A group of wine writers have labelled the practice of paid-for wine reviews unethical.
In its latest code of ethics the Wine Writers of New Zealand strongly discouraged its writers from engaging in such practice. "Engaging in any work that involves direct payment from a winery is discouraged given the possibility of real or perceived conflicts of interest," it said.
Under the code, any minor conflicts needed to be fully disclosed to all interested parties.
Chairwoman and one of the Wine Writers of New Zealand's co-founders Jo Burzynska said direct payment from a wine company to a wine reviewer was not in the best interests of the consumer. "Most consumers have no idea that some reviews and medals used by wineries to promote their wines are derived from paid commissions rather than independent editorial or independently run wine competitions and have no way of telling which is which."
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But University of Otago associate professor in marketing Lisa McNeill said it was naive for people to think the practice of paid reviews wasn't common across all industries.
Payment could come through an exchange of cash or simply be the offer of free product for review, she said, but this didn't mean such reviewers wouldn't be honest.
"For a well-known wine reviewer it's their reputation at stake," she said. "They are selling their own brand."
She believed the importance of getting respect in the industry would outweigh the fear of losing potential clients through a negative, albeit honest, review.
However, Ms Burzynska encouraged wine writers to simply not engage in the practise of accepting payment from a wine company to review its product.
"Other industries may also use paid reviews in countries where there is no regulation against the practice. But as it removes the independence that we consider crucial to a critic's integrity and creates a potential for bias, this is not something Wine Writers of New Zealand supports and of which consumers should be made aware."