James Suckling under fire over ‘battery tasting farm’ empire

Graphic: Rob 'Lockup' Johnson

Wine critic James Suckling has been accused of keeping large numbers of tasters in ‘inhumane conditions’ to supply his burgeoning number of wine reports.

Investigations by the American Viticultural Agency (AVA) have revealed whole flocks of tasters being kept in cramped, dark accommodation across the States, their only job to crank out vast numbers of scores and tasting notes.

Young lives ruined

‘Tasters were being forced to plough through hundreds of wines a day, with little more than a saucer of crackers and a glass of Evian,’ said the AVA’s chief investigator, Perry Macon. ‘It’s a tragic waste of young lives.

‘Particularly since most of what they write will never be read.’

Suckling admits on his website to rating 120,000 wines last year, but the AVA fear this may only be the tip of the iceberg.

‘Remember these are only wines that are being rated,’ said Macon. ‘The actual number of wines being tasted could be far higher.’

Human cost

The Welfare pressure group Help Our Tasters Stay Healthy In Tastings (HOTSHIT) has been following the former Wine Spectator senior editor for several years.

‘Suckling is producing new reports and tastings at a completely unsustainable rate,’ said HOTSHIT’s Gloria Winem. ‘Consumers really need to think about the very real human cost of all those reports they’re not buying.

‘And consider not buying something else instead.’

Industry-wide problem

The Suckling ‘batterygate’ scandal is the latest in a series of accusations of taster mistreatment inside the wine industry.

Jancis Robinson faced allegations of being part of an MW trafficking ring in 2016.

And several panel chairs from the Decanter World Wine Awards claim they were force fed the same wine style for days without a break causing their love of wine to wither away.  

HOTSHIT’s Winem says the industry now needs to make it clear when tastings have been carried out using battery critics as opposed to free-range judges.

Make this hell stop

‘There’s no question that tasters are much happier when they can roam around and spit where they like,’ she told Fake Booze. ‘You only have to look at these poor creatures being released from James Suckling’s factories to know that battery tasting can’t continue.

‘Some of them haven’t seen the sun for weeks.

‘They’re so pale and stressed they look like sommeliers.’

No posts to display