The Impact of Robert Parker Giving CA Wine To Antonio Galloni
With Robert Parker, Jr.'s announcement that he is turning over reviewing responsibilities for California wines to Antonio Galloni, there has been one major question on the minds of California wineries, wine retailers across the country and collectors: Will Galloni appreciate the same wines as Mr. Parker has appreciated?
The reasons this question arises should be clear:
1. Mr. Parker's reviews of California wines have been very influential with collectors and retailers who have used the reviews to help aid them in their buying.
2. Many very successful—and, again, high end artisan wineries—can link their success and their ability to sustain relatively high prices for their wines (along with their business model) to outstanding reviews in Robert Parker's Wine Advocate and their continued success is, in some ways, dependent upon continuing to be well-reviewed in the Wine Advocate.
3. The character of Antonio Galloni's palate where California wine is concerned is not fully understood, creating uncertainty.
Mr. Parker himself has given us all a clue as to how Mr. Galloni's palate will shake out. At the eRobertParker bulletin board today, Mr. Parker posted the following comment:
I should doubt that it would come as a surprise that that Mr. Galloni will appreciate California wines of the same style that Mr. Parker appreciates: Mr. Parker owns The Wine Advocate, which means in the end, the editorial approach is under his control. And this brings us to a critical point about the degree of influence in the marketplace that is Robert M. Parker Jr.'s:
With Mr. Parker pulling back from reviewing California wines, we are about to discover that after all these years the influence resides in the WINE ADVOCATE BRAND as much as it resides with Robert Parker.
Although Robert Parker has been the very prominent face of the Wine Advocate all these years and although it is Robert Parker who is considered the world's most influential critic, we have also seen the influence of "The Wine Advocate" advance at a pace that mirrors the advance of the influence of Robert Parker. Put another way, the influence of Mr. Parker's palate has translated to enormous influence for the Wine Advocate brand. And this is why I have every reason to believe that The Wine Advocate and its scores for California wines will continue to be among the most influential sources for collectors and retailers across the country and, as it has in the past, helped define the stars of the California wine industry.
The American wine media is not as small as it used to be and influence and authority has become much more fractured over the past ten years due to many factors. However, it's unquestionable that there remain a relatively small number of wine critics, journals and magazines that have a much larger impact on collector and retail buying patters than the vast majority of other critics, be they published in print or on the web, be they published in newspapers, newsletters or in a blog. The Wine Advocate is one of those few sources of criticism that has much more impact than most others.
It will still be the case that if a new winery receives mid and upper 90s scores for its wines from The Wine Advocate, The Wine Spectator, Stephen Tanzer, Wine & Spirits Magazine, The Wine Enthusiasts and a few other newsletters, and if they receive those high scores and great reviews in consecutive vintages then they will have a solid base upon which to maintain higher prices, increase their prices or increase production, as well as sell more wine direct to the consumer as well and dictate the way their wines are presented throughout the three-tier system in ways that wineries not receiving consistently high scores from these relatively few publications are able to do.
On the other hand, wineries looking to sustain prices, increase prices or increase production do have new tools and outlets that can help them achieve these goals without relying on the most influential critics. Working social media and generating buzz amongst key on-line communities of wine geeks can have a significant effect on the staging of a winery's success. And I suspect this alternative route to fame and glory will become more important as the industry better understands how to harness and communicate with important on-line wine communities and their leaders.
Still, the key point here is that the influence that Robert Parker developed is translated to the Wine Advocate. This means that the reviews that come from Mr. Galloni will carry great wieght—more than most other critics—with American wine collectors and retailers.