An Open Letter to Robert Parker, Jr.
Recently at the eRobertparker forum, Mr. Parker himself suggested that he could have no impact in changing laws concerning consumer access to wine. He wrote: "I would have a better chance of raising the dead from their graves than
changing a totally corrupt system where the beer and liquor
distributors have their respective politicians right where they want
them…in their pockets….and then factor in 50 separate
states….yeah….totally disgusting and about as anti-wine consumer as
it gets….but let's not ignore history….those with the deepest
pockets buy the legislation that protects their interests….always has
worked like that…and always will."
I respectively disagree.
Dear Mr. Parker:
Even wine drinkers need heroes.
You, above all, should know this as you are perhaps the greatest hero to wine drinkers for your constant advocacy on their behalf. And for your efforts you have rightfully gained fame and recognition along with the respect and power that comes with dedication to an idea.
But for all the work and effort you've put in to being the eyes, ears and palate of the American wine drinker, let me respectfully suggest that your work is not done.
Even after the narrow victory in 2005 at the Supreme Court in the Granholm v. Heald ruling, many wine drinkers are stymied by onerous conditions placed on their ability to obtain wine. They are limited in the amount of wine they can obtain by direct shipment. Some states place highly restrictive conditions on wineries who want to ship wine to adult wine lovers, making it more profitable to simply not do so. Most states still make it illegal for wine lovers to have wine shipped to them from out-of-state wine retailers, meaning that the vast majority of Austrian, Australian, French, Italian, New Zealand, German and Spanish wines that show up in the pages of the Wine Advocate are impossible to obtain since these wines are not distributed in the states where the wine lovers live and they may not seek them from outside their borders.
The effort to free wine lovers and the wine industry from the grip of ancient and archaic laws that empower and protect only the shrinking wholesaler tier of the industry continues. Free the Grapes remains to fight on behalf of wineries. The California Wine Institute deploys talented lobbyists across the country. Specialty Wine Retailers Association looks to change the landscape for retailer-to-consumer shipping.
But where is the true voice of wine consumers? This is where you come it. This is where you must come in.
In some states, wine lovers have organized. In Michigan "Wine Consumers Across Michigan" fought wholesalers. In Illinois the "Illinois Wine Consumer Coalition" has formed. In your home state of Maryland "Marylanders for Better Beer & Wine Laws" fought the good fight in opening up the state for fair access to wine—and lost. But these are shoestring organizations that fight for funding and attention. They and wine consumers in every state need a powerful, respected, educated and respected voice to speak on their behalf.
You should be that voice. You, with the recognition, respect and reputation for consumer advocacy that you have earned can do wonders to shine the light on the corrupt system that leaves free trade in wine wanting, punishes consumers for the sake of politicians retaining campaign contributions, and leaves a small shrinking clique of oligarchs controlling which of the now hundreds of thousands of wines Americans may taste and buy.
The power of your voice is needed in the halls of government where positive wine legislation often fails for want of exposure and gravitas among the laws' supporters. Your pen is needed in the editorial pages of the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Newsweek and Time. Your presence is needed on the sets of "Good Morning America", CNN, FoxNews and the "Daily Show With Jon Stewart". In all these places your voice and your advocacy on behalf of wine lovers is needed to finally draw widespread attention to a corrupt system and frustrated wine lovers and consumers that have been controlled and conspired against.
You, Mr. Parker, can and should be the hero to wine lovers that steps up and changes the debate, that alters the debate, that gives impetus to a new chapter in the slow moving story of wine drinkers rights and the false system that governs those rights.
The vast majority of the wine industry will get behind your effort. More importantly, your effort to raise this issue will inspire wine drinkers across the country to follow your lead, speak out more loudly and work for change. They will follow your lead and commit coin to the effort. They will follow you to rallies and write letters at your urging. It is true that small groups of dedicated people can move mountains. This is how it has always worked and how it will always will work.
It's time for a hero to step up, Mr. Parker. And you are the right person for the job.