Robert Parker is Wrong—He’s Not Part of the Problem
In an interview with Drinks Business, Mr. Parker lamented the fact that the world’s most coveted wines are so expensive:
“The influential wine critic said that the rising prices of top labels from leading fine wine regions was a ‘problem and a concern’, particularly for the ‘younger generation’, which is being put off the category by the high cost of trying its best products.”
Yes, many of the world’s most important and best wines are priced well above what aspiring wine lovers can afford. But the critics like Robert Parker who have lauded these wines are the not the problem. What was he supposed to do? Keet it to himself that he thought these wines were great? The problem is really with the suppliers…and the demanders.
In fact, I question whether there is a problem at all.
If the First Growth Bordeaux, the Grand Cru Burgundy, the Cult Cabs and other extraordinarily pricy wines are selling out at their high prices before their next vintage is released, then it seems to me that all is right in the world. The supply of these wines has been met with more demand than they can accommodate and their prices are set either perfectly or too low in a market based economy.
Mr. Parker continued:
“It means a lot (of people) are shut out because basically we have a caste system of wine – at the really desirable high end, whether the wines are Burgundy or Bordeaux, or from California, they have become so expensive that people just can’t afford them, so they look elsewhere.”
I don’t know if I’d call it a “caste” system, but basically he is right. The vast majority of wine lovers look elsewhere for great wine experiences, leaving the great and expensive wines of the world to those who can afford them or for that rare opportunity they have to try them without paying for them. This is certainly how I’ve encountered these wines over the years.
The situation is not unlike the housing market in Northern California. I would really like to have that 2 acre property in Wine County with 4,000 square feet of living space in a semi secluded area surrounded by beautiful grounds, near enough to a great city that I can easily take advantage of its benefits, still have all the amenities near by to make life comfortable, and enjoy a comfortable climate.
However, I don’t have the ability to fork over the down payment for or pay the mortgage on a $4 million home. Yet, I do have the means to afford a $500,000 home in an alternative regions of the country that would meet these criteria. So, that’s where I might end up going.
Mr. Parker’s lament is really just his way of saying, “I wish everyone could taste these great wines. In fact, that’s what he’s been saying his entire career. He billed himself as a consumer advocate and that’s exactly what he has been. Only now, as he moves toward the end of an illustrious career, he laments that maybe this isn’t possible.
My message for him is don’t worry about it. There are in fact scads of great wines (really GREAT wines) made across the globe that are affordable, that can be had for far less than the current collectibles, and that are accessible to those who are willing to look for them. The upshot of this is that these other great wines, as they too are discovered by the wine lovers of the world, will also increase in price. It’s the way of the world. There is no getting around it.