NZ wine writer, Michael Cooper believes wine competitions ‘make a lot of money’

This article (see link below) quotes Michael Cooper, a New Zealand wine writer,  saying, ‘”If my wine-writing career failed I would either set up a wine competition or start up a religion because they are both good ways of making money.”

Needless to say I was compelled to write a letter to the Editor which was published in the Marlborough Express today. It reads as follows:


Letter to the Editor, Marlborough Express                5 January 2012

After reading the article ‘A vine way to make a living’ about New Zealand wine writer, Michael Cooper – I am compelled to write on behalf of Wine Competition Ltd.

Mr Cooper has no experience in the organisation of wine competitions.

Mr Cooper makes the statement, ‘If my wine-writing career failed I would either set up a wine competition or start up a religion because they are both good ways of making money.’ I cannot speak for all wine competitions, but as a director of Wine Competition Ltd, owners and organisers of the Spiegelau International Wine Competition and The Marlborough Wine Show, and having  been involved in the Liquorland Top 100 International Wine Competition since the mid-nineties including as Director from 2005 – 2010, I can categorically state he is wrong.

The Spiegelau International Wine Competition and The Marlborough Wine Show were conceived to add value to the wine industry and the wine consumer. While returning a small profit for the value we provide is highly desirable, ‘making money’ as suggested by Mr Cooper is totally incorrect.

In addition, Wine Competition Ltd is the only company to auction bottles of wine not required during the judging process and return the proceeds to industry via a Charitable Trust. The proceeds donated to the Trust (to be made available to the New Zealand wine industry both locally and nationally) totalled $17,000 last year.



Belinda Jackson, Director – Wine Competition Ltd




About Belinda Jackson's Blog

I'm a professional wino! I am GM for Blind River, a small vineyard planted with Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir in Marlborough's beautiful Awatere Valley. You can see more at I am a director of Wine Competition Ltd which owns and runs two independent wine competitions in New Zealand: the Spiegelau International Wine Competition ( and the Marlborough Wine Show ( When not 'wining' I am championing local causes such as Renwick Smart & Connected and the Mistletoe Bay Foundation. I have been on the board of New Zealand Riding for the Disabled for over six years. I have three books published and I have a regular wine slot on Radio New Zealand. I started in the wine industry in Bordeaux in the mid-eighties before heading back to the UK to work with a wine wholesaler. Ten years later I was responsible for sourcing and buying 750,000 cases of wine from around the world for one of the country's big brewers. I have been in NZ since 1995 and absolutely love it (the only other place I'd want to live is France...)
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4 Responses to NZ wine writer, Michael Cooper believes wine competitions ‘make a lot of money’

  1. Carl says:

    But Michael is right. Many wine competitions such as the International Wine Challenge do make good profits for their organisers. The succes and franchise of this competition is down solely to it’s profit making ability. The fact that you competition is not organised for profit is a separate issue.

    • Thanks for your comment – great to have feedback and discussion. ‘Many’ set up to make money is one thing, but by making a statement in the way he has, suggests people set up wine competitions specifically to make money. That is not the case for Wine Competitions Ltd and I wanted to make that clear. We certainly wish to be profitable and I believe that as we continue to add tangible value to the industry, the profit will come. I believe it has to be earned, not just assumed! Cheers!

  2. Raymond Chan says:

    Surely the prime purposes of any wine competition are to give feedback to the producer on the quality of their wine, and to provide an authoritative guide to the consumer? Credibility of the results is essential and this depends on the experise of the judging, and the effective dissemination of the results will aid commercial success. Money is required to achieve these objectives..
    Once the motives of ‘making money’ become paramount, the integrity is degraded. If I was a wine producer, or a wine enthusiast knowing a wine show set out to ‘make money’, I’d lose interest in it, I would have no issue with the wine show being profitable, as this ensures business success. It is interesting to see criticism of some of Australia’s larger state wine judgings as machines to raise income to perpetuate the bureaucratic process of running themselves. A sign of the start of the slippery slope?

    • Hi Raymond and thanks for your comment. I agree totally. Many have commented on the Australian system as being a huge earner – and while this is not an issue in itself (as long as the money continues to benefit the industry, and entrant see value for money?), if as you say, it becomes the driving factor, then integrity can certainly be at risk. My goal regarding Wine Competition Ltd as a small independent company, is to add value to both industry and consumer based on the integrity we provide. This will always be paramount. It’s a pretty short term strategy if not!

      In addition, the cost of entering wine shows can be excessive and outweigh the benefit. By the time the entry fee is paid, the cost of the samples taken into account (many shows seem to demand more bottles than they require) and the freight to send them, it is not an inexpensive exercise – and many of the larger companies have to allocate specific staff resource to meet all the show requirements. Those of us who run shows need to be cogniscent (sp?) of this and keep these costs to a minimum while providing the most value.

      Which leads me to my final point. If wine shows auctioned the unopened bottles (those not required during the judging process) and returned the money to industry (which they are welcome to do via the Charitable Trust set up by Wine Competition Ltd specifically for this purpose), there would be significant funds invested for the benefit of the industry as a whole. Though many shows state in their criteria that the ‘wine samples become the property of XYZ Show on receipt’ I do not believe this is ethical. Producers have already gone to the expense of entering (as outlined above) – the least we can do is maximise their investment by returning funds to industry.

      A rather long-winded reply – thanks for reading if you got this far!


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