  56. Dan Thompson Says:

    Great work, Tom:

    New to your blog but detest wine pigs (especially the suckling variety).

    Decanter, like most print media, is so down on advertising that editing cuts have resulted in crappy final stories that go to print as self-fulfilling dribble.

    So many of these (like the super tuscan suckling article) are really no more than pr articles and promotions to sustain the ‘i am a legend in my own mind’ mentality.

    Keep up the good work!

  57. harvey posert Says:

    if ron says it, it must be true. and it is.
    thanks, tom.

  58. robert Says:

    well done, you could have not said it better. guess I will stick to drink old barolos and brunellos in an “intellectual way”, I will skip the “pleasure” of the supertuscans!

  59. Franco Ziliani Says:

    Tom, are not simply rumors, but reality that “Suckling is charging wineries heavily to be represented in Divino Tuscany”. Every winery participant will pay 10.000 euro, like I wrote in my blog Vino al vino:
    This is the Suckling way…

    • Tom Maresca Says:


      Thank you very much for that confirmation that the Suckling’s corruption is about as complete as it can be. I try to follow Vino al Vino, but I missed that post: I’ll keep a sharper watch in the future.

  60. Colorado Wine Press Says:

    You are assuming that Suckling is a journalist. While he plays one on video, he is not. Though, to be fair, most major wine critics are not either. Journalists report on the good, the bad and the ugly. How often do you see negative reviews by the major wine publications? Never, because they need to promote themselves while they promote the wineries of which they seek affection.

  61. Withheld Says:

    I am in PR and, hence, prefer to/need to comment anonymously. Kudos to you for exposing this abhorrent breach of journalistic ethics.


  62. vimpressionniste Says:

    I don’t know Ron… Suckling is (rightfully) the subject of much criticism, if not derision lately. I’d say he’s 78pts on popularity ;P

    Even here in France, well-known journalist Michel Bettane complained about Suckling’s early Bordeaux primeur tasting.

  63. Mr Wine Guy Says:

    Also a Bravo from me. We need to let the wine world know this is not the person to be listening to. A link to your article is up on

  64. Christianna Sargent Says:

    interesting read, rings very true, now if we could get Suckling to respond, maybe a post on his blog, if you pay a membership fee, you can read it!

  65. Paul J. Kiernan Says:

    Yeah, I was disappointed by that article too and thought it meandering, wishy-washy, and lazy. Come on, JS, stop phoning it in!

  66. David Lowe Says:

    Thanks for standing up for us idiot bloggers, Tom.

    Just because we don’t write for Decanter, it doesn’t mean that we are uneducated fools.

  67. magnus ericsson Says:

    Great article! Kinda put things in perspective! 😉

  68. Jonathan Levine Says:

    Tom, you have to learn not to be so wishy washy and you need to say what you really feel. Stop holding back

    Excellent piece,


  69. Ron Kapon Says:

    Bravo Tom,
    Most wine writers would never have had the guts to take on Suckling. Great article

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