Robert Parker and Digging a Wine Critic’s Grave

GraveDiggerIn the wake of the sale of a stake in Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate to Singapore investors, the word on the street is that Robert Parker Jr.’s and The Wine Advocate’s influence (and usefulness) has declined considerably.

What I’m reading from a variety of sources, many of them quite practiced and astute sources, is that Robert Parker’s decline is due to the fact that he and his Wine Advocate have outlived their usefulness; that American wine drinkers have matured to the point that they don’t need his brand of advice; that his 100-point rating system is passe; that multiple, new sources of wine advocacy and information have bit into his influence.

Pia Mara Finkell, over at Buzz Bin makes this point in a post entitled “Massive Shift in Wine Industry’s Most Powerful Voice”:

“Much like the then-immature U.S. market when Parker launched his publication over thirty years ago, Asian markets are hungry for rigorous and focused information and status symbol wines.”

Eric Asimov of the New York Times, who does the best job of fleshing out this tale of decline and Hasbeen-ness puts it this way in an article entitled, “Change at the Wine Advocate Signals a Change in the Market”:
“In one sense, Mr. Parker and other like-minded critics planted the seeds of their own obsolescence. The 100-point scale and the vocabulary of tasting notes — those brief wine descriptions that break down what’s in the glass to a series of aromas and flavors — are meaningful only until people start to develop a sense of their own taste. Wine-lovers discovered that these were merely intermediate tools, and that with confidence and ease comes a curiosity that goes beyond what’s in the glass.”

Meanwhile, Jon Bonne at the San Francisco Chronicle also explains that Robert Parker has out-lived his usefulness:

“But times have changed. As wine has grown in popularity, its drinkers have become more sophisticated and less reliant on Parker, even as the market has become clogged with imitators, borrowing Parker’s once-unique 100-point rating system and broadcasting their opinions on blogs, discussion boards and social media sites.”

Finally, Tallia Baiocchi, a new columnist at the Wine Spectator and Blogger at Eater, goes a bit further in explaining Parker’s decline by explaining why a younger generation of wine drinkers have no need for the likes of a Robert Parker in a blog post pointedly entitled, “Robert Parker’s Waning Influence On The Current Generation of Wine Drinkers:

Wine is far less foreign to Americans than it was then, and we have Robert Parker to thank for much of that. But the question is: What now? Wine is not only a part of the everyday American experience, but it’s become more important to us. And while I am not about to go all “wine is art” on anyone, I do think an increasing number of consumers want to know about what makes wine not just delicious, but culturally valuable. We’ve arrived to this point as a wine culture. And I think the more wine dialogue seeks to reveal its value beyond the aesthetic and easily quantifiable, the more relevant it will become to my generation.

There’s all the evidence here of a pile-on, driven by some sort of consensus of a paradigm shift in the world of wine.

My question is this: If in fact Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate has lost its game, lost of its influence and is in its last days, what would be the evidence of this? Simply the sale of a stake in the Wine Advocate to Singapore investors? Wouldn’t Robert Parker’s demise have other tell-tale signs?

What about a decline in subscriptions to the Wine Advocate. The word is that the Wine Advocate has upwards of more than 50,000 subscribers who pay between of $75-$99 a year for access to the thousands of reviews it publishes in print and online. In the world of wine newsletters 50,000 is and always has been substantial. That’s hefty for a number of wine magazines. The revenue from these subscribers alone more than justify the $15,000,000 paid for a stake in the Wine Advocate assuming it’s a substantial stake.

What about the impact of the Wine Advocate’s reviews and ratings. Do people still care? I can tell you this without any qualification: When a wine receives a mid to high 90s score from Robert Parker or another Wine Advocate critic, that wine sells out…and quickly. Additionally, the wine scoring 98 points will increase in price in retail establishments and restaurants and the winery obtaining the 98 point score can easily increase the price of that wine next vintage…all on the weight of the great Wine Advocate review.  You know why? Because the wine trade including wholesalers and retailers and restaurants believe the Wine Advocate has juice and because the reviews and ratings are respected. Furthermore, America’s high-end wine buyers and collectors also are willing to trust Robert Parker’s palate and the palates he has chosen to represent The Wine Advocate.

As some have pointed out, the past decade has seen the emergence of far more sources of wine information aimed at consumers and the wine trade. It’s true. Consider what you are reading now. However, where the realm of professional criticism is concerned, be it wine, film, restaurant, art or music criticism, the source of the critique is everything. The authority of the sources is critical.

Measuring the authority of a critic in any category is tricky business. Furthermore, I think in assessing the authority of a critic one must apply different criteria depending on what field of criticism we are talking about. The authority of the art critic is assessed differently than the film critic. The authority of the film critic is measured differently than that of the media critic. And the wine critic’s authority too is assessed differently. I’d argue that key to measuring the authority of the wine critic is the question of  the number of readers, use of the critic’s output and the number of wine reviews a critic produces.

A wine critic that produces 20 reviews in a year is of little use to and is invested with little authority by those most concerned with wine: the trade and the frequent buyer of fine wine. A  wine critic who produces reviews that are not utilized by more than a relative few to help buy and sell wine are also likely to be invested with little authority. Finally, the wine critic that possesses a regular audience relatively small in size is also one that possesses little authority.

Very few wine critics possess important levels of authority today by this standard. In fact, very few ever have. Robert Parker has possessed great authority as a wine critic for more than two decades and, again, by this set of criteria, still does.

Yet, we have lately read that Robert Parker and the Wine Advocate have seen their authority undermined by the 700-00043800profusion of new outlets for wine information and this has led to the demise of Robert Parker’s and the Wine Advocate’s authority and importance.

The number of new, online wine critics that have emerged in the past 10 years that sport significant authority can be counted on one hand. Among them are probably Vinography, 1winedude, and CellarTracker. Among these, only Cellar Tracker boast a critical components of the authoritative professional wine reviewer that matters to the wine trade and serious wine consumer: comprehensive coverage of the world of wine (or at least the publishing of a profound number of reviews annually).

Additionally, while those new sources of review mentioned above have good-sized audiences, none of them have accumulated their audience under the burden of charging a subscription fee. For example, I may have thousands of readers of FERMENTATION and building that audience is something of an accomplishment. But whatever that accomplishment amounts to, it’s not the same as building it while charging reader to access this site.

Finally, are there any wine critics that have emerged in the past 20 years who see their reviews frequently used by the trade, importers and wineries to help sell their wines? For that matter, are there any who have an audience that waits for their next set of reviews before committing their precious wine budget to the purchase of the wines recommended by the critic? I don’t know of any.

But Robert Parker and his Wine Advocate does inspire this kind of commitment…and has for a very long time.

So, despite the proliferation of new wine information sources over the past decade, none of them, for all their value and quality, maintain the reputation and authority of the Wine Advocate and its critics.

I honestly don’t see this waning authority that has been reported upon in the wake of the news of the sale of the Wine Advocate. But if I did see it, I’m told, I would recognize that part of the reason for this waning authority is the maturation of the American wine consumer who no longer needs the Wine Advocate’s brand of criticism and the emergence of a younger crowd of wine drinkers (Talia Baiocchi’s “Current Generation”) that never had need for the Wine Advocate’s wisdom.

Ms. Baiocchi goes on in her post at Eater to explain, “as my generation continues to become more vocal in the wine world, the comparatively small impact that Parker has had on us will continue to reveal itself.”

By “vocal” I presume Talia means to say more important as a buying group. And when she writes “my generation” I assume she means the older Millennial set and perhaps the younger Gen X set. What’s important to recognize about the Millennial wine buyers is that when it comes to fine wine and wines over $25 a bottle, they buy relatively little compared to Baby Boomers and older Gen Xers. This isn’t to say that Millennials won’t impact the wine world. Based on their buying patterns they will sustain the wine industry for years to come—particularly once they get older, find their peak earning years and, like the Baby Boomers, find themselves with the kind of disposable income that allows them to play in the higher priced wine category….which they do not do now.

Yet this is the category of buyer that has always put food on Mr. Parker’s table. The older buyer of high-end wine willing and able to explore prestige wines are those that read the Wine Advocate. Even when you do have disposable income to drop on more expensive wine, you look to authorities to help determine how you will spend those dollars. It should be no surprise that Talia’s cohort isn’t or hasn’t been reading Robert Parker: They aren’t yet ready or able to spend serious money on wine. But they will be.

Finally, I see Mr. Parker’s assumed waning influence explained by the maturation of the American wine drinker. This is an interesting claim. Anyone who is claiming that Mr. Parker and his Wine Advocate’s influence is in severe decline will also have to admit that in the year 2000, his influence was probably near or at its height. Has so much about the American wine drinker and wine buyer changed in a mere decade?

In a decade have American wine drinkers, as Eric Asimov put it, started “to develop a sense of their own taste” and no longer need critical reviews of wine as they did only a decade ago? Have American wine lovers, in this short ten years since Parker was at his peak, “discovered that these [wine reviews of the type showing up in The Wine Advocate] were merely intermediate tools” that are no longer needed because they suddenly obtained a  “confidence and ease” with wine that results in “a curiosity that goes beyond what’s in the glass”?

What is the evidence for this change that has apparently overcome the American wine drinker in a short decade that all of a sudden makes Robert Parker unimportant and placed his brand in decline?

The evidence isn’t in the Wine Advocate’s subscription base. It isn’t in his influence with the trade? And certainly the $15 million paid for a stake in the Wine Advocate doesn’t suggest the evidence is all around us.

I think that this view that the Wine Advocate is a dying brand we have seen of late is a result of something else. In the first place, I don’t think people like know-it-alls. And Mr. Parker has been the most important and most significant wine Know-it-all for a very long time. That’s a point against him. Also, while there appears to be no waning in the use of the 100-point rating system, there does seem to be a backlash against it among a small core of industry insiders and the Wine Advocate is the purest and most prominent example of its use. Further, the proliferation of user and enthusiast-generated wine content has provided evidence that the expert opinion may not be the most important opinion and this has created a psychic-backlash against professional wine criticism. Robert Parker and the Wine Advocate is the most prominent example of professional wine criticism.

It looks to me to be true that Robert Parker’s influence on the wine world is waning. But not for the reasons we’ve read. The reason is simply that he is doing less of it. He wants to work less. He wants to make use of the fruits of his labor. But, the brand he built, The Wine Advocate, lives, doesn’t it. Its audience is not in decline. It’s influence is still clearly on display among the trade and high-end buyers, as it always was. The fact is, The Wine Advocate’s influence and authority may be so much deeper than anyone ever realized because while running the shop, Robert Parker never capitalized on it to the extend that he could.

Depending on what the new owners of the Wine Advocate do with this brand, we may discover that the reports of the Wine Advocate’s death (or chronic disease) were overstated. At the very least, I think we will find that the evidence arrayed in support of the claim that the Wine Advocate is in decline is supplanted with evidence that we really never realized just how influential it was.




31 Responses

  1. Wink Lorch - December 19, 2012

    Good piece… Robert Parker is much more of a brand than a person these days… Doesn’t matter how many times I explain to the Jura and Savoie world (outside those producers who export to the US) and indeed any French person that David Schildknecht wrote the recent in-depth reports on these regions, they just refer to Parker. This brand won’t go away soon, on a world-scale anyway, it will change and develop as all brands have to. I say to all those who predict the demise – in the spirit of the start of a silly season – “Sauternes in Your Graves”.

  2. Markus Stolz - December 19, 2012

    Tom, this is perhaps the most persuasive article from you that I have read to date. You offer powerful arguments, and add solid perspective. While I personally agree that a lot of power remains from the group you name – the older buyers of high end wine – I am not sure if I follow your argument that the younger wine generation will choose the same path. They have a different affinity for wine, and grow up with a very different value system. They go out of their way to explore the new, and might simply never end up exploring “prestige” wines as we know them today. They might even change the perception of what the prestige wine of tomorrow might be. Although this tomorrow might be quite a few years away.

  3. Tom Wark - December 19, 2012


    The younger generation will chose the same path (look for authoritative voices for wine recommendations) when they get older and have much more disposable income for the same reason that today’s primary buyers of high end wines do: they want good advice on where to spend their disposable income when so many choices confront them. No one really troubles themselves all that much over the purchase of a $20 or $30 bottle of wine. but when you start spending $50+ on a bottle of wine, you want some assurance than you are getting that special bottle you seek. Where do you turn? Maybe social media. But I contend that you a real authority to offer a recommendation. Millennials will do the same. I doubt their value system will prevent them from seeking wisdom when it comes to larger purchases.

    • Markus Stolz - December 19, 2012

      Millennials will seek advice from an authoritative voice once they have more disposable income at their disposal, I agree. But this was not my argument. Will the prestige wines of today remain as dominant in the future? If so, than Parker will remain as influential as he is today. Yet I feel we should not dismiss the fact that the younger generation of wine consumers might embrace other, or additional, wines. When I started to become seriously interested in wine, Bordeaux, Burgundy and Rhone was my educational focus, in part as a result to the available information at the time. But today, this limitation of information does not exist any longer. The WA has increased its coverage to additional regions, but has it really been able to establish the same authority in those?

  4. doug wilder - December 19, 2012

    In this era of social media there are plenty of outlets for information, but it always gets back to who is providing it, and how useful it is for a particular individual. Matters of taste, experience and interpretation of what constitutes value and quality translates to many choices out there. Ultimately we all validate what we deem important by how much we trust it to satisfy our needs, and as we age, our needs change. Any resource that can deliver that on a consistent basis will find an audience. As far as influence. I think it is important to put that of any particular source in perspective. A publication with a circulation of 50000, viewed from a global standpoint is still a niche. Those who try to validate their own perspective, by dismissing that of others are missing the point.

  5. Jason - December 19, 2012

    Well said, all around. The rush of bloggers and other reviewers to bury Parker is premature. Just go into any large retail outlet and ask whose scores they prefer to use. A big score from RP moves wine. WS somewhat less, and WE even less, if at all.

  6. Lindsey Whipple - December 19, 2012


    Great article! Balanced! I love balance!

    I am a 32 year old born and raised Las Vegan. I am Sommeiler who has worked sales and on the floor on one of the top 10 best restaurants on the Las Vegas strip. I have had some of the most amazing & rare wines in the world because of my city.

    I like how you remind “my generation” of where we stand socially and financially. It is hard to put yourself in a place where you get to taste great & rare wine consistently at our age.All of the my guests whom had the means to drink great wine new, referenced, maybe not followed completely, but always deflated to what RP thought a vintage was supposed to be like. I therefore was forced to read what my guests read. I have always respected RP for his writing style and great records of information……All of those guests were Baby Boomers or older……Every once in a while a young rich card player or high roller Japanese guest.

    Also, there was a time when Internet was not around! I find my self going old school and referencing the older wine writers like Michael Broadbent and RP!



  7. Tai-Ran Niew - December 19, 2012

    Great post! What it highlights is the propensity for discussions about wine trends to be held without any numbers or facts.

  8. Terroirist: A Daily Wine Blog » Daily Wine News: An Angry Man - December 20, 2012

    […] its game, lost its influence and is in its last days, what would be the evidence of this?” Tom Wark persuasively argues that the Wine Advocate brand is as strong as it’s ever […]

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  10. Thomas Pellechia - December 20, 2012


    One flaw I find in your take is that when RP started out, Baby Boomers were young, inexperienced and without much cash, just like millennials.

    Seems to me that the world moves on, and it does so even with aesthetic criticism. People and customs change, and in this country that happens rather rapidly. If it is important to care and want an explanation, I suggest you start with the word “change.”

  11. John S - December 20, 2012

    I tend to agree with Eric Asimov’s view. The 100 pt system is on its way out. The more I learn about wine the more embarrassed I feel about wasting my time when I first got into wine. I turned to WS and the WA for knowledge and trusted their ratings. Tasting 100 to 200 wines a day is a sham. It can’t be done. It has nothing to do with a glass of wine that you will savor in everyday life. I haven’t opened their pages in years and am better for it. Their is such a greater wealth of knowledge out there now and easily obtainable.
    New wine drinkers and us more experienced ones live in the greatest time for wine. After a few years into my wine education I purchased each first growth and even a bottle of Petrus. 15 to 20 years later I have 10 times the disposable income but can’t afford or justify buying one of those. The First growths and cult wines will never be drunk. They are commodities not wine. Their prices are a result of WS and the WA. The younger generation discovering wine aren’t interested in them because they know they’ll never taste them. They are more interested in finding something unique and obscure.
    Sure it will be a slow death as some will cling to their scores. At least we can have a good laugh at the shelf talkers. Gobs of Cat Piss, Bramble Pie, Flinty Loam, Roasted Game, Gooseberry Pith.

  12. Alfonso - December 20, 2012

    These lyrics went through my head when I read Talia’s piece:

    Why don’t you all f-fade away
    And don’t try to dig what we all s-s-say
    I’m not trying to cause a big s-s-sensation
    I’m just talkin’ ’bout my g-g-g-generation

    People try to put us d-down
    Just because we g-g-get around
    Things they do look awful c-c-cold
    Yeah, I hope I die before I get old

    This is my generation
    This is my generation, baby

    • CSMiller - December 20, 2012

      That’s great Alfonso. Now the question we must ask ourselves is RP & TWA the equivalent of the Rolling Stones that didn’t die and have a new tour or The Beatles that left (well ok broke-up) at the top and before they got old or died.

      One thing John S said really resonates; tasting so many wines in one sitting is really questionable and has actually be proven as pretty much impossible due to something called aroma reset. Apparently our palates have a 5 second reset after each wine tasted and that reset time doubles every couple of wines tasted. So after 30 or so you would need like 30 minutes for your palate to reset. I like to refer to it as the Staten Island dump phenomenon. Drive past the dump and whew, stay there a couple of hours and you don’t notice it anymore.

      Tom, excellent arguments and it will be interesting how this plays out going forward for brand 100pts and brand RP.

  13. Steve Heimoff - December 20, 2012

    Very good report, Tom. Right on the money. The people who always complain about older critics becoming obsolete are either jealous or resentful of their success, or living in a lala-land of fantasy. I suspect Wine Advocate will continue to be relevant, as will other established wine periodicals.

  14. Jeff - December 20, 2012

    Fascinating overview of the changing wine world. The confidence to pull a new bottle of wine is increasing. That is a victory for all wine marketers and drinkers. Go forth with conviction and intrepidly try something new with someone you care about! Happy holidays.

  15. Tish - December 20, 2012

    The debate over critics’ influence will persist as long as people seek guidance, so I do expect Robert Parker to be part of the conversation moving forward. That said, however, my take on the sale of the WA is that RP essentially just exported his brand to a fresher, more viable market. What he did for America, energizing consumers and steering them toward what he considers the best wines, is set up to be played out again, with the focus being in Far East markets. His reputation and the relative novelty of his system will surely help generate a new, mostly well-heeled following abroad.

    My hunch is that there is in fact hard evidence that RP’s influence — and the 100 point scale with it — is waning. Problem is, that it is tough to measure. And what greoup really cares enough to study it statistically?

    Anecdotally, it does not take much rock-turning-over to see the signs. Start with the explosion of wine commentators (bloggers, traditional writers and blog commenters) openly, logically and sincerely rejecting the system RP popularized. Similarly, do not underestimate the fact that NON-raters far outnumber wine raters in terms of wine media these days. Put Alice Feiring on one end of a see-saw, Robert Parker at the other, then keep adding people who use or do not use the 100point scale to both sides…. It won’t be long before Alice’s side is sitting pretty and RP’s side has been launched skyward.

    Even more telling: go chat up an average retailer — he/she will confirm that, thanks to saturation/score-inflation, it now takes 94+ points to merit buzz for high-end wines, and a $10ish tag to move sales for 90 point wines. They’ll also tell you that more people buy by label than by score these days.

    Moreover, in looking for those average retailers who still care about and use points, you will encounter an increasing population of retailers who eschew points entirely ( had a good post on this a while back.) Gasp! My impression (not backed by hard evidence, I realize) is that RP, WS and other numbers are the bait of choice for online retailers, while bricks and mortar types are realizing that personal, customized advice and self-generated reviews/recommendations represent a better way to develop customer loyalty. Imagine that: starting with the customer, not the critic.

    I think RP has basically run his course in the U.S. and is getting out in a way and at a time that is perfect for his legacy. No one doubts his historical impact, and yet no “new” guru or guidance system has emerged. Looking ahead, I am not so sure a new system or guru will emerge, however. Let’s not forget that RP started his publication when there was a general lack of wine information and when wine itself was of varying quality. Today, the universe of wine is almost unreviewable in its sheer scope. More important: overall quality is a quantum leap ahead of what it was in the 1980s and 1990s. In fact, I would argue that the persistence of ratings at all has been supported by the simple fact that so many wines are well made that getting 90 points is deservedly common. Wine has become duh-licious, and given that new reality, smart consumers, marketers and re-sellers alike are realizing that focusing on style, context and value are far more meaningful than tracking points applied like tattoos by (mostly) middle-aged men who taste 20 wines blind, once in a sitting, without a crumb of food. Common sense is rearing its brain-equipped head with respect to the way wine ratings are churned out as if from sausage factories.

    Robert Parker deserves a lot of credit. But in the big picutre, his value should now start to meld back into its original, merit-based context. Let those who value his opinions pay a reasonable market rate for his guidance. And that’s where it should stay: in the context of paid readership or online subscription.

    Meanwhile, pay attention to where wine is sold, at restaurants and retailers: you will see that today’s consumers are better able and eager than ever to seek and receive guidance where it counts, as in precisely at the point of sale.

  16. Lenny - December 20, 2012

    Great article, Tom. I agree that the rush to bury RMP has been a little too quick. I do, however, think that his influence has been waning in what I would snobbishly refer to as the more mature and sophisticated US markets. Not all markets are equal, and what plays in Peoria may be increasingly irrelevant in Chicago. I’m predominately focused on the markets in NYC, Boston, DC and Chicago. My experience in these markets–and particularly among on-premise and younger buyers–finds the attitude towards RMP has increasingly come to be defined as the difference between those who view him with indifference and those who view him with disdain.

    I would also argue that this rejection of RMP is based not on competition from bloggers or any “rejection of authority” by millenials but rather on a rejection of Mr. Parker’s palate. I would contend that what the WA is encountering is a slow–but inexorable–slide into a marginalized and niche influence as buyers (and market trend setters) in the most important markets move away from what the what made the WA famous.

    Subsequently, the decision to focus the future on a market (and let’s be honest, the move was not about Asia but rather China specifically) that both will seemingly be based upon viewing wine primarily as a symbol of socio-economic class and will arguably be more conducive to over the top fruitbomb winemaking.

  17. george kaplan - December 21, 2012

    For non-casual wine enthusiasts, Parker and WS have long been eclipsed by Tanzer, Burghound, and bloggers like Heimoff ( the all-around best for general blogging)and Bigger Than Your Head( the all-around best for tasting). Asimov, due to his skills and his location, probably belongs with the above. Others may have a different list but the principle is the same. For the beginner or casual enthusiast any source of a number will do. This is for the US: for Asia it may be the 90s.

  18. Fredric Koeppel - December 24, 2012

    George, thanks so much for the kind mention…. a little present on Xmas Eve,

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  20. 1WineDude - December 26, 2012

    It’s funny, I used to care a great deal about all of this.

    Now, I can’t say I care much, which is a nice way of saying that I don’t give a rat’s ass about it.

    I can say that I myself have never once used WA, WE, or WS or any other 100-point scale reviews to make a wine purchase. NOT ONE TIME. I’m not about to start now, either.

    Of all of my closer wine-buying friends, including Gen X- and Y-ers of all stripes, the number of those who I’ve known to use those scores to make a single wine purchase is…

    …wait for it…


    Sorry to bump into some fragile egos here, but that’s got nothing to do with jealousy, no matter what anyone else tells you, it’s just how we shop. The majority of people I’m talking about don’t even blog about wine, and have no aspirations to do so.

    Fallacy of small numbers, maybe.

    Or maybe not.

    I think only time is going to tell. But in the long term, ten years from now, I know where my money *isn’t* going.

  21. doug wilder - December 27, 2012

    I saw an article yesterday (can’t find it now) about the preparation for Premiere Napa Valley that described a daily stream of vintners going in and out of the NVV offices where they were selecting wines to put in the multi-vintage tasting that is offered as part of the educational component of the event. The article referred to them using a 100 point scale to rank the wines. I understand and respect that there are lots of ways to describe wine with, or without numbers. For me, what the vintners were using for a scale is pretty compelling evidence that this is a system understood, accepted and valued by the people who make it. As an industry yardstick I don’t see it fundamentally changing, even though more wineries are trying to reach younger wine drinkers through social media and may not use it in that channel..

  22. Rick Dyer - December 31, 2012

    My reaction to the comments about the declining influence of Wine Advocate is that …The reports of its death have been greatly exaggerated. I think Asimov’s comments to the effect that Parker’s reviews ” are meaningful only until people start to develop a sense of their own taste.” entirely misses the point of why I use Parker. It has nothing to do with whether I have developed my own sense of taste. I use Parker because I want to read reviews of wines I have never tried, but am considering purchasing. And I know of no good alternative to RP (other than perhaps Tanzer, Burghound and WineSpectator). I use Parker over the others because 1) I know his palate and based on his reviews, can judge which wines I am likely to enjoy 2) he covers a wide variety and geography 3) I believe he is independent and unbiased. There are issues in regard to one of the above with each of the other alternatives.

  23. james conaway - December 31, 2012

    Tom, this is fine reporting and a lot of fun to read as well.

  24. Jan G Roosenburg - February 13, 2013

    Excellently written article. Regarding the point by Asimov that the American wine drinker has evolved and developed his/her own taste, I would like to remark the following; this extended knowledge makes them able to better understand the review and tasting notes, and therefore can use the review to buy wine, rather than only go by the points. I have been drinking wine for about 50 years and I still check with the Parker website before I make a purchase. I find his reviews much more informative than WS and especially than ST. Regarding the younger generation, one of my more popular XMas gifts to son-in-law and long term boyfriends, and one of my daughters, is Parker’s Wine Bargains, which they use a great deal.

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  26. Steve Heimoff - October 27, 2018

    I can hardly believe we’re still having this conversation in 2018! Parker ceased to matter years ago, except to a certain class of old white guys with too much money and not enough common sense. I’m glad I got out of the game when I did, because the day of the Wine Critic isolated in his ivory tower, throwing self-righteous opinions down from the ramparts to the ignoramuses below, is over, thank goodness!

  27. Tom Wark - October 27, 2018


    Well, to be fair, you commented on a post that was written 6 years ago. That said, my question is this: what does the race of those thousands of people who trust Mr. Parker’s palate have to do with….anything? And for what it’s worth, I’m still of the belief that a wine critic and reviewer who understands and communicates both context and character, is a hugely valuable asset to those who have an abiding interest in wine. You were one of those.

  28. Steve Heimoff - October 27, 2018

    Hi Tom, I didn’t see the date — somehow Fermentation ended up in my in-box so I thought it was current. Anyway, yes I was one of those, but humans evolve (well, most of us anyhow…). As for the “white” comment, we’re all sensitive these days to white male entitlement, or we should be, and it seems to me that the victims of Big Critics have been white men, as I described them. One doesn’t see many people of color reading Parker! To me, this suggests the tendency towards authoritarian figures that many white men have. They’re tribal, or pack-like, and every tribe or pack has an Alpha Male at the top. Parker was the Alpha for the rich white men who bought Petrus, Screaming Eagle etc. to one-up everyone else, to show off their conspicuous consumption and prove themselves superior. The rise of trump and trumpism has definitely opened my eyes and educated me to this reality. Thank you.

  29. Tom Wark - October 27, 2018


    African Americans make up 13% of the population. A survey from about 5 years ago showed that African Americans make up 5% of core wine drinkers (those drinking once per week). So, the fact is, one doesn’t see many African Americans reading any wine publications due to their smaller numbers in general and smaller number of core drinkers among them. I don’t know if this is a matter of white privilege or culture.

    I think it’s possible to say that most of those who read the top wine critics are white and most of those who become top wine critics are white without arguing that this is a matter of white supremacy or a tendency among whites to embrace authoritarianism. It’s notable that in 2016 a large majority of higher income, college educated white Americans went for Clinton.

    My bottom line. I don’t think Parker, the Wine Spectator, You, Galloni or any other wine critic of note held their position for any other reason than those Americans who had an abiding interest in wine or collecting needed guidance in the wake of an unprecedented number of new wines entering the market.


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