Robert M. Parker Jr. selling his interest in his Wine Advocate to an Asian based group of investors—seemed to be filled with intrigue, relief, expectation and also a “bigger” meaning behind this act. It is as if this one act is pivotal in understanding where we find ourselves in this era rich with armchair wine reviewers. There are a lot of people weighing in on the exactness of this meaning.
Robert Parker exit was probably sooner than expected but there is no one reason but several reasons—
a) He probably got an offer he couldn’t refuse
b) He was decreasing his reviews for a period of time and was and will still review Bordeaux and Rhône wines
c) He had probably been shopping for a buyer for a while
Eric Asimov says (10-December-2012) “The move recognizes a new reality, that the center of orbit for critics like Mr. Parker is now in Asia rather than North America.” While I think this is a vast overstatement and the tilting of wine reviews is not going just to Asia. Asia specifically China’s wine story is still unfolding and even with it’s promise—still does not approach the US in terms of market size for wine. There are many unknowns in the Chinese market for wine—after all—might there be more limiting factors than many people suppose today. What if after all the Chinese start to prefer their wine to a vast sea of imports? What if the market does not grow as much as expected?
Internationalization of wine reviews is something that ‘everyone is trying to crack’ but it makes a lot of sense—and I mean that if I look at metrics from my site or YouTube channel I personally have an international audience—something not possible only a few short years ago. Eric Asimov continues with his view that “…wine lovers matured…especially as the Internet gave platforms to many different view points.” While the story on the Internetization of wine has little to do with Parkers decreased audience. It wasn’t that –Parker never grew his audience and registered new generations. Asimov also mentions and implies the 100-Point Score that Parker popularized no longer as relevant. I do not agree necessarily with Asimov—there will be a market need to understand point scores as it relates to the very large array of wines that exist. There are many Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Sauvignon Blanc and so fourth and there are many people who want to bypass less than optimized wines—ultimately many and most people are seeking the highest quality wines possible at the best price points and need definers.
No matter the rating system and there are many—I have mine and purposely utilize a 10-Point system. The desire to rank wine will always be here—now while Parkers may or may not be utilized I do hear many others being called out—even my own.
One blog posting I read today gave some results from Parker’s “exit”:
a) US Cult wineries in China will focus on China—yeah of course?!
b) Higher prices for high priced wines because of this purchase….?
That is a big throw at a small bat—the supposition is that the new ownership will help to increase competition for these wine hence a higher price—I couldn’t find logic in this thought. And lastly another supposition is that Wine Spectator has a lot to gain. I’m not sure how that will happen—might Wine Spectator be in the same shape in this Internetization of wine. I don’t think the current readership is going to abandon the Wine Advocate. Wine Spectator will have to work even harder with our without Parker to not only retain their audience but gain a new one.
I was fascinated by the near frenetic pace –again attribute this to a deeper need to understand the category in this period of time. But ultimately understanding wine, metrics and demographics is as elusive as it has ever been.
Wine leadership of educators, reviewers and commentators is just as relevant today—There is a bit of a desire by some writers to complain that the wine writer is dead. No one every said the travel writer is dead because of crowdsourced reviews…in fact view points in travel or any other category is more relevant and wine is no exception.
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