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Imagining a world after Parker

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Much has been said in the wine blogosphere about a new media world in which names like Robert Parker and some others I could mention are as obsolete as the dodo bird is extinct. In fact, since I started blogging, I’d estimate that the majority of comments on my posts — certainly the most vociferous ones — have been thundering tirades along the lines of “Your day is done.”

Well, here’s evidence that the times they really are a’changin’. Parker’s new Wine Buyer’s Guide (edition no. 7) is “the first of his series to be produced by a team of writers,” says Patrick Comisky, a well-known wine writer who reviewed the book for the Los Angeles Times. I haven’t seen the new Buyer’s Guide yet, and won’t buy it (I have no need to), but will likely go down to Barnes and Noble and leaf through it over a cappuccino and biscotti in the upstairs café with the pretty view of the Oakland estuary.

What are we to make of the fact that Parker’s five co-writers are responsible for more pages in the new Buyer’s Guide than Parker himself? There’s only one conclusion: The old order really is changing. Not as rapidly, I’d say, as some bloggers might want; there’s no reason to think that Parker won’t still be reviewing California, Bordeaux and the Rhône ten years from now, or that The Wine Advocate won’t still be subscribed to by tens of thousands of people. But I think the new Buyer’s Guide really is an intimation of something, a distant early warning sign of an impending shift in wine reviewing.

I’ll give the bloggers this: they say they want more voices, not fewer. Well, now they have them. “Robert Parker” is no longer an individual, he is a franchise, like McDonald’s. And his co-writers (Neal Martin, Mark Squires, Antonio Galloni, Jay Miller and David Schildknecht) are franchisees. Squires owns the local Parker outlet in Portugal, Galloni in Italy. It gives a whole new meaning to the word “Parkerization.”

Another sign of change: While I was thinking about all this, I came across this report that Michel Rolland, the famous flying French winemaker, has released his first wines from — Bulgaria! I wonder if Parker will now hire someone to be his Balkans reviewer. The region is, after all, pretty close to the Caucasus, the original home of vitis vinifera, and one of these days it could be source to some of the greatest wines in the world.

  1. First, the chances are less than 50/50 that Parker won’t be doing Bordeaux, Cal. and The Rhone 10 years from now. (Unless he refuses to retire after the typical major sense of smell loss that strikes 65+ yr olds.)

    Second David Schildknecht covers Eastern Europe (i.e., Bulgaria) for The Wine Advocate. Or so I’ve read a while back.

  2. When I read the news that Robert Parker’s newly released book had a group of co-contributors, I thought, “”Ah, he’s up to what I’m up to… Setting up the next generation.”

    He’s now guaranteeing that the products his company produces will flourish after he’s gone (not that he’s ready to pop off any time soon). He’s had these writers in the background reviewing certain segments of the world, and he’s now rightfully brought them into the foreground with his newly released book.

    He’s harnessed talent, like all other publishers.

    Honestly, I respect the man and his work so much. He followed a passion, and he’s been allowed to expand and give others a similar career… All the while, just enjoying wine, sharing is thoughts, making a decent living as a scribe, and traveling the world while doing it.

    Pretty cool. — jo

  3. Dr. Horowitz says:

    Interesting, but I’d say that Parker is more like Ronald McDonald and his co-writers are like the Hamburglar, Mayor McCheese, and The Fry Guy, etc.; and they’re all working for McDonald’s. But then again, McDonald’s has stopped promoting its characters long ago, so maybe Parker is more like Mickey Mouse, and his co-writers are like Mickey’s friends.

    Where is the M-o-u-s-e? On just about every product possible (that embodies family magic). T-shits, TV, books, backpacks, etc. Once someone becomes eponymous they can turn the idea of their character into $$ by extending the character into just about any product line, even wine.

    Isn’t this what wineries have been doing all along? Francis Ford Coppola, Andretti, Rodney Strong, etc. were all eponymous characters before they slapped their names on a bottle of wine. I guess what’s interesting about Rolland’s wine is that the wine business made him famous.

    I’ve never read a Wine Buyer’s Guide. Why should I start reading it now?

  4. I have read the new buying guide and was not impressed. Parker has basically eliminated all tasting notes, leaving primarily just scores for the wines. Parker has stated before that his tasting notes are more important than his scores, yet he has now eliminated what he said was what most important from this guide.

  5. Interesting points made above. I think unless the next generation of wine lovers have some connection to Parker, and why would they, they wouldn’t have any interest in his reviews. Especially if those tastes diverge from the new wine lovers’ palate. Preferences change.

    Variety in reviews is better. And frankly, unless you’re taking an educational, accessible approach, what’s the point of declaring this bad and that good. The variety across preferences, context and bottle, to bottle are too great. The only way to figure out about wine is to go try it, try LOTS of it. Be your OWN Parker.

    That’s the only way to find out what you’ll like.

  6. This is brand expansion – not unforeseen.

    I read this review and isn’t one of the writers a blogger?

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