Today's Wall Street Journal has a piece on the free trips taken by writers for Robert Parker's 'Wine Advocate' at: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB124330183074253149.html. Apparently one writer, after a trip to a continent that dare not speak its name (Ba-a-a-a-a-a!) proceeded to give the wines of the importer who hosted him an average score of 92, which seems rather high if you include the specimens of raisin soup unsaid continent is famous for.
To give a little background, Mr. Parker burst upon the scene many years ago in high dudgeon against the wine critics of the day, who he accused of being a pack of sticky-fingered shills. He then proceeded to careen wildly down the road in the manner of his professed idol, the notorious crank Ralph Nader, often either overpraising or scourging wineries - sometimes the same wineries, as in the unfortunate cases of Randall Grahm and Tim Mondavi. When he started a winery in Oregon with his brother-in-law, he solemnly promised never to review his own wines (such forbearance) but then proceeded to use the mailing list he had acquired as a critic to offer the wines to his subscribers; rather like Consumer Reports offering its own toasters. (An apt metaphor given the level of new oak in the wines.)
I am not really so quick to judge, having bought the late wine critic Jerry Mead, a fabulous mercenary, dinner on occasion; and I hesitantly admit to giving a discount to any wine critic that buys my swill by the case; the same discount I give my friends, family and fans when they do. I really should be more corrupting!