Natalie MacLean is a well-known wine writer who self-publishes a subscription newsletter at NatalieMacLean.com, who proudly proclaims she was named the “World’s Best Wine Writer” at the World Food Media Awards. Unfortunately, Ms. MacLean appears to be building her reputation, and her business, on the work of others.

Her website offers a paid “Magnum Membership” that gives readers access to wine reviews. It also generates revenue from advertising. The core of Ms. MacLean’s work is the publication of wine reviews and food and wine pairings. In addition to her own reviews, which are often a sentence or less, Ms. MacLean includes professional wine reviews by writers from other publications. The reviews sometimes include the writer’s name, but never the publication or a link. Rather, they are all accredited to “Vintages Wine Catalogue,” a Liquor Control Board of Ontario publication which runs fully accredited reviews, including author, date, and publication, to drive wine sales, much like any retailer on line or on shelf-talkers.

There is a simple phrase for this practice in which Ms, MacLean has engaged – copyright infringement. Just because someone is writing about wine rather than, say, politics or foreign affairs does not absolve him or her from adhering to journalistic ethics. Intellectual property theft is a scourge on journalism and cannot be tolerated.

The law allows for republication of snippets of copyrighted material if it is used as a basis for criticism (such as using a movie or song clip for an arts review), commentary (as in debate), news reporting (and usually only with attribution in that case), or education (as in a classroom). This is known as the “Fair Use” doctrine. Ms. MacLean’s use of others’ work clearly fails the Fair Use test because she publishes entire reviews, they are appropriated for commercial purposes and her use is not for any of the legally permitted reasons.

Palate Press reached out to many of the wine writers whose work has ended up on Ms. MacLean’s site. None of those we contacted had given any permission to Ms. MacLean for her use of their work. The list of those so offended is a “Who’s Who” of the world of wine journalism, including Jancis Robinson and reviews from her members-only Purple Pages, Antonio Galloni, David Schildknecht, Lisa Perrotti-Brown and Robert Parker of The Wine Advocate, Bruce Sanderson, Harvey Steiman and Kim Marcus, of Wine Spectator, Steve Heimoff and Roger Voss of Wine Enthusiast Magazine, Josh Reynolds and Steve Tanzer from International Wine Cellar, as well as Alpana Singh, Tony Aspler, Evan Savioloidis, James Halliday, Jamie Goode, Meryl Weaver, Michael Cooper, Sue Courtney, and Michael Vaughan.

Jancis Robinson, when she learned of the use of reviews from her Purple Pages, wrote to Ms. MacLean:

I must say I am horrified, Natalie. Not just by the general lack of proper attribution, but by the appropriation of reviews from Purple Pages of JancisRobinson.com which is a members-only publication. I would draw your attention to the Terms & Conditions at http://www.jancisrobinson.com/page/terms_and_conditions.html and in particular to the Limitations on Use of the Site. Please take steps to remove all reviews appropriated from our Purple Pages immediately.

Harvey Steiman, of Wine Spectator, received assurances from Ms. MacLean that she would only republish the limited reviews offered for free on Wine Spectator’s website, and always with the author’s name, date, and publication. However, her website still publishes Wine Spectator reviews from behind the subscription wall without date or attribution to the original magazine.

Ms. MacLean’s Canadian colleagues, Rod Phillips and Tony Aspler, have also told Palate Press that their work had been reproduced without authorization or proper attribution, and that calls for changes have so far yielded no results.

We have all seen wine retailers use quotes or scores from wine reviews in so-called “shelf talkers.” This is akin to ads you see for films quoting from a glowing review (sometimes very selectively). But retailers quote such blurbs with the name and publication of the reviewer because they are attempting to sell wine (or movie tickets) on the back of writer’s reputation and credibility. But, as Ms. Robinson noted to Palate Press, “there is a qualitative difference between a retailer’s quoting a review for sales purposes and a fellow wine commentator’s publishing it on their own personal website.” When other writers do it – particularly when they fail to properly credit the writing – they are stealing the writer’s reputation and credibility.

Finally, if Ms. MacLean is truly “the Worlds’ Best Wine Writer,” or even one of the better ones, subscribers will come to her website for her own writing. There should be no reason to include other people’s work, unless her work fails to stand on its own and she needs to purloin the fruit of colleagues‘ labors to make her site viable. That, of course, strikes at the very heart of intellectual property laws as well as the simple respect one colleague owes another.

Palate Press is committed to upholding the highest ethical standards. We cannot sit idly by while an ostensible colleague in oenological journalism brings discredit upon any of us by flouting those standards.

We can only hope that Ms. MacLean will stop buttressing her own pages with the hard work of her colleagues.

David Honig, Publisher
Rémy Charest, Editor
Becky Sue Epstein, International Editor
Tom Mansell, Science Editor
Ryan Reichert, Managing Editor
Gary Thomas, Wine Review Editor

For other coverage of Ms. MacLean in Palate Press please see That’s Entertainment: Review of Natalie MacLean’s Unquenchable, by Rémy Charest. The comments are of particular interest and informed the Editorial Board in the decision to pen the above editorial. Research in support of this commentary may be found HERE.

  • Natalie MacLean

    As I have already confirmed to those who suggested it, I’m in the process of adding the information that has been requested, beginning with the most recent reviews and going backwards.

    All of the reviews that I have quoted were first quoted in liquor store catalogues, store shelf slips as well as on other wine review sites that also quote wine reviews from other wine sites and magazines.

    I have agreed that I will add the information beside the quotes, including names and publications, and not rely only on the directory that has had this information on my site since I began quoting them.

    As I mentioned in my confirmation, I welcome and listen to feedback from both colleagues and readers and make changes as a result, including all that has been requested in this case.

    Regards,
    Natalie

    • http://www.palatepress.com David Honig

      Natalie, We fail to appreciate how providing attribution gives you the right to use others’ intellectual property, in the absence of approval prior to your use. The fact that others may have republished somebody’s review, with or without permission, does not deprive them of their copyright or automatically approve your use. You purport to be offering your own opinions on your website, backed by your impressive credentials. Why, then, do you insist on using other people’s intellectual property?

      In summary, the question is not whether you properly attribute the content you republish, but why you do so in the first place? You did not address that core problem in your comment.

      • http://www.deantudor.com Dean Tudor

        NAT says —

        “and not rely only on the directory that has had this information on my site since I began quoting them.”

        I dunno about that. I’ve taught the Internet to my j-school classes for a decade, so I know my way around a bit…

        I’ve wasted over two hours searching Nat’s site for the reviewers’ directory, but to no avail. I cannot believe that it is there on the site, unless it is ONLY for members. In which case, since the reviews in question are publicly accessible by non-members, then those non-members are in the dark as to reviewers names. She used only initials such as JRO for Jancis Robinson — the initials now gone from the site but accesible via Internet Archive or Google cache: nothing ever disappears from the Internet. You had to use the Vintages catalogue to check who is behind the initials.

        I have asked Nat FOUR times in different emails, always with a Read Request Return, for the URL to this directory. Four times she has “read” the email, but four times she has never, ever bothered to send me the link. This has happened with at least two other wine writers I know.

        Nat — if you are reading this, please post the damn link to the directory !!!! If you don’t, then I can only conclude that it does not exist, and has never existed.

  • http://www.bkwine.com/ Per-BKWine

    This sounds very much like the attitude many people have to pictures on the internet today: “the picture has been published on the internet, then I can take it and use it on my blog”.

    However, using other people’s photography without express permission is theft, or copyright infringement. (Except under certain very well qualified conditions, as noted in the PP text.)

    Using other people’s text without their permission is, just in the same way, infringing on other’s intellectual property.

    It is amazing, and depressing, that even people in the “industry” fail to understand that.

    Text and images (and music and motion pictures etc) are automatically and by definition protected by copyright. No one can use them without having the express authorisation by the “author” (writer, photographer, filmmaker….).

    Providing “proper attribution”, link-backs or similar such things is totally irrelevant. It does not change an ounce the fact that it is copyright infringement to use text/photos/etc without proper authorisation.

    It is in the interest of all writers, photographer and other creators to protect and to honour those rights.

  • http://grapes2u.blogspot.com Ww

    I found it difficult to know if articles, reviews or even replies are the product of Natalie MacLean the person or ‘Natalie MacLean’ the team behind the person. Do you know?

  • http://DavidPylyp.com DAVID PYLYP

    For all the noise MOANING and complaining; Being able to argue rhetoric is great, understanding the argument and contributing makes you the author.

    Who’s missing? Gary Vaynerchuk! Does he care? apparently not.

    Those that do not create content will fade away…

    David Pylyp
    Sharing my little spotlight from Etobicoke, Ontario

  • http://www.1winedude.com 1winedude

    I tweeted about this article earlier today, posting to Facebook ad well. On the Facebook post, I received this comment from a California winery employee:

    “I tried to send her wine samples for review this year and was told that I had to pay the subscription and fill out the winery’s online profile in her database in order to be listed and samples to be accepted. That seemed a little fishy to me, so I didn’t do it.”

    Don’t know if that’s true though I’ve no reason whatsoever to doubt the source at the moment. That type of requirement seems quite odd to me.

    I’ve enjoyed the brief amount of time I’ve spent with Natalie, and generally enjoy her writing style, so all of this feels disappointing to me.

  • Canadian Wine guy

    1winedude I can attest to having the same experience as the ‘california winery employee’. I have had samples requested from Natalie MacLean, and her instructions for submissions require you to buy a subscription to her site, in reality to “pay” to submit samples. Needless to say, no samples were, or ever will be, sent. She is a major blemish on our industry, and it is particularly sad that she holds such sway with the average person, the sooner this information is published in a mainstream publication the better.

    • http://www.1winedude.com 1winedude

      CWG – why does it need to be published in a mainstream pub? Or do you mean it would be good for news media outside of wine to pick this PP story up?

      • Louis Calli

        Same experience when I worked at a Napa winery in regards to the wine samples.

    • http://thylandviews.blogspot.com tomhyland

      Canadian Wine Guy:

      You hit the nail on the head regarding Natalie being a “major blemish on our industry.” I couldn’t have said it better myself.

      I agree that it is sad that she has influence over the average person. That’s a major problem today with the internet. Anyone can design a good-looking site and make people believe they are an authority.

      Good for you not to send any samples her way!

      • Cookie

        When Does anyone become a ‘person of authority’.
        So many wine bloggers have little or no wine qualifications other doing some wine appreciation course.
        Much to the disdain of many in the wine industry a number of bloggers give an opinion of the wines according to their palate rather than judging the wines on the it’s own merit.
        One of my biggest grates with ‘critics’ is that some of them can be unjustly harsh with their ‘critique’ of a wine and quite often that wine has won medals whether it be gold, silver, bronze at some pretty tough wine competitions.
        I’d love to see some standardisation in the ‘critique’ industry starting with the scoring systems which vary a great deal. I’d also like to see qualifications listed on websites and publications.

  • http://@feedmedrinkme braingirl

    “All of the reviews that I have quoted were first quoted in liquor store cataloguess, store shelf slips as well as on other wine review sites that also quote wine reviews from other wine sites and magazines. ”

    This makes no difference whatsoever. Just because a review was licensed or permissioned to be used in a liquor store catalog doesn’t mean that you can reuse that content published in that catalog in another context — and certainly not to generate revenue. You’d need to permission the material from the *catalog* and fine out what terms under which they permissioned the original material. IOW, you’re not covered. Unfortunately, the only way to stop this is for a group of writers/publications to hire an attorney and begin legal action. It’s inexcusable and I’m surprised she hasn’t gotten take-down letters already.

    re: the pay-to-play review, not only is it fishy, but I’d suspect in violation of some portion of the FCC blog rules. Of course, the author is mostly likely saying “well, it makes sense that they fill out their profile and they should be paying customers for me to review” but it just doesn’t work that way ethically. While traveling I’ve run into any number of these amateur wine “journalists” or bloggers and am always sad to see how what perks they ask for in return for shady reviews. Worse, that wine industry professionals take them so seriously.

    • http://www.1winedude.com 1winedude

      Braingirl – if the number of wannabes demanding free stuff is higher than the number trying to do things ethically, I’ll eat my sneakers! :-)

      • http://toledowinesandvines.blogspot.com Dave N.

        Wine Dude – I agree completely. The majority of serious wine bloggers have ethical standards and their blog is a labor of love…

  • Laurie

    This looks to the average person to be a personal gripe and professional jealousy.

    Be careful with this sort of thing… it often backfires and you pay the price, while the other person is views as a victim under attack.

    She said she’d correct the issues you brought up. To keep badgering her for using published reviews from other sources, strikes me as petty and frankly foolish. Every content person will borrow bits and pieces from others. As long as there is attribution it’s not a problem. Good Lord – Huffington Post is made up almost solely of redistributing the work of others… Such is the world today.

    I caution you to walk softly on this… Having had some personal experience in this sort of thing. I quickly learned that “Thar be pirates!”

    • http://www.deantudor.com Dean Tudor

      Laurie, initially it was a case of IMPROPER attribution. Reviews were appended to listed wines, and reprinted from the LCBO Vintages catalogue in their entirety — except the name, source and date were reduced to just initials of the reviewer.

      Hence, a review from Robert Parker is/was listed as RP. Several wine writers in Canada complained to Nat that they were being quoted with no attribution whatsoever, beyond their initials. So, for example, who was RVS? JRO? AG? There was NO legend or directory on the website, even though Nat claimed there was one.

      She insisted that proper attribution was being given via a (what is now a non-existent) directory. When she was asked to produce the URL (none of us could find the directory on her website), she ignored us and re-stated that attribution was made in the directory. The writers thought that their full names and source of the reviews should be given. She ignored us.

      A letter was sent to many writers who were only identified by initials, and they began to chime in, leading to the present situation. The current attribution to Parker is “Source: Robert Parker, Vintages Wine Catalogue”. One writer described the Vintages Wine Catalogue as fictitious since he could not find it anywhere, and the review looked exactly the same as one he had in a printed form elsewhere.

      In fact, the most prolific reviewer on Nat’s site is VP — initials that mean Vintages Panel, a summary of a wine’s tasting notes pulled together by an editor of the Vintages catalogue, which comes out bi-weekly throughout the year.

      SO — originally, the writers only wanted a legend that would explain the initials so they could have proper attribution for their work. We all recognized that reviews could be reprinted since it is part of the system of Fair Use, etc. We just wanted to be identified. But due to her intractability, Nat is in a worse jam than before.

      • http://www.biggerthanyourhead.net Fredric Koeppel

        “Every content person will borrow bits and pieces from others”? Laurie, surely not. I write every word of every post on my blog and I assume (not naively, I hope) that the other wine writers and bloggers I know and read do the same. Only though this assumption of originality can we trust each others’ honesty and integrity.

        • http://www.missinwine.com Caroline

          Hear hear!

    • http://www.missinwine.com Caroline

      Hi Laurie,

      I find your comment very interesting. I am not sure how someone who copies notes from other renowned wine writers and uses them without requesting permission and/or proper referencing can be seen as the victim here…

      Nat’s site is in fact in direct competition with the Purple Pages, the Wine Advocate and the Wine Spectator – so copying what is on these sites is literally living on the back of the authors of those sites. I cannot see for instance Jancis copying from Robert Parker without a reference. Not only would they never want to do this – they do not need to do this as they have plenty of content they are producing themselves. I think it is time Natalie starts doing the same…

    • http://www.wineeducation.com Stephen Reiss, Ph.D., C.W.E.

      Laurie,

      I have been writing wine reviews well over 20 years. Not only have I never borrowed what anyone else said, I have made a point of never reading what anyone else says. This would be (for me) tantamount to cheating in a blind tasting. I always state the source of the wine (bought at retail, in a restaurant or tasted at the winery – I do not accept samples) and if the wine is tasted blind or not.

      The Internet makes it easy for anyone to pretend that they know what they are talking about, so those of us that are serious about our craft bend over backwards to to be as ethical and professional as possible.

      Your argument is the same to the one used to justify Napster in the old days, or bit torrents now. Just because “everyone” (and I am not in that group) steals copyrighted material does not make it OK.

      I have to spend hours every week protecting my copyrights, so much so that I have pretty much given up on blogging. I considered a paywall, but as you can see from Natalie’s example, even a paywall may not protect me.

      Complacency is part of the problem, not the solution.

  • Chris

    When her less-than-ethical behaviour has been exposed in the past, it is no secret that Ms. MacLean has harnessed friends to post comments, leaping to her defence. She has also commented about herself, in the third-person, using pseudonyms.

  • http://www.JancisRobinson.com Jancis Robinson

    Has anyone checked Laurie’s IP address?

    • http://www.palatepress.com David Honig

      Jancis, Laurie and Natalie posted from different IP addresses, though both are located in Ottowa. Further investigation is warranted.

    • http://www.newyorkcorkreport.com Lenn Thompson

      We’ve been down this road with Natalie before, haven’t we? Having ‘friends’ comment on her behalf, defending her?

  • http://www.localwineevents.com Eric V. Orange

    Surely she learned that lesson Jancis, eh?

    EVO

    • http://www.deantudor.com Dean Tudor

      I was doing some fact-checking on Nat when I reviewed her books, using Google, etc. I discovered that she had no entry in Wikipedia.

      Just checked…no entry yet!!

      OMG, have I given her the idea??????

      • http://www.deantudor.com Dean Tudor

        IT HAS HAPPENED !!!!

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Natalie_MacLean

        Read all about it!! Hey, my idea, guys!!!

        My dad would be so proud of me….LOL

        • http://www.wineeducation.com Stephen Reiss, Ph.D., C.W.E.

          Dean,

          Hey I have no wikipedia page either. I have always been waiting for one of my fans to write it, or perhaps for it to spontaneously appear. Maybe whoever wrote Nat’s can write one for me now. Or do I have to wait until I am embroiled in controversy?

  • http://wineharlots.com/ Wine Harlots

    Great work on this. I’m a huge fan of Natalie MacLean’s writing, so it’s deeply disheartening to learn about the copyright infringement as well as an alleged ethically challenged requirement for wineries to subscribe to the newsletter ($25/year) before they can submit samples for review.

    The only critique I have would have been to request Ms. MacLean response to the allegations prior to publication. She did comment (and appears to confirm the facts of the story) but it would have been cleaner journalistically to have the target’s reaction in the body of the story.

    All the best,

    Nannette Eaton

  • http://www.frogspad.ca Craig Pinhey

    Believe me, Nanette and Laurie, if you were a wine writer based in Atlantic Canada, who has had to deal with her chicanery for the past decade, you would NOT be defending her at all. It is time that major media outlets like CBC, CTV, the national papers, as well as magazines and wineries, knew the truth, the truth that all the major regional and national writers have known for years.

    Craig Pinhey

    • http://wineharlots.com/ Wine Harlots

      Not defending.
      Just sad.

  • http://wineanorak.com Jamie Goode

    I don’t mind reputable retail outlets quoting my notes with proper attribution.

    But I don’t want my notes appearing on Nat’s site at all. Even with attribution, which they currently don’t have.

    If she charges for sample submission, then that’s horridly parasitic behaviour. It gives honest winewriters a bad name.

    I’m just appalled by all this.

    • http://www.wineoftheweek.com/feed.xml Sue Courtney

      Jamie,
      I concur with everything you say.
      Sue

    • Wes Barton

      Paid for reviews should be accompanied by full disclosure of that fact.

  • Outraged in Ottawa

    Perhaps the jig is up. Not sure how many times I’ve had emails forwarded to me with original requests by said “wine writer” saying she was going to be on a call-in or TV program so “Why don’t you call in to ask her a question like ‘Is Chardonnay a white grape?'” What kind of self-respecting, wine knowledgeable wine professional does this? And funny how she never appears in public at tastings….. And yes, my IP address is in Ottawa as I have watched all of this for a very long time.

  • Curious Wine Guy

    Natalie Maclean has proven herself time and again a self promoting hack.

    As far as I am concerned she has had no credibility since I once attended a dinner at which she was the keynote speaker that she could barely navigate to the podium from her drunkeness.

    She has a history or sending anonymous emails in her own defence that came from her company IP address and must, rely on the work of others.

    What more reason does someone need to completely dismiss her as a serious wine industry professional

    • Outraged in Ottawa

      I’ve been at tastings that she has lead where there have been plants in the audience to ask her very simplistic questions, always prefaced by “I love your work/your book/you/insert whatever here…..Again, what serious wine professional, confident in their knowledge and ability would do this?????

    • Outraged in Ottawa

      funny she always boasts about coming from a long line of heavy drinkers, being tipsy,loving the buzz, so I guess this is all true. Fine if you are a consumer (or an alcoholic) but as a serious wine professional, this is not something that you would boast about (or perhaps this is a fabrication as well – who knows anymore what she says is true and what isn’t). This, coupled with her policy on reviews, makes her most unprofessional, unappealling and not at all an expert in her field!

  • Richard Best

    I tell my first year students that everything you see is copyrighted, and if you don’t get permission directly from the author, then don’t use it. A professional writer should be horrified at even the thought of lifting content and omitting attribution.

  • http://www.nwwineanthem.com clive

    I find her hair most disturbing, it’s so perfect. A couple things, if these practices are happening it’s frankly quite pathetic. Further the sample payment thing is downright bizarre. But I can’t help but notice that there have now been on two occasions what strikes me as a strange response from Palate Press to “check the IP address” when people have commented in support of her. That is what comes off as poor form. Who cares if another person in Ottawa agrees with her? You’re going to investigate it? Stay above the fray, allow people to side where they may, the goal is to make a good case, not insist upon agreement from everyone. I’m in Seattle, not Ottawa.

    • http://www.palatepress.com David Honig

      Clive, It refers to the previous imboglio in our review of Ms. MacLean’s book. It is linked at the end of this editorial.

  • http://www.nwwineanthem.com clive

    Also, just to clarify, I am the world’s best looking wine writer, notice I never said just “best.” But I only do it as a hobby, doubly frustrating for the rest of you.

    • http://www.palatepress.com David Honig

      Also, I don’t think anybody would dispute your status as the world’s best looking wine writer.

  • Michael Pinkus

    People, let’s please stop calling these “allegations” or saying things like “if these practices are happening” – the facts are this: she did it. Below are just three examples taken from Miss Maclean’s website on Tuesday December 11, 2012 of what she was doing with reviews – this was BEFORE she decided she should make changes and before Jancis’ letter. These are not allegations these are facts. The disturbing part is that she copied the reviews straight from Vintages magazine (LCBO bi-weekly new release publication), she removed the proper citation at the end and replaced with initials thus removing the date and publication in which it originally appeared (also see examples below). This is not in error, by mistake or a mere over-sight – this formatting of the reviews had to be done deliberately, and with prior forethought. So allege nothing these are the cold hard facts – she is now scrambling to make changes but this does not change the FACT that she has been doing this for God knows how long:

    As appeared in Vintages Magazine …
    TASTING NOTE: Tank sample. Very rich and opulent nose. Great polish and just the merest suggestion of raisins. Big, dry and hot on the finish. Expressive of the terrain! Good for those who seek sunshine in a bottle. Drink 2013-2017. Score: 16 (out of 20) (Jancis Robinson, MW, jancisrobinson.com, Dec. 21, 2011)

    As appeared on Natalie’s website (Dec. 11, 2012) …
    “Tank sample. Very rich and opulent nose. Great polish and just the merest suggestion of raisins. Big, dry and hot on the finish. Expressive of the terrain! Good for those who seek sunshine in a bottle. Drink 2013-2017.
    Score: 16 (out of 20) JRO”

    As appeared in Vintages Magazine …
    TASTING NOTE: Deep purple-tinged ruby. Grapey, deep aromas of stewed plum, raisin, date and cocoa explode from the glass. Rich, smooth and very dense, with wonderfully tactile flavors similar to the aromas. This very pure Amarone finishes creamy-sweet but fresh, thanks to sound acidity. An extremely successful entry-level Amarone made from grapes that were air-dried for roughly four months. Score – 93. (Ian D’Agata, International Wine Cellar, March/April 2012)

    As appeared on Natalie’s website (Dec. 11, 2012) …
    Deep purple-tinged ruby. Grapey, deep aromas of stewed plum, raisin, date and cocoa explode from the glass. Rich, smooth and very dense, with wonderfully tactile flavors similar to the aromas. This very pure Amarone finishes creamy-sweet but fresh, thanks to sound acidity. An extremely successful entry-level Amarone made from grapes that were air-dried for roughly four months. Score: ID’A

    As appeared in Vintages Magazine …
    TASTING NOTE: The customary spices of the Bockstein add a little extra intrigue to the fragrance of ripe yellow fruit. On the palate citrus fruit and spice are partnered by a refreshing touch of gently bitter peel, possibly an herbaceous remnant of spontaneous fermentation. A very restrained measure of residual sugar leaves plenty of room for spices and fruit to shine, a deft touch of acidity completing a successful interpretation of lively Saar Kabinett. Drink 2012-2017. Distinguished. Score – 16.5 (out of 20). (Michael Schmidt, jancisrobinson.com, June 26, 2012)

    As appeared on Natalie’s website (Dec. 11, 2012) …
    “The customary spices of the Bockstein add a little extra intrigue to the fragrance of ripe yellow fruit. On the palate citrus fruit and spice are partnered by a refreshing touch of gently bitter peel, possibly an herbaceous remnant of spontaneous fermentation. A very restrained measure of residual sugar leaves plenty of room for spices and fruit to shine, a deft touch of acidity completing a successful interpretation of lively Saar Kabinett. Drink 2012-2017. Distinguished. Score: 16.5 (out of 20)
    MSC”

    • Sheila

      And just to add to the comments on needing a paid subscription to have wines reviewed: she also somehow automatically renews this subscription annually without asking for permission to do so!! From a winery’s perspetive, it is cumbersome and labourious to add a wine for her to review. Our recent experience was just as described – a review from the Vintages catalogue and nothing from her.

  • http://www.wineglas.com John Glas

    I am surprised anyone would pay to see her reviews. There are plenty of good bloggers/wine reviewers where their content is free to view.

    • nick

      Yes there are plenty of wine bloggers, That’s the problem really, too many to sift through. Life’s too short.

      A curated site, where someone does the weeding out is not such a bad idea, quite a few exist for food, films, you name it. As long as the original content is credited and given a link .

      • http://www.wineglas.com John Glas

        Nick just because someone reviews wines does not mean they know what they are doing. I can find a handful of blogs where the person knows much about quality wine.

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  • http://www.northof9finewine.com Tyler Philp

    If this is simply a question of attribution which is directed at the opportunity for MacLean to ‘make right’ her errors, then perhaps this avenue is adequate. Should the underlying intention be to expose her for the fraud that she is, then I’m afraid that we are all preaching to the converted. 99% of MacLean’s audience will not read this comment feed and provided her ‘fan club’ remains unaware of the facts, she will continue to spew fraudulent and fictitious material.

    I believe the mainstream media comment made earlier implies exposure. What we currently have is a collection of people who have a common and justifiable distaste for Maclean. Each of us plays an active and knowledgeable wine related roll online, be it professional, amateur, or somewhere in between. Though she will try to convince otherwise, Maclean’s audience is comprised of people who are typically not involved with the social media platforms, they are the untrained palates, casual wine enthusiasts, and those who participate via email only.

    She has been down this road many times before, exposed for her other questionable practices. She will lay low until the storm subsides and then continue as if nothing ever occurred; it is the same pattern each time. Other than the polite response to the original post above this stream, she will not participate in her own defence, she will not post on Twitter or comment on the current situation. Nor this time will anyone trap her with a common IP address. If, and when the air finally clears, she will continue as per normal operations, having never made reference to this incident or any other. Those who fuel her questionable resource will be none the wiser.

    This information needs to hit the newspapers if anyone truly intends to halt the ‘freight train of fraud’. Get the word out also via the same outlets that she frequents: CBC radio, Canada AM, Macleans magazine online, and the Ottawa Citizen.

    I am embarrassed to admit that I spent nearly 8 months working very closely with her to develop the online product that you see. A year ago, and after a gross lack of reciprocation, nearly thankless dedication, and continuous lies, I gave up, removed myself from the equation, and insisted that she delete my written articles from her site – not surprisingly, she ignored that request.

    • http://www.vtwinemedia.com Todd – VT Wine Media

      Tyler, I’m very sorry to hear about your negative experience working with Natalie, after what sounds like significant time and energy expenditures. I remember when I was first contacted by her mail bot, asking to participate in the community by providing reviews, and upon looking into it, realized that she would really be the only direct beneficiary of that effort. It smelled fishy, and I elected not to get involved.

      This is a case where “it is better to ask forgiveness than ask for permission” is wholly inappropriate. It’s too bad that one person’s opportunism, and the co-opting of other’s work, risks tainting the credibility of a wider community.

      I’m actually one that does not find her writing or presentations all that fantastic, but have taken note at how far one can get with shameless self-promotion.

  • winesutra

    Today evening when I read this at Palate Press via twitter I was totally shocked even to react, Knowing Ms.MacLean since long time for her news letters updates on face book, where I was a regular reader. In fact I have suggested few of my friends on the wine app too. Being a amateur wine writer/reviewer where every single day we learn something new, sad to see such practice at the first place and I could never imagined until today. I agree & understand Mr. Richard’s and Jamie Goode comments above.

  • http://blog.wblakegray.com/ Blake Gray

    Thank you for defending the intellectual rights of content creators in the underpaid world of wine writing.

    Hollywood studios have the MPAA. The music industry has the RIAA.

    Wine writers had nothing. But now we have Palate Press.

  • http://www.wine-times.com Helmut O. Knall (@wine_times_com)

    It’s really hard to understand, why some people destroy themselves. And I had a lot of copyright problems with not authorized tasting notes at wine-traders websites and catalogues. But never ever on the site of a collegue. This is really – the last…

  • Unsurprised

    Completely unsurprised, though delighted to see this article.
    I know many people in the industry who have gripe about Natalie’s practices.

    She repeatedly turns down invitations to events, but always requests samples be sent to her home.

    To submit wines for review, you have to fill out the form and essentially review your own wine. Given the reappropriation of others’ materials, her website should be rebranded without her personality attached to it, as it seems she offers nothing to the wine world’s conversation that anyone with a computer couldn’t do themselves.

  • http://www.1winedude.com 1winedude

    I’m now getting emails from people who claim they helped with her books and were not treated well after their efforts. Again, not substantiated yet but no reason to doubt them. Seems the pile-on is really in full swing now…

    • http://webpages.charter.net/swirl Kent Benson

      Mine was one of those emails.

      When her latest book was still in manuscript form, she contacted me and asked me if I would fact-check it for her. She offered me no money, only an acknowledgement. As an aspiring wine writer, I thought, “What the heck. It can’t hurt to get a mention in a widely read wine book.” So I took on the project. I put in about 100 hours correcting errors (there were many) and making suggestions for more accurate statements.

      After turning in dozens of pages of notes, I asked her if I could get some signed copies of the book when it was published, to hand out as prizes to students in my wine classes. She said, “Absolutely.” I thought it went without saying that I expected the books to be gratis, for all the work I had done.

      When the book was published I asked her how many books I could get. She replied by saying, “As many as you are willing to buy.” I couldn’t believe my eyes! After all the work I had done, she couldn’t even part with a few books, which wouldn’t have cost her a dime in the way of cash flow. Her ingratitude was stunning.

      • http://www.deantudor.com Dean Tudor

        Did you even get an acknowledgement in the book?

        • http://webpages.charter.net/swirl Kent Benson

          Yes. She kept her end of the bargain.

  • David Vergari

    Say it ain’t so, Natalie!!!

  • http://www.pdwr.co doug wilder

    Like most people who write about wine, I subscribe to/check in on lots of digital wine communicators, and websites. As part of that, I receive the emails from Natalie. Apparently she has huge readership (is most of it in Canada?). Reading about these findings is pretty shocking. What writer relies on liquor store catalogs, or infringing on the work of others for their information? Would she have us believe she would have made these changes if she wasn’t outed?

    There are two things she does, that as a wine critic, bothers me. One is her use of the word ‘tipsy’ which I have not seen another professional wine writer use in over 20 years, and counting. Every time I see it, I imagine it coming with a chortle and a knowing wink between ‘us gals’. The second is the tag that is added to every single winery profile on the globe, according to her site.

    “Although there aren’t any wines associated with this winery, Natalie may have reviewed brands that this winery produces and she just didn’t know to designate this winery in her tasting note.”

    Does that cause readers to think “Maybe Natalie will write about that little winery we visited in Mendocino NEXT month, she tastes EVERYTHING!”

    • http://www.frogspad.ca Craig Pinhey

      Don’t trust her readership claims. She doesn’t have a traditional weekly wine column in a national, provincial or city paper, does she? As for her claims re: subscribers, I’d love to know how many people actually read her newsletter. I suspect most of her subscribers just delete it. I hear complaints often from people who have trouble unsubscribing, or have been subscribed without asking to be. What’s that all about?

      I think her influence is marginal – only novices who, once they start to learn more about wine, realize she has little to offer them. She sure doesn’t gain any knowledgeable wine folks as followers from her videos, or radio appearances. She seems to have a lot of trouble answering questions other than the most basic. She is really good at changing the subject and generalizing. I appeared with her once on a CBC Radio Maritime Noon phone in and it was embarrassing. All she did was promote her book and website, while I answered the questions.

      You can’t argue with her book sales though, I guess, but did anyone learn much about wine from them? I don’t think so. They are more just light entertainment. If she turned some people onto wine that otherwise were not interested, I suspect that’s the only useful thing she’s done for the wine world.

  • Patrick W Fegan

    Curious to see that Natalie MacLean in is the Palate Press’s
    list of Contributors. I’m just wondering why this could not have been handled at first on an “in house” basis (or was it and with what results?) or why PP did not acknowledge her as a Contributor in the above piece.

    • http://www.palatepress.com David Honig

      Patrick,

      That is a fair observation. At one time we maintained a list of people who had contributed stories to Palate Press. Ms. MacLean wrote a story we published in 2010. We no longer maintain that list. In fact, but for your mention of it we would not have noticed it was still available on the masthead. It has been removed. Thank you.

  • http://www.ayearinwine.com Mike Dunne

    Without going into the details of this brouhaha, I just want to thank Palate Press for what looks to be a deep and fair exposure of questionable online practices. The comments also are illuminating. Such responsible public-service journalism is rare in the blogosphere.

  • http://www.pdwr.co doug wilder

    I just spent a little time on her site, and ran across the following:

    Natalie is the drinks blogger for Epicurious, the web site for both Bon Appetit and Gourmet magazines. More than five million food and wine lovers visit the site every month.

    However, when I clicked the link, the last post she made there was in March 2008. Her site is in need of a serious re-boot.

  • http://winecharlatan.com Steve Hatcher

    Her website proudly exclaims her as the “Worlds Best Wine Writer”. Well, that was back in 2003 and the actual title of the award was “JACOB’S CREEK BEST DRINK JOURNALIST” source = World Food Media Awards – 2003 Winners.

    At bottom of her home page she reuses the “le cordon bleu – world food media awards” logo again, like she does at the very top of every page, but this time calls the award something closer to its true name – “Worlds best drink writer”

    So the actual award is “best drinks journalist” which becomes writer instead of journalist and “worlds best” because it is given out by the World Food Media Awards. That then all becomes “Worlds Best Wine Writer” I guess because she writes about wine and not all those other drinks.

    Nice twist of phrasing she uses there to re-label herself the best wine writer in the world, surely it makes for better branding than “Jacob’s Creek Best Drink Writer”. As well, pass it off such that is sounds current by making no mention of 2003.

    Heck, maybe she deserved the award back in 2003? Does not pass the sniff test for me today though.

  • http://www.deantudor.com Dean Tudor
  • http://winecharlatan.com Steve Hatcher

    Found this rather glowing profile of her on Oenologist.com.

    “We all love stories of self-made successes: those Rockefellers and Henry Fords who climbed the ladder to a glorious career without the help of family lineage or string-pulling in the university. And the story of Natalie MacLean is one such tale”

    The Rockefeller and Ford of the wine world! LOL. Thing is, profiles on that website are a paid service. You pay them, they add a profile, you can also pre-write the copy yourself, they don’t mind, or pay a bit more and they’ll write it. While they are at it they can submit reviews of your book to 5 different book review sites (for $75) and 5 bibliophile sites for another $75. You can even pay to have them broadcast a message out to their “extensive social media network” (twitter and FB accounts). All this on the rate card here.

    On her own site she republishes reader book reviews here http://www.nataliemaclean.com/book/readers.asp I took a sentence snippet and Googled it. That one same review, word for word, is posted to Chapters Indigo, to Amazon, and to Good Reads. Yet where it gets re-posted onto her site there is no attribution to where the review came from and certainly not a link. Question is, who re-posts there reviews across multiple book review sites? fishy

    Some of those reader reviews are also full blog posts lifted from peoples personal blogs, and no link attribution, or site name, just authors name. Again, took a partial sentence and Googled it to see where else the same text is published.

    Note, some of those reviews don’t show as duplicates else where on the web, maybe some were legitimately submitted by her list subscribers.

    Again, reviews for her latest book are listed here http://www.nataliemaclean.com/book/mediareviews/unquenchable Every one of those reviews are republished on her own site instead of linked to the original. On the pages where she re-posts the full review the source is given via a logo for the site it came from but of course no link to that site or to the source page of that individual review. It does not even mention an authors name. That’s some pretty weak ass attribution given there.

    • Rod Phillips

      I’m sure Natalie Maclean did write her own biography for Oenologist.com. She writes blurbs for her own books, as we’ve seen. And she used to send me pre-written pieces about herself (they were rather flattering, as you can imagine) for publication in my newspaper column. It was all very thoughtful; she was sending me copy because she knew how busy I was. (She finally ceased sending me these pieces, when none appeared in print.)

      I would not be at all surprised if she thinks of herself as an entrepreneur walking in the footsteps of Rockefeller and Ford. Not so long ago, some misguided person Tweeted to the effect that ‘Natalie Maclean is Canada’s Jancis Robinson’. Now, if anyone had Tweeted something like that about most of us wine writers, I think we might be flattered, but we would know that it was a bit of an over-statement, and we would certainly have the modesty (and sense) to leave it alone.

      Not Natalie, who actually re-Tweeted it, with a faux-modest “(blush).”

  • http://www.deantudor.com Dean Tudor
  • http://winefornormalpeople.blogspot.com Wine for Normal People

    Apart from this being so disappointing, this situation is also so confusing. For those of us who love wine, who have made a study of it, who are in constant pursuit of exploring the stuff and sharing what we’ve learned with others, it’s so hard to understand how you could take someone else’s reviews and share them with people who are trusting YOU to offer help in navigating the world of wine.

    The other thing that’s so weird: each of the critics listed has different ideas about wines. Each is a gifted writer but few share the same views on wine. To pool all those opinions (for instance Tanzer and Parker often differ on wines and Ms. Robinson’s style is so unique and her descriptors more detailed), seems like it would create a disparate, confusing bunch of reviews. Apart from plagarism, it’s a very inconsistent and strange thing to do on a site — and although I’m not a subscriber, I can’t imagine how all these reviews could co-exist or how she chose to which to pick.

    Why someone who was experiencing the success that Ms. MacLean has had would neglect her business and fail to review wines herself or with her team on a consistent set of criteria is beyond comprehension. Greed? Fame? Perhaps she should have done less but presented better, more honest reviews.

    In the end, the people who lose here are less the critics and more the unsuspecting subscribers — just normal wine lovers — who buy Ms. MacLean’s reviews because they trust her descriptions, judgements, and perceptions about wine. As the curtain comes down on this thing, the real sad part is that it weakens the trust that people have in wine writers. It makes us all seem like we’re part of some racket. For the good ones out here, it’s disheartening and makes us have to work all the harder to convince people that we’re not scoundrels.

  • http://www.unfussywine.com Chris O’Shea

    Gotta say, I know nothing of the woman other than her public persona and books, but hearing about this is a real disappointment in regards to her practices. If they are all true, the attributions notwithstanding, then we as the wine enjoying public have been grossly mislead. I am a wine blogger but not a wine professional and as such I attempt to hold up some level of professionalism around these things. If only to keep my first year English professor off my back. I may be a neophyte when it comes to these things but geeeez…..really Natalie. There are lot of things being thrown around that totally blow up my impressions of this work-a-day Mom who loves to write about wine. Here in Canada, rightly or wrongly, she is the wine writing/blogging girl that made good and has set somewhat of a standard. The mainstream media love her but it seems not so much for everyone else. I always did wonder how she posted so many reviews in such a short period of time. Hmmmm.

  • http://www.unfussywine.com Chris O’Shea

    Gotta say, I know nothing of the woman other than her public persona and books, but hearing about this is a real disappointment in regards to her practices. If they are all true, the attributions notwithstanding, then we as the wine enjoying public have been grossly mislead. I am a wine blogger but not a wine professional and as such I attempt to hold up some level of professionalism around my blog. If only to keep my first year English professor off my back. I may be a neophyte when it comes to these things but geeeez…..really Natalie. There are lot of things being thrown around here that totally blow up my impressions of this work-a-day Mom who loves to write about wine. Here in Canada, rightly or wrongly, she is the wine writing/blogging girl that made good and has set somewhat of a standard. The mainstream media love her but it seems not so much for everyone else. I always did wonder how she posted so many reviews in such a short period of time. Hmmmm.

  • Ray Everett

    I’ve seen this sort of thing too many times before… someone sees material reprinted somewhere and decides “it must be fair game to republish.” In this case, she may well have assumed that because the reviews were republished in a government catalog, they were public domain. But that’s a faulty interpretation of international copyright law, and no sane lawyer would have signed off on that. If she wants to save her site and salvage her reputation, she’ll scrap everything except that which she wrote herself or has written licenses to republish. Otherwise, if she tinkers around the edges (as suggested by the comment at the top of this thread), she not only will continue to harm her own reputation, but she’s opening her site up to being taken down if its hosted in a country with such copyright enforcement procedures.

  • http://thylandviews.blogspot.com tomhyland

    I must say I am not surprised in the least about this revelation. Anyone who goes around trumpeting herself as the “world’s greatest wine writer” has virtually no respect in the industry.

    I agree with many of the above comments (especially the person who commented about anyone being able to use someone’s photos – no you can’t) and am glad this has come to light. In this internet, super-fast digital age, anyone with enough flash can dazzle enough people. But what’s the old line about “you can fool some of the people some of the time…?

    Natalie should be ashamed.

  • Erica

    I am not a wine critic but I am married to one. For someone to be making money off of other people’s work makes me sick to my stomach. My husband writes about wine because he loves it. This is not a 9-5 job; we don’t drive fancy cars or live in a mansion and he isn’t guaranteed a paycheck each and every week. He spends much time and energy doing this and to have someone copy his work and not give him the proper attribution all the while making money from people who are paying for her EXPERT opinion is disgusting. I hope that this isn’t something that is a hot topic for a couple of weeks and then forgotten.

  • Natalie MacLean

    Hi David,

    I am writing in response to your blog post this weekend regarding wine reviews on my website.

    I have now sought and obtained legal advice to ensure that I am not only doing the right thing, but also complying with any laws that might be applicable both in the US (fair use) and in Canada (fair dealing). The laws differ slightly for the two countries, but I have had a thorough discussion with a legal expert on copyright and know that what I am doing now and what I will be doing in the future is not only legal, but right. I wanted to take this advice before replying to make sure that this issue is dealt with properly.

    For all reviews previously quoted, please know that I am working to revise the way I format third party reviews to cite full names and publication details. Also know that I have never charged to review wines, and have reviewed many wines from wineries and wine agents who do not pay a subscription to my site. It’s $2 a month to access the subscription part of my site, but that does not determine whether or not I review a wine.

    Except for Michael Pinkus, no writer or magazine has ever contacted me to ask for a different attribution or to remove their reviews. For those who have recently, I have done so immediately. As well, my own reviews have been quoted on other wine sites and no one has ever contacted me to ask permission. I had believed that it was also fair use to quote my reviews.

    I wish to thank the many wine writers and bloggers who have contacted me to show their support and understanding over the past few days. I am grateful to have this issue clarified and I hope that it helps other writers and bloggers avoid any such issues in the future.

    If you’d like to continue this discussion, please feel free to contact me as I’d be happy to talk with you.

    Sincerely,
    Natalie

    • http://winecase.ca Remy Charest

      Hogwash.

      The fact that you actually obscured the references by changing full names in the Vintages Catalog (or elsewhere) to unrecognizable initials shows an effort to mask the provenance of said reviews. Claiming ignorance is rather disingenuous, to remain polite.

      “I have had a thorough discussion with a legal expert on copyright and know that what I am doing now and what I will be doing in the future is not only legal, but right.”

      It’s even more disappointing, to say the least, that you require thorough discussion with legal experts to know what is right.

      • Curious Wine Guy

        I fear much of this is preaching to the converted. Natalie was removed from my list of Canadian wine media personalities worthy of my time and effort long ago.

        Her credibility within the industry is non existent.

        Now it’s time consumers learned what we already know.

        CWG

        • Steve at the Vineyard

          Ditto, CWG.

          • http://www,tonyaspler.com Tony Aspler

            I have never read such self-serving drivel as Natalie Maclean’s apologia. She still doesn’t get it. And who are these ‘many wine writers and bloggers who have contacted me to show their support and understanding over the past few days.’ Perhaps she would care to publish their names –
            0r at least their initials.

    • http://www.palatepress.com David Honig

      Palate Press stands by its stories.

      • http://www.deantudor.com Dean Tudor

        This whole matter started when Michael Pinkus saw that his reviews were being reproduced by Natalie on her website. He subsequently learned that they were taken from the LCBO Vintages catalogue, and sourced with ONLY his initials — MP. He asked Natalie to spell out his name so that people could see who had written the review. She replied that there was no need for this because readers could consult a directory or legend that would list all the reviewers with appropriate attribution.

        None of us could find that directory or legend on her site. I wasted two hours of my life trying to find it, two hours that I will never get back, and which Natalie owes me… Like Kent above, 100 hours!!!

        In every single email we have had with Natalie, she mentions this directory or legend — but she has steadfastly refused to send us the URL.

        So we conclude that it does not exist.

        However, by stating that there was a directory, Michael surmised that there were other reviewers involved. So he poked around, and found scores of initials, some biggies and some B team names. Nowhere waa there identification.

        So Nat brought this on herself — had she posted a REAL directory, it would have stopped right there.

        As it was, Michael took it to the next level…

        • Michael Pinkus

          Dean … don’t forget to mention that she quit the Wine Writers’ Circle of Canada the moment we asked her to produce the now mythical “legend” of wine writers initial. She claimed it was because we don’t have tastings in the Ottawa area but it seemed kinda fishy that she picked that very time to quite the Circle.

          I call for other professional wine writing associations and organizations that she belongs to look into her membership a little closer and consider removing her from their role; I am also wondering if awards can be revoked a la Lance Armstrong.

        • http://www.bkwine.com/ Per-BKWine

          Dean – Can’t agree with that. It is not a question of spelling out the full name. It is not a question of attribution.

          The issue is about using other writers’ texts without any authorization.

          If what is described here is true it seems just simply to be a question of copyright infringement.

          In such a case it makes no difference if you are spelling it out in clear text or not who you are stealing from.

    • http://www,tonyaspler.com Tony Aspler

      Natalie has written above: Except for Michael Pinkus, no writer or magazine has ever contacted me to ask for a different attribution or to remove their reviews…
      I didn’t know my reviews have been reprinted on Natalie’s website because I’ve never consulted it- which I’m sure goes for Jancis and many other writers whose work she has
      appropriated.
      I am writing to Natalie to ensure my wine reviews no longer appear on her site – with or without proper attribution.

      • http://Burghound.com Allen Meadows

        I fully agree Tony. I don’t know with certainty that Ms. MacLean has used my material but I do know that the LCBO is a heavy user of it and thus it’s entirely possible. I tried to check to see if Natlie’s website is using copyrighted Burghound.com material but of course one must be a paying member to find out. Like several journalists here, professional or otherwise, I certainly object strenuously to my material being trafficked for third party profit.

        It never occurred to me that a fellow journalist might be using my material without permission, let alone with inadequate attribution. There have been various websites that have lifted huge chunks of my material but they weren’t wine journalists or bloggers. Rather they were sellers of either wines or information and in the latter case we availed ourselves of whatever legal remedies were available to limited though I’m happy to say not zero success. There’s of course fair use and then there’s abuse but anytime there is no, or insufficient attribution, it’s abuse. While the guidelines may not be crystal clear, I believe that there is a pretty good general consensus on what is appropriate and what is abuse of the fair use principle that honest journalists conscientiously adhere.

        My point, other than to register my strong objections to the practices described by the Palate Press, is to also thank them sincerely for bringing this to everyone’s attention. They have done everyone a significant favor because unfortunately the public at large tends to judge the journalistic ethics of any given sector by the lowest common denominator.

        Best to all,

        Allen Meadows
        Burghound.com

  • http://www.twitter.com/tairanniew Tai-Ran Niew

    It would be really interesting if we can have comments from PR consultants to, and marketing departments of, wineries. And more wine-makers!

    It appears from her book that she has remarkable access to some of the iconic estates in the wine world … unless that is also made up! Assuming that her access is real, was it granted because of professional courtesy, or an understanding that she (might be) influential?

    As long as she stays on the right side of the law, and that she continues to get implicit support from people who make wine, and their consultants that helps them sell wine, where do we go from here?

    I remember that remarkable event in 2008, when the Wine Spectator presented an Award of Excellence to a fictitious restaurant. Ridiculous, absolutely. Did the wine makers AND consumers boycott the magazine? Nope.

    If standards are to be set in this industry, I suspect it has to come from the winemakers and the consumers. If both are happy with the state of affairs, what can the Twitterati really do?

    In Ms MacClean’s second response, she also mentioned that she has received much support. It might be made up! But if true, I wish her supporters will make their views public! These discussions are never really satisfactory, for proper debate is never carried out, as the industry as a whole is never properly engaged.

  • Marcvs T Cicero

    Wow.

    Looks rather like an internet lynch mob out with their pitch forks and burning torches on the go here.

    • http://CaliforniaWineFan.com Tony Lima

      Speaking as a professional writer, violations of copyright are really pretty important. I make part of my living from my words. If someone else steals them, they are literally taking bread off my table.

      Pitchforks? Nah, don’t need them. But this is outright theft.

  • http://www.wineglas.com John Glas

    Natalie just wrote good things about Santa Margherita on Face Book. I assume this is her own review as I have never heard of a wine reviewer saying good things about this wine.

  • http://www.wineglas.com John Glas

    After looking at Nat’s reviews they really are super market wines. We have a gal in the Twin Cities that is a Nat in training and promotes the crap of the month wine.

  • http://CaliforniaWineFan.com Tony Lima

    I’ve been studying wine economics for about 20 years and blogging for about seven years with my lovely wife. We pay for our own travel, wine, admissions to events, almost everything. Sometimes we get a discount for a wine event, but more often than not we pay retail. We have also paid for several wine classes, including the infamous U.C. Davis wine appreciation course. And, as the author of half a dozen books and a semi-retired academic, I am quite aware of copyright law.

    What Ms. MacLean has done is theft, pure and simple. In the U.S. anything you write that is original work is automatically protected by copyright. Period. There’s no debate here about “fair use.” Copying others’ written material is plagiarism. I’ve lost count of the number of students who have learned this from me the hard way.

    I’ve read a bit of Ms. MacLean’s writing and have not been impressed. I get her e-mail newsletters, but mainly just delete them. I will now go further and unsubscribe. I urge everyone to do likewise.

    Tony Lima

  • http://thylandviews.blogspot.com tomhyland

    I thought I’d share a story to let everyone know about Natalie’s “professionalism.”

    Several years ago when the James Beard Society had a category for wine and food newsletters for their annual journalism awards, I entered my newsletter, but was not nominated. I looked at the Beard site and noted that Natalie had been nominated for hers.

    I then saw on her website, even before the results were announced, that she mentioned that she was a James Beard winner for her newsletter (the winning newsletter by the way, went to someone else – not Natalie). I emailed her and asked her why she wrote that she won for her newsletter, when in reality, all she had accomplished was a nomination.

    She told me she had “won a nomination”. How’s that for logic? She also told me that she needed to write this to “drive people to the website”. As though she couldn’t do that with proper content.

    Clearly after this exchange, I lost all respect for her and did not bother looking at her website. She’s been misleading consumers for years. I’m so thrilled all this other information has come out, so people can see how truly unprofessional she is in her everyday work.

  • http://www.sahmmelier.wordpress.com Alissa Leenher

    Wow. I had followed a link and gave my email to sign up for a newsletter. When I saw that there was a fee associated with it, I did not complete the process. Yes, I am on the frugal(cheap) side, but I also knew that there were so many writers I enjoyed without a fee that I did not see the value. If I had paid and then found out I could have been reading the content elsewhere all along, I would be very unhappy. I would not be surprised if this doesn’t lead to some refund-driven legal action.
    I write about wine because I enjoy writing about wine. So, if she is not creating the content, how is she a “writer?” Marketer, yes. Writer, no. The Ponzi scheme of the wine world? I say that in jest, but this is all pretty unbelievable. Especially the fact that people reached out to her and gave her a chance to correct the practice and she chose otherwise. I hope she issues an apology.

  • http://ancientfirewineblog.blogspot.com Jason Phelps

    This is what happens when someone (Natalie Maclean in this case) takes themselves too seriously and relegates the craft to second class. All of the angles paint a pretty dismal picture. Clearly the motivation is to make a name for herself without doing real work and being genuine. Pretty sad.

    Jason

  • clay h.

    sounds like she needs a spankin! any volunteers??

    • Michael Pinkus

      Clay, I think I just threw up in my mouth a little.

  • http://www.winingways.wordpress.com WiningWays

    Disappointing, to say the least, reading all of these comments about Natalie Maclean. When I was a newbie to wine blogging and social media I admit it. I fell for charming good looks, impossibly perfect blonde hair and upbeat personality (which I now liken to Graham Kerr, the Galloping Gourmet). I subscribed to her site, downloaded her smartphone app and thought I could scan upc codes from bottles and fetch over 200,000 wine reviews. Everytime I scanned a code in a store I was given the message that the particular wine could not be found. I started to scan the most widely produced and distributed wines, the most obscure, even Canadian wines. All gave me the same message that the wine could not be found. I wrote directly to Natalie when the help tab on her app provided none. She had someone answer my request for help several weeks later with step by step instructions on how to scan a upc code. I know how to scan a code. This happened several times and no matter how many times I explained that I had no problem scanning codes in many other apps and this was the whole reason I had paid for the subscription I finally received a personal response from Natalie and the message contained the same step by step instructions on how to scan a code. When I requested a refund I never heard from Natalie again. I didn’t pursue it further. She wore me down. How much negative energy was I really going to expend on this? Live and learn. Buyer beware. I’m done with Natalie Maclean. Her fraud extends beyond her review writing.

  • http://www.pdwr.co doug wilder

    Has anyone checked the sources of the 50000 tasting notes her mobile app supposedly includes?

  • Winemaker

    Although I find the attack on Nat a bit too harsh…especially at Christmas time when we should all be passing the wine…I have to say I find it refreshing that someone has spoken up in this industry and can get away with it! As a winemaker who does not own.. I have endured like experiences such as making wine and having someone else stake claim..especially when it wins an award! I cant speak up too much so I appreciate the fight here..credit must be given where credit is due. I’m ok now.. In a much better situation yet I still have to watch my back, nature of the business it seems. Good luck to all, hope it all evens out fairly.

  • Michael Donohue

    Being a transplanted Canadian, I was familiar with Ms. MacLean’s liberal tendency to, uh, “paraphrase” others others and wonder why it took so long for this controversy to erupt…Thinking she might be feeling a tad contrite I went on to her website and clicked around a bit, but all’s well: she’s still the world’s best wine writer, “blah, blah” ( oh I should attribute that to her – and I do!) A few more clicks led to a review of Ch. Pipeau penned entirely by my friends at the LCBO, but acknowledged with a big VC – for Vintages Catalogue. But hey, let’s give credit where credit is due: Nat gave it a 90!!!

  • Michael Donohue

    About 10 years ago, the generous and talented German winegrower Rainer Lingenfelder advised me (a virtual neophyte in the wine trade) that if all I could do was quote Robert Parker, I might want to consider an alternate career. Now we are all more or less agreggators of what we see and read and taste(etc); few have original thoughts, but we should always give credit where credit is due. And earlier I meant others only once.

    • http://www.wineeducation.com Stephen Reiss, Ph.D., C.W.E.

      Speak for yourself. I am not an aggregator, I never read other people’s reviews (ever, ever) and I certainly wouldn’t repeat what someone else wrote, either with or without attribution.

      As I have been saying to my readers since 1992 “I am not right, I just have opinions. If my opinions match yours, than by reading me you will be exposed to many more wines than you otherwise would be. If your taste differs from mine, read someone who’s opinions more closely match yours.”

      There is plenty of opportunity to be original, and few excuses not to be.

  • Michael Pinkus

    I find Natalie’s Mea Culpa above to ring very hollow (and thank Remy Charest for calling her out earlier – particularly his “hogwash” to start it off) … I believe she knew what she was doing was wrong, which is why she continually avoided my requests for this “directory key” of her initials. I have copies of a number of email exchanges asking her for it, she staunchly insists there is one but continues to refuse to send me the URL.

    I am being asked by many to post some of these back and forth emails I have had with Natalie on this issue. Here is the email I received from Natalie on Dec. 11/2012. It is a foremost example of the libel chill and threat of legal action that we as journalists experience when someone wants to shut us down… Note that the “directory key” once again is brought up but never materializes as proof, which leads me to conclude it does not – and did not – exist (emails are in reverse order). I would also like to point out that it is this exchange that Jancis – one of the copied writers – responded (Jancis, if you are reading this thank you for lending your much respected voice to the cause)

    —– Original Message —–
    From: “Natalie MacLean”
    To: Michael Pinkus
    Cc: 32 wine writers, emails deleted.
    Sent: Tuesday, December 11, 2012 4:49 PM
    Subject: RE: Proper attribution of professional wine writers’ reviews on your website

    >>> Hi Michael,
    >>> I’m sorry to hear that you’re “gobsmacked” – I hope that doesn’t hurt too much. As I explained in a lengthy e-mail exchange with you before you decided to copy all of these folks who are likely wondering what the fuss is about, I do give full attribution and credit in a directory key on the site.

    >>> I’ve had this format on my site for 12 years now so it’s interesting that you choose to raise this issue now. Regardless of your motivation, I carefully consider all feedback from readers and colleagues.

    >>> Again, thank-you for your suggestions on formatting my site: I trust that you will leave this with me as the editor of my site.

    >>> If you wish to discuss legal matters of “proper” attribution, of which There are none, I will have my lawyer contact you about this and issues of Libel in copying others on your statements.

    Regards,
    Natalie
    >>

    —–Original Message—–
    From: Michael Pinkus
    Sent: December-11-12 4:35 PM
    To: Natalie MacLean
    Cc: ‘Michael Pinkus – Grape Guy'; and 31 other wine writers
    Subject: RE: Proper attribution of professional wine writers’ reviews on your website

    >>> Hello Natalie,

    >>>I am totally gobsmacked by your attitude about this matter. You are the only person I know that considers a couple of initials at the end of a quote as “full credit” – see examples below:

    >>> This is Jancis Robinson’s review as it appears on your site:
    “Tank sample. Very rich and opulent nose. Great polish and just the merest suggestion of raisins. Big, dry and hot on the finish. Expressive of the terrain! Good for those who seek sunshine in a bottle. Drink 2013-2017. Score: 16 (out of 20) JRO”

    >>> This is Tony Aspler:
    “Winemaker Deborah Paskus is on the top of her game with this wine. Deep straw in colour; spicy, minerally, apple and pear nose with a leesy lemony note; well integrated oak with a fresh, lingering finish. A triumph of terroir and technique. Score: 92 TA”

    >>> And here is Michael Schmidt:
    “The customary spices of the Bockstein add a little extra intrigue to the fragrance of ripe yellow fruit. On the palate citrus fruit and spice are partnered by a refreshing touch of gently bitter peel, possibly an herbaceous remnant of spontaneous fermentation. A very restrained measure of residual sugar leaves plenty of room for spices and fruit to shine, a deft touch of acidity completing a successful interpretation of lively Saar Kabinett. Drink 2012-2017. Distinguished. Score: 16.5 (out of 20)MSC”

    >>> And this is just a sampling …

    >>> I unfortunately do not consider this to be “the final” word on this issue, you as a member of a professional writers organization should know this is not proper formatting and I would be interested to hear what the
    others CC’ed into this email believe.

    >>> Regards,
    >>> Michael

    >>> Hi Michael,

    >>> As we’ve previously discussed, all of those quoted on my site are given full credit, not just initials. I’ll consider your suggestions on how to format my site, but as it stands now, all information is properly cited.

    >>> As there have been several detailed e-mails on this previously, this will be my final one regarding this matter.

    Regards,
    Natalie

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  • A Friend Of Wine Critics

    In reading through these comments I remembered another incident where a competitor or Natalie in the Ontario market launched an iPhone application. Within hours of launching their application there were multiple negative reviews posted. After a little digging it became quite obvious that the negative reviews were far from spontaneous.

    http://www.winealign.com/blog/2012/05/07/apple-agrees-with-us-and-removes-suspicious-iphone-app-reviews/

  • A Friend Of Wine Critics

    In reading through these comments I remembered another incident where a competitor of Natalie in the Ontario market launched an iPhone application. Within hours of launching their application there were multiple negative reviews posted. After a little digging it became quite obvious that the negative reviews were far from spontaneous.

    http://www.winealign.com/blog/2012/05/07/apple-agrees-with-us-and-removes-suspicious-iphone-app-reviews/

  • http://piemonteislife.wordpress.com Karin Susan Fester

    Using content, no matter how small without proper attribution and explicit consent from the copyright holder/author/wine writer, is copyright infringement.

    I am a writer, not just a blogger, and I hold a high ethical standard. And I know that most wine writers are also ethical and I have always trusted them; they are all hardworking people who have produced original material. I respect the work of others, i.e. text and photography, and I expect the same from others. If someone uses content from my blog they must have my explicit consent and must properly list my name, my blog and link(s) to my blog. If they do not do this they are violating copyright law. It’s that simple. On my blog I explicitly state this.

    I have to say that I did not expect someone like Natalie McLean, who boasts about her credentials—a wine industry professional—to be freely using work from others without consent and proper attribution. Initials—they are so vague—are NOT sufficient as attribution. Not to mention that the reviews published in their entirety on McLean’s website are locked up in the members club and are directly linked with her commerical activity. Very unethical!

    Wine industry people certainly have a right to be concerned about this unethical behavior, and this is not just a light matter to be brushed aside as one person stated above (in the comments track). Sorry, this is serious stuff! Operating a website requires being responsible and that means one must abide by ethical standards when one is publishing the material produced by other people!!

    After reading ALL THE COMMENTS above, it is quite obvious to me that Ms. Maclean still does NOT seem to understand what she has done wrong. I will not enter into regurgitating specific comments in detail—some who have described the problems they’ve encountered when making requests to MacLean—because everyone who reads the above track will surely know what I am referring to.

    Karin Susan Fester
    Piemontèis Life

  • Fair Dealer

    While the outrage over Maclean’s conduct is understandable, most of the commentators have seemingly no knowledge of copyright law. Fair dealing in Canada (Maclean is in Canada) allows usage without permission. If Maclean is relying on fair dealing to post the work of others, she does not need permission to do so. This is neither illegal nor unethical.

    The real question is whether the copying in question qualifies for fair dealing. Fair dealing requires the copier to qualify for one of eight purposes (research, private study, criticism, review, news reporting, education, parody, or satire) and then meet a six-part test to determine if the use is fair. Further, there must be attribution as part of the usage.

    Based on the law, it is clear that the lack of attribution is fatal. Macleans use does not meet the fair dealing test given its absence. If Maclean were to correct this issue, there is a plausible case for fair dealing. The use is certainly consistent with review under fair dealing. As for the six factor test, the distribution is limited (subscribers only), a portion is copied, and there is no evidence that the use harms the commercial interests of the copyright owner.

    Maclean may fail the standards many in this industry believe are appropriate, but those posting that consent is needed to qualify for fair dealing are wrong.

    • Scott

      “The Canadian Copyright Act allow users to engage in certain activities relating to research, private study, criticism, review, or news reporting.” Quoted from Wikipedia.
      So education, parody and satire are not allowed.
      Which leaves 1. research, which she is not doing, 2. private study, obviously not, criticism – she is not criticizing the quotes she is stealing, 3. review – she is not reviewing the quoted material, 4. news reporting – hardly.

      She is plagiarizing. Period.

      • Fair Dealer

        The law changed in June 2012 with three new categories added to fair dealing: education, parody, and satire. Those categories took effect in November 2012.

        The Supreme Court of Canada ruled in July 2012 that fair dealing must be interpreted in a broad and liberal manner. Research can include virtually anything of interest to the user. These would be easily meet that standard.

        The six factor test is fact-dependent. The six factors are:

        1. The Purpose of the Dealing – the Court explained that “allowable purposes should not be given a restrictive interpretation or this could result in the undue restriction of users’ rights.”

        2. The Character of the Dealing – one should ask whether there was a single copy or were multiple copies made. It may be relevant to look at industry standards.

        3. The Amount of the Dealing – “Both the amount of the dealing and importance of the work allegedly infringed should be considered in assessing fairness.” The extent of the copying may be different according to the use.

        4. Alternatives to the Dealing – Was a “non-copyrighted equivalent of the work” available?

        5. The Nature of the Work – “If a work has not been published, the dealing may be more fair, in that its reproduction with acknowledgement could lead to a wider public dissemination of the work – one of the goals of copyright law. If, however, the work in question was confidential, this may tip the scales towards finding that the dealing was unfair.”

        6. Effect of the Dealing on the Work – Will copying the work affect the market of original work? “Although the effect of the dealing on the market of the copyright owner is an important factor, it is neither the only factor nor the most important factor that a court must consider in deciding if the dealing is fair.

        These are quotes from Canada’s Supreme Court. Each of the uses would have to be examined individually. Maclean has a plausible case of fair dealing if the attribution issue is addressed.

        As for the claim of plagiarism, that is not the same as copyright infringement. Plagiarism involves passing off one’s work as their own. With attribution, she clearly would not be doing that.

        • Grape

          “While the outrage over Maclean’s conduct is understandable, most of the commentators have seemingly no knowledge of copyright law.”

          Probably the most accurate and intelligent one sentence in the entire comment section.

          Complaining about her behavior is quite understandable, but ignorance of the law doesn’t make any of you look that much brighter, it undermines your valid points.

    • http://www.palatepress.com David Honig

      Adding to what Scott said, the entirety of the review is copied, not a portion. Next, upon what do you base the conclusion that there is no evdience that the use harms the commercial interests of the copyright owner. Ms. MacLean is in direct competition with the copyright owners, asking people to subscribe to her reviews rather than those available behind the paid subscription wall at Wine Spectator, Wine Advocate, Purple Pages, etc. Why would somebody purchase all those subscriptions when they could buy just one and get all the reviews? Indeed, this seems to go straight to the point of harm to commercial interest.

      • Fair Dealer

        Yes, but the economic harm to Wine Spectator, etc. is only relevant if that publication is the rights holder. For the specific author, the fair dealing of the work may not have an economic harm, given they were already compensated for the review and the Maclean usage is unlikely to result in lost revenues.

        As for a portion vs. the whole, the whole may permitted. It’s a question of going through the six factors.

        • Michael Pinkus

          Fact still remains that she did not give proper attribution … a set of initials (or in some cases three) is not a name, date and source. When she pulled these reviews from the LCBO Vintages publication all three of these criteria were met … Natalie took these reviews and systematically removed all but some initials then claimed there was a “directory” on her site which she refused to show anybody. Defend that.

          • Fair Dealer

            No defence. My original response stated that without attribution, this constitutes infringement.

          • http://www.frogspad.ca Craig Pinhey

            Very interesting lesson, Fair Dealer. Sounds pretty complex. Of course, when it comes to proving stuff in court, it is always very difficult, and things should be settled out of court if at all possible. My main concern here is that her reputation might have been built on false pretences. Her current elevated status hurts almost every other writer to a certain extent, in terms of getting writing, radio, TV appearances etc. If it was simply because she was better at it, or better at marketing herself, then we’d have no grounds to complain. It would just be sour grapes. But if there is fishy stuff going on with respect to practices…

    • Sean

      I’ve always wondered what some of those initials at the end of some of the reviews were. It is clear that the reviews were not hers but I assumed they were user generated from some of her more active members. It’s unfortunate that she has appropriated so much material on her site. To “Fair Dealer”, I don’t think it would be very difficult to make the argument that harm is being done to the copyright owner particularly if it was known more widely that content is being copied behind a more expensive ($3-10/month) paywall to be redistributed behind a cheaper and apparently aggregated ($2/month) paywall.

      I will say that her site is very useful to Ontario residents which is where I assume most of her paid subscribers originate. I enjoyed Unquenchable and found if to be both well written and informative. Is she a top critic – not even close, but she is better with new media than most of the big names and possibly better at mobile and digital strategy and plain getting information out in a consumable form, so maybe they could learn something from her.

      On the bright side for me, I will have to check out Wine Align, which I was previously unaware of (perhaps I should be suspicious of the motives of the commenter bringing them up as well though).

      • Industryperson

        Wine Align is a very good site and operates at the highest moral standard. I’m not affiliated with them in any way for what its worth…

        • JJones

          I love winealign.com but do they not also post reviews from the Vintages mag?

    • Les

      @Fair Dealer: Are you suggesting that she is reviewing the original wine review? That is what “review” is meant to cover under fair dealing; quoting content while reviewing a book for example.

  • Henry Williams

    I don’t understand the logic behind Ms McLean copying others’ reviews and opinions without attribution.

    If she is saying:

    “Get Jancis Robinson’s, Tony Aspler’s and others’ reviews here but at a discount”,

    she will want to say that the reviews are the genuine stuff and stick the full underlying Jancis Robinson and Tony Aspler brand names to them.

    She has built up a personal brand and consumer following as the World’s Best Drink Writer not to mention The Louis Roederer International Wine Writing Award, The Jancis Robinson of Canada Tweet.

    So if she is going to be prolific yet lazy just paraphrase the mountains of stuff on-line and keep the credit for the reviews, randomly altering the scores up or down.

    Every student knows how to paraphrase off Wikipedia. Only the idiots and lazy just cut and paste.

    But she would have to do that herself. She couldn’t trust a gopher to do it without spilling the beans. So too much like hard work.

    Or she can use a tasting note generator available online.

    • http://www.deantudor.com Dean Tudor

      A tasting note generator like this one:

      http://static.gmon.com/tech/output.shtml

      • Henry Williams

        Yes. But even then it requires a little bit of work. For example I just got the delicious sounding

        “Good but big and plump Merlot. Shows cedar, melancholy tea notes and hopeful roast pork. Drink now through 2020″.

        But it will have to be changed a bit to remove “plump” so as to avoid offending obese couch potato subscribers and “pork” so as to avoid offending (liberal) Muslim and Jewish subscribers and “drink” to avoid offending teetotallers. Oh and best to avoid “tea” to avoid depressing Tea Party supporters and drive them to drink.

  • http://www.wineontime.nl Dwayne Perreault

    Add me to the list of bloggers who have been contacted by Natalie, and I live in the Netherlands. She’s written four times, admonishing me to read her latest book or join her website and participate as a blogger. Every message ends, “I hope you’ll consider reviewing or mentioning it. Look forward to hearing from you when you have a moment.”

    And no, I didn’t participate.

    • http://www.academicwino.com Becca @ The Academic Wino

      I was also contacted by Natalie to review her book. I have to admit, there was nothing fishy about the exchange, as I do review wine books relatively frequently for authors and have received these types of requests before.

      I asked her to have her publishers (or whomever kept the books) to mail it to me and they did. After reading all the comments above, I’m somewhat surprised she didn’t ask me to pay for it.

      This was all before the news of this abhorrent unprofessionalism on her part was made public, so as a result, I don’t think I’ll be reviewing the book anymore.

      Thank you, Palate Press, for bringing this to light.

      • http://www.wineeducation.com Stephen Reiss, Ph.D., C.W.E.

        She has contacted me regularly to review her books and apps. I have no problem with this. I also have no problem with a few of the other issues people mentioned, all of which fall under the guise of PR. It is unreasonable that PR standards should be different for wine writers than for other writers, or even other businesses.

        I am still pouring through this train wreck of a comments thread because Nat seems to think that people who pay her for her advice don’t deserve HER advice. Not giving attribution is bad (and actionable) enough, but to not make it clear that she was not the one to taste the wines? Unforgivable for me.

        I have been writing and teaching about wine since the early 90s, and like so many here I am proud and touchy about my ethics. I personally hold myself to a standard higher than many (I have have turned down trips, and I pay my own way for nearly everything [I will eat lunch with the winemakers, and I will let them drive me]).

        We all have to be honest with our readers, that is the most important thing, and I for one am gobsmacked (maybe we can help bring the word back) that Nat, for all her visibility, has been holding herself to such a low standard.

        • http://aStudentofWine.blogspot.com Kristof Gillese

          Natalie contacted me this week – asking me to write reviews for her website:
          “I like the way you approach wine, and given your expertise as a sommelier, wondered if you’d be interested in contributing reviews to my site?”

          When I asked what compensation I would receive for this service – Ms MacLean responded:
          “I really do wish I could pay you, but I don’t break-even cost-wise on my web site so I’m really sorry that I don’t have the funds for that.”

          149,000 members on her website – if even 15% of those pay the $2.10/month that works out to $554,400 per year… but that’s not enough for her to pay others to write wine-reviews for her cash-cow.

          I’m not gob-smacked, I’m saddened. It is a sad sight to see a “writer” making such a large sum of money off of the work of others who make very little by comparison. Should Ms MacLean be pilfering reviews from my website it entirely hurts me financially.

          I’m a new wine-journalist of just over 3 years in the industry. Should someone purloin my work it goes directly against my endevours to create a “members” section of my own website. The past 40-something months have been an investment of tens of thousands of dollars on my part, and several thousands of hours of work, study and writing. That a “colleague” could be making a divedend from that without so much as proper acknowledgement is truly pitiful. That said “colleague” would ask for this work without proper compensation is selfish.

    • http://www.deantudor.com Dean Tudor
  • http://www.pdwr.co doug wilder

    Last time I checked, the following URL is still available:

    http://www.natrecants.com

  • http://www.winecountrybc.ca Luke

    I am glad to see so many familiar names on this response thread for this very important issue. I’m a big fan of having intellectual abuses brought to light and it appears this is something that is not only important to me as a podcaster and member of the wine industry in BC, but also as a musician who would be very annoyed if someone was stealing my music for any purposes without credit.

    I’m not certain however that Nathalie’s reputation will be sullied much unless this story breaks in traditional media beyond the realm of the wine social-media circles. I might be way off here (tell me if I am) but the people who buy her books (I sell them at a local store) are not the people who are as engaged on Palate Press, blogs, or in the ‘mainstream’ wine criticism circles of Jancis Robinson, Wine Spectator, et al. If this story can bridge that gap somehow, perhaps we might see a different response from Ms. Maclean.

    I’m also glad to see that this comment thread has not deteriorated into a mob-like lynch state (“let’s get her!!”) that seems to be all to easy in the annonymously distanced socmed world. I have no doubt that socmed can be powerful for things like that when used well. If you doubt the power of it, there are some Stanley Cup rioters in Vancouver that you should meet…

    As as aside – if you really want to safeguard your reviews to make sure that nobody ever steals them, try podcasting.

    • http://www.1winedude.com 1winedude

      Luke – maybe you should stop selling get books? Might be one way to support the bottom that she needs to deliver a more far-reaching apology for all of this?

      • http://www.winecountrybc.ca Luke

        It was at a huge wine store that I don’t really work at often anymore. They were just one of many.

  • http://UncorkOntario.com Shawn McCormick

    What’s worse? No attribution (just initials), or a partial attribution that lists the name of the reviewer but not the source (i.e. your name only). Just seeing a name there makes me think that the writer of the review is part of the community. Full attribution should include the original source site, or it is just as deceptive IMHO.

    Perhaps there is something to be gleaned from Creative Commons licensing, with simple rules like those noted here:
    http://mollykleinman.com/2008/08/15/cc-howto-1-how-to-attribute-a-creative-commons-licensed-work/

  • http://www.northof9finewine.com Tyler Philp

    Sometime in 2010:
    Join my new website Tyler; I have over 128,000 subscribers to my weekly newsletter, a database of wine that is superior to anything else in Canada. My 20,000+ followers on Twitter will really enjoy your work. Come and write for me and you can expect a significant increase in the amount of traffic to your own site.

    Well slap me silly and call my Sally; this sounds fantastic! I’m in.

    I was the first of Natalie’s ‘Bloggers’ – Tyler Philp, better known to her as #196 001, I’m sure. I quickly began to churn out wine reviews, written material, and volunteer countless hours to assist with website development. In weaker moments, I would provide information about her competition in return for the occasional backhanded compliment.

    I continued to upload material at a rapid rate; others joined the cause and did the same. As a group, we’d communicate behind the scenes where our concerns were much the same: Hey Natalie, we can’t find any of the wines that we’d like to review on your site… Don’t worry, she’d reply each time, we are making some improvements to the search feature. It will be fixed shortly, just keep creating ‘new wines’ for now…Oh, by the way, I am really happy with what you are doing, my friend.

    I was the first and only person to be featured in her weekly newsletter (allegedly to 128,000 subscribers at the time). This was potentially a very exciting moment, after all, this IS Natalie MacLean. A reasonable expectation (in my opinion) was that 1% of the newsletter recipients would hit my site ~ i.e. 1280 hits and a significant return on my investment… The reality was a total of 11 [eleven!] hits. She promptly inquired… Did you get any traffic? [I should have picked up on the doubt in her voice, but the shock on my part was all too evident].

    This scenario continued ad nauseam: Hey Nat, how about a Retweet? “I’m busy!” she’d respond sharply. [Yes I see that. I just watched you RT ten different people. Perhaps you might support those who are busily busting their asses to make you look good…] I would receive nothing more than the occasional RT at 5 am (2am on the west coast)… Needless to say, it is doubtful that anyone noticed.

    In an attempt to gain some kind of approval, I provide her with an embarrassingly radiant book review. In truth, I only read the first three chapters and skimmed the rest before tossing it into the blue-bin.

    After nearly 8 months of enduring this cyclone, I was witness to a grand total of 205 hits from nataliemaclean.com, of which over half were from a known fake profile. The remaining traffic was sourced from legitimate users and the dungeon master herself.

    My wife of 16 years snapped in reaction to my continuous frustration, highlighting that this level of chaos is not healthy and that something needed to change – immediately.

    Shortly after, I contacted the Queen Bee to express my severe detest for the entire operation before bowing out in a less than graceful manner and leaving behind over 200 wine reviews plus several educational articles.

    Earlier this year, MacLean created what I affectionately call the Pyramid of Shame – you can find it on her site under Wine Reviewers. The tiered list ranks all of her subscribers by the number of reviews submitted. All but the first three or four rows of said ziggurat are comprised of phony names and honest people who have generously contributed a single review and foolishly left their credit card number in her possession. I shake my head in dismay before realizing that my material is still active on her website and yet amazingly [thankfully] my name does not appear at the pole position. In fact, it doesn’t appear at all. I quickly suspect a bit of backhanded programming to punish the one member who openly questioned the legitimacy of ‘Operation Peroxide’.

    Several months ago I became the first person to delete all my reviews and profile from natlaiemaclean.com. In the last week, her pyramid has continued to crumble, with several key individuals choosing to follow my lead by removing their own material from this obviously corrupt wine resource (and I use the term resource very lightly).

    Others will soon follow, as they should.

    My compliments and regards to the good people at Palate Press. This has been most therapeutic.

    Signed #196 001

    • http://www.deantudor.com Dean Tudor

      Tyler, great story…#196001 sounds like a convict number. Did you get a black and white striped tee-shirt?

      I can picture Warden Gnat in black boots and leather with a whip, encouraging you reviewer guys to “come” to her more often…aw, I’m just being a rude prude, sorry…

      • http://www.deantudor.com Dean Tudor
        • http://www.frogspad.ca Craig Pinhey

          Holy crap Tyler. I honestly had no idea that she was that bad. Thanks for sharing this – it both scared me and made me laugh. I’m sure her legal team has already contacted you. I hope you are working in a good place now.

          Cheers!
          Craig

          • http://www.northof9fineine.com Tyler Philp

            Bring it on! I’ve got an army standing behind me and they’re armed to the gills.

          • http://www.northof9fineine.com Tyler Philp

            … truth is, I gave her the benefit of overwhelming doubt and every opportunity to ‘make right’ the situation. She just couldn’t bring herself to play by the rules of acceptable social behaviour and reciprocation. Pretty basic stuff, in my opinion…

      • Chloe Dawson

        Woah… you provided her with “an embarrassingly radiant book review”? Not something most people would admit to on a thread about plagiarism.

        It sounds like what you got involved in was the wine world’s version of the Huffington Post, where writers foolishly flock to write for free and line somebody else’s pocket in the hope of building a ‘platform’.

        The woman is receiving a proper drubbing on this thread for a good reason – plagiarism is the worst thing a writer can do.

        But you’ve really got no right to complain because you got your fingers burned doing something no professional writer should do – write for free to build somebody else’s internet empire.

        • http://www.northof9fineine.com Tyler Philp

          Sure, I’ll accept that Chloe, though I think you’ve missed the point of my comment entirely.

          • Chloe Dawson

            I get the point. I’m just gobsmacked that you would publicly admit to giving her a bogus review, on a thread that’s all about bogus reviews. And you’re doing it to prove how unethical she is…

          • http://www.pdwr.co doug wilder

            Chloe, Tyler’s tale is easy to understand. A young writer has a chance to associate with a ‘global’ brand. They, trust and believe while working hard some of their own work gains visibility.. They may feel foolish once they realize they have been used, but talking about it should not be ridiculed. Some of the professional sites or writers who did endorse her books may in fact be regretting it. I generally decline to endorse books when offered, nor do I seek wide-ranging endorsements for my own writing. I imagine some may have looked at all the awards, and the flashy site, given the book(s) a quick glance and just slapped on the self-prepared accolades.

            It takes guts to admit you may not have done your due diligence, but once said, it is easier to move on. It works that way in public life. Allegations of wrongdoing come up, questions are asked, the more denials made, the longer it stays in the public eye and the closer you get associated to the problem. A retraction, made early and phrased in the right way may be preferable to remaining silently associated with the product. On the other hand, there are more than a few amateur sites who endorsed her that are probably unfamiliar with what is going on and are happy to still be associated with the brand.

    • http://www.deantudor.com Dean Tudor
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  • Wino-fred

    I have a contact with Sun Media who will pass this article on to the Ottawa Sun. This needs some public exposure!

    • http://www.winecountrybc.ca Luke

      That’s the way to go. Mainstream media needs to hear this and that will no doubt elicit a very different, and likely legally-advised, response from her.

  • Colin Principe
  • Andrew Edwards

    So, out of curiousity, what do people here think of MetaCritic?

    • Michael Pinkus

      I like metacritic – it amalgamates reviews in one easy place – but the difference is they tell you who and properly cite works and link to the bigger piece on the original site … Ms Maclean failed on that level and chose to hide the rightful owner of the reviews she used behind a set of letters.

  • Michael Pinkus

    Just going through my email and discovered this from Natalie sent in mass mail format on Saturday (Dec. 15, 2012):

    “I wanted to let you know that I’m in the process of adding the information that has been requested, beginning with the most recent reviews and going backwards. All of the reviews that I have quoted were first quoted in liquor store catalogues and store shelf slips. I quoted them from those sources and indicated that.

    However, I have agreed that I will also add the information beside the quotes, including names and publications, and not rely solely on the directory that is on my site.

    As I said, I do listen to feedback from colleagues and readers and do make changes as a result.

    Regards,
    Natalie”

    Natalie, if you are reading these posts please be advised: I do not consider you a colleague (because colleagues respect – if sometimes grudgingly – each others work) and I am not a reader … I am a wine writer who caught you pilfering other writers works, and found myself miffed because you refused to see what you did as wrong and continue to proclaim your innocence. Plus you threaten me with legal action when I shared your chicanery with others. I will let others label you the way they like.

    • http://www.northof9finewine.com Tyler Philp

      … and that just about sums it up, doesn’t it — well said Michael!

  • http://www.pdwr.co doug wilder

    The rather large list of writers, and publications who endorsed her books is posted on the website. A quick glance revealed a few I recognize. Will the list stay intact if we start seeing more candid, frank and honest retractions from those, like Tyler Philp, who want to distance themselves from Natalie?

    • Chloe Dawson

      How absurd that would be – the sight of wine writers retracting their bogus book reviews now that the author has been caught plagiarising. As though they would be doing anything more than exposing themselves as frauds when it suited them.

      What a sorry saga all round.

  • http://www.wineglas.com John Glas

    Again who would even subscribe to Natalie’s site? Many of us posting on this article have a far superior palate to hers and are not looking to make a buck by selling out with bogus reviews about super market wines.

  • http://www.wineclubsonline.com Sue

    Natalie asked us to promote her new book on our radio show, which we did. We sent her a message after that and asked if we could interview her on our show. Never heard back from her. Just not the professional reciprocity that we are accustomed to.

  • Bill Klapp

    One of Tyler’s posts above really caught my eye…she claimed to have over 128,000 subscribers to her weekly newsletter in 2010! I don’t know if the newsletter is free or paid, but in any event, the claim is preposterous. Consider the facts: she appears to be virtually unknown outside of Canada. Canada is a country of roughly 30 million people, with a relatively small wine industry. The U.S., a country 10 times larger, is home to Robert M. Parker, Jr., the world’s most famous wine critic. Parker was alleged to have had 50,000 subscribers WORLDWIDE at the top of his game, and his website harbors a subscription-only wine board whose hit numbers are anemic. Methinks Natalie has less than a firm grip on reality, or else only a passing and casual relationship with the truth…

  • Wino-fred

    I just heard back from the Ottawa Sun newspaper. (Natalie lives in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada) They acknowledge receipt of the link to this article and their editors will decide whether to run with this story!

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  • http://arnoldwaldstein.com/ Arnold Waldstein

    You’re not a thief till you get caught…it’s that simple.

  • http://www.deantudor.com Dean Tudor

    Try also Twitter spambot @NatDecantsFans and hashtag #natnabbed

  • http://www.wine-flair.com Wine-Flair

    I have a modest website (not just a blog) that I use as an educational tool. I also teach classes occasionally. I recognize that others make their living from this business—which is simply my passion (I have a day job)—but it still seems to me as a wine educator and writer that there are some incontrovertible facts here:

    1. Plagiarism is unethical. There is no gray area.
    2. Copyright infringement is illegal in the United States. Canadian Law is not the same as US law and may interpret certain matters differently. That does not preclude an aggrieved party from taking action if he or she believes a copyright has been infringed.
    3. There are various schemes used by various wine reviewers, some of which involve paying to review bottles. This is on top of the wine being donated. For live tasting events, these fees typically support logistics, stipends, travel and other expenses. For individual reviewers, these fees may cover the cost of storing the wine, or just be income for the reviewer(s). If it’s made clear that there’s a specific fee for a bottle to be reviewed, the producer can made a choice as to whether or not a submit a bottle. If the fee is tied to something other than the actual review, the producer can also make a choice. Common sense should prevail.
    4. If a producer is promised a positive review of its wine under any circumstances by a reviewer, it is unethical.
    5. Revealing a conflict of interest does not remove the conflict.

    This affair is ugly and tarnishes us all. It also points out the degree to which reviews—and a small, powerful number of people—have come to dominate a global industry. It certainly runs contrary to my motto: “Filling your glass with fun.”

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  • Carpe Grape

    As a wine loving Canadian I am embarassed to no end.

    Thanks Michael and Dean, keep fighting the “Good Fight”!

    Bring on the Vincotto and Feathers!

  • Carpe Grape

    As a wine loving Canadian I am embarassed to no end.

    Thanks Michael and Dean, keep fighting the good fight!

    Bring on the Vincotto and Feathers!

  • Wino-fred
  • Wino-fred
    • http://www.tonyaspler.com Tony Aspler

      I have never read such self-serving drivel as Natalie Maclean’s apologia. She still doesn’t get it. And who are the “many wine writers and bloggers who have contacted me to show their support and understanding over the past few days.”? Perhaps she owuld like to publish their names – or at least their initials.

      • http://www.northof9fineine.com Tyler Philp

        Just to hammer the point home Tony, NM sends out an email 9 hours ago to her 146,016 subscribers (latest declaration) proclaiming her innocence and a whopping 6 people respond with their comments in support. That is 0.004% … What’s the phrase we’ve been tossing around lately? Oh ya, ‘I’m Gobsmacked’.

        • http://www.frogspad.ca Craig Pinhey

          6? Impressive!

        • A Friend Of Wine Critics

          Did the newsletter provide a link to the Palate Press so they could see the other side of the story? Note that she didn’t provide a link to the infamous index either. Replies and support are from aspiring bloggers who have not read the Palate Press story yet.

          • Wino-fred

            I tried to post the link to the Palate Press article as a comment to Natalie’s newsletter but it says “comment has to be moderated”. So, I doubt she will allow her readers to see this article!

  • http://www.wineglas.com John Glas

    Natalie is a non pro in this business. Anyone who needs other reviews on their own website is not to be taken serious. I would doubt quality wineries would even send her wine to review. Super market brands on the other hand probably show up at her doorstep often as it costs more to ship them then the wine costs.

  • Wino-fred

    This seems to be the final word from Natalie:

    “Update: The largest worldwide professional organization of wine writers, The Circle of Wine Writers headquartered in London, England, of which I am a member along with 276 other writers, has reviewed the issue and now considers it closed.”

    • http://www.deantudor.com Dean Tudor

      Hmmmm, but as we asked about the so-called directory, the so-called legend, the so-called index, the so-called key: WHERE IS THE HOTLINKED URL??

      I cannot believe anything, even about the CWW, unless I have a hotlink in my hot little hands from the Nat herself…

      • http://www.deantudor.com Dean Tudor

        Just heard back from Steven Spurrier: “As current President of the Circle of Wine Writers I sent an email to Nathalie MacLean to say that, since I never follow any blogs, tweets and so on, I had been unaware of the problem that had been flagged by Tony Apsler, Jancis Robinson et al et al, but that I was now aware of it and was pleased that she was taking these complaints about her use of writers’ copy into account.

        I received a reply of thanks in return, but nobody has made me aware that this debate is now closed.”

        So who interjected the word “closed” to the debate? It was not Spurrier…

  • http://www.winecountrybc.ca Luke Whittall

    I’ve tried twice now to post a comment on Nat’s blog about posting a link to the directory key. (Even tried adding my last name…) The first disappeared without warning and after posting the second one, I’d apparently been blocked. I did screenshots of both comments, which were both courteous and polite and am wondering if I should post them? If the key is not available or ready, that’s fine, but at least admit it. Come clean.

    Has anyone else tried to post to her site? All of the ‘comments’ on her page are just glowing, get-well-soon type of comments that refer only to the ‘personal attacks’ rather than the core of the issue. Why can’t she just take a lesson from Tylenol or Maple Leaf Foods? Admit you’re wrong, say you’re sorry, fix the problem, and then we can all get back to talking about wine again.

    • Wino-fred

      I tried posting the link to the article twice stating that her readers should be able to see both sides of the issue. As with the above poster, I was finally blocked as well.

  • http://www.wineglas.com John Glas

    On a much smaller note I was blocked by a local wine educator in Minneapolis and I was critical of her representing crap brands and educating the consumers. She is a Nat in training and is pimping Aldi wines. I know we all want to make money but really, promoting Aldi wines.

    • http://www.winecountrybc.ca Luke Whittall

      That’s another issue altogether but something that I’m very much aware of. I hate being suspsicious of everyone on twitter in that way (Oh, you only like Constellation’s wines? That’s … interesting) but I try to keep my radar up because it influences motives so much to such a psychotic degree.

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  • http://www.wineglas.com John Glas

    Nat has so many supporters that offer her their support from her newsletter. All 16 of them but she doubles the comments section by responding back to all of them. Of course as mentioned no negative comments allowed.

    The good news is that if you are blocked it shows less trafic to her site.

  • http://www.deantudor.com Dean Tudor
  • http://www.deantudor.com Dean Tudor
  • http://www.deantudor.com Dean Tudor
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  • http://www.deantudor.com Dean Tudor
  • http://www.deantudor.com Dean Tudor

    A Google news search on “natalie maclean” shows the top 10 urls on page one — four of the first five are about “l’affaire de Nat”, and number 10 is a French language site in Quebec commenting on Nat. So, the Palate Press stories managed to get 5 Nat entries in her top 10 news items (not mainstream media).

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  • http://www.deantudor.com Dean Tudor
  • http://www.wineglas.com John Glas

    https://twitter.com/NatDecants/following
    Nat follows herself on Twitter and no one else.

    • http://www.frogspad.ca Craig Pinhey

      She has another twitter under her name

      • http://www.wineglas.com John Glas

        Craig, I saw she is following a ton of people. I am amazed at how many follow her.

  • Phi Post

    I would suggest the problem is much wider than this clear example of “infringement”. Recently I conducted a quick online survey of several wines and found the exact same wording used to describe the wine in both personal review comments, as well as reviews from retail/commercial sites. Puzzled I went to the vintner tasting notes and found the exact same wording again. Hmmm, do people actually taste what they review?

    • http://www.palatepress.com David Honig

      Phi Post – Wow! That should never happen. I’d love to see the research if you’re willing to share it with us.

  • Ian Tarrant

    The practice of ‘using’ other’s content is not limited to Natalie MacLean..In Ontario, as we are bound to purchasing wine through the monopole LCBO, and a few websites devote themselves to helping you ‘sift’ through and provide the best advice to consumers…

    In addition to Natalie, there are 2 others I personally subscribe to, one is called Vintage Assessments and the other is called ‘WineAlign’ – Both of these have frequently published LCBO ‘content’ (Professional reviews from Spectator, Advocate, Jancis, Tony, etc. etc. in addition to their own ‘staff’ reviews).

    WineAlign’s John Szabo also writes on the topic in an article from a couple of days ago:

    http://www.winealign.com/blog/…or-january-5th-2013/

    As he comments about Natalie, he interestingly does not point out that his organization has done the same thing, and without saying so, I believe they have stopped this practice probably in response to this ‘scandal’..

    I don’t defend her, but it seems that the practice of using other’s reviews (perhaps without permission) is probably rampant and it’s funny how she has become the lightening rod..

    • Michael Pinkus

      Ian … do these publications you subscribe to name the original author of the reviews? Or have you done some fishing and noticed they were cribbed and not attributed properly?

      There is a major difference between giving full credit for a review (proper attribution) and obfuscating who did a review (which Natalie clearly did by putting letters instead of names).

    • Michael Pinkus

      Received this email that came from WineAlign this morning:

      Our policy is that we will not print a review unless we have the written permission of the critic. We implemented this policy in mid-December and at that time we removed all reviews from our website where we did not have written permission. Prior to that we did include reviews from the LCBO Vintages catalogue on our website, always with FULL attribution. We occasionally added reviews supplied by agencies and wineries who wanted to better support their wine. Also, if there was an ad running on the site making a scoring claim we wanted to have that review on the site in order to back up the claim. In all cases full attribution was given and in many cases links were provided back to the source site.

      • Ian Tarrant

        Thanks Michael.

        I received a similar response to my question on their website.

        I appreciate that they finally offered this, but the delay and to have one of their contributors essentially ask me for ‘proof’ of my allegation was a bit of an eye roller…

        You would think that PR in this digital age has come a bit further..

        Happy New Year!

        • Rod Phillips

          Ian, I think you misunderstand. You wrote that WineAlign WAS DOING (not HAD DONE) what MacLean was doing — using other people’s reviews. I knew that WineAlign HAD used other critics’ reviews (with full attribution, a crucial difference), but also that it had removed them by the time you commented. The tense you used implied that the reviews were still on the WineAlign site, so I asked you for examples (not “proof”), in case some reviews had been overlooked, and were still there.

    • http://www.deantudor.com Dean Tudor

      Check out this print story, in the Ottawa Citizen:

      http://www.ottawacitizen.com/news/ottawa/Controversy+swirls+over+popular+Ottawa+wine+writer+alleged/7761638/story.html

      The reporter got confused, and so did the lawyer. It was always about attribution — then MacLean and lawyer blamed any kerfuffle from pay for play onto the wine review content business.

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  • http://Manolofood.com raincoaster

    Congratulations on taking the high road, which is also the legal road. If you catch a thief, she is obliged to give back your things, even if she runs around putting your name in Sharpie on everything she took from you.

    Your post inspired my own, on how to take action against those who would wrongly use copyrighted words. And for those who don’t know, any work published online in North America is automatically copyrighted to the owner at the time of publication.

    • Is That It ?

      Is that it? We rant and rave and everything calms down. So now this content thief can go about her business again? Seems a shame that it all ends like this.

      • Is That It ?

        I guess that is it? She seems to be busy on facebook lately.

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  • Just an editor

    I worked with Natalie Maclean as an editor many years ago and I always thought there was something strange going on.

    Not only did she not seem to know much about her subject matter, she also couldn’t construct short articles.

    I was quite surprised when she started writing highly-praised books, and leafed through them at the bookstore. I can only say that when I saw the quality of the writing — so different to what I had edited — I had real doubts about whether she wrote those books.

    Strange as this may seem, I even got the feeling she didn’t particularly care about or enjoy wine. The thing that surprised me most in all these threads is seeing her described as drunk at some function. I don’t buy the whole tipsy, love-to-drink thing.

    The other thing that strikes me is despite all the mega self-marketing, Natalie has not landed many major on-going gigs. She tends to appear in a publication once or twice until they catch on to her and then she’s gone.

    Keep digging. I’m sure there’s a way bigger story here about a non-writing, non-wine drinking wannabe wine critic.

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