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‘Bribes, Backdoor Deals, and Pay to Play: How Bad Rosé Took Over’

Victoria James, writing for Bon Appétit:

My introduction to pay to play occurred after I’d just published a book on rosé. I was approached by one of the top three rosé brands. They were looking to partner with me and Piora, the since-closed Michelin-starred restaurant where I was the wine director. A few emails were sent before the in-person shakedown. At the tiny restaurant, I was bombarded with drop-ins from these reps trying to strong-arm me into representing their brand. The deal was that they would give me a couple thousand in cash to be an ambassador, and I would have to buy their rosé to pour by the glass for the summer. If I needed to make better margins, like making $10 off a glass of rosé versus making $5 off a glass of rosé, they also offered to drive by and drop off a couple of cases of free product. Horrified, I turned down the deal.

Sommeliers around New York have told me they’ve been offered incentives from big brands too. Wineries will come into the restaurant and swipe their credit cards, theoretically expensing a meal. In reality, the swipe is a bonus, with no meal actually taking place. Other sommeliers mentioned that brands will drop off a free case of wine or offer to supplement the somm’s income with funds from their bosses. Someone even called it “mafia-style shit”.

I had no idea until a few weeks ago just how popular rosé has become. What a racket — and unsurprising that the stuff the big brands are pushing is mediocre at best.

Tuesday, 14 August 2018