Sunday, December 19, 2010

Some very good wine writing!

There's a very interesting article from the UK-magazine The World of Fine Wine that's circulating on Twitter. It's the first insightful article I've read in a glossy magazine that takes on the current relevance of pioneering wine critic Robert M. Parker, Jr that is not from a position of "is he under attack?" or "is he still influential?" but rather "he is under attack" and "he is influential but his influence is decreasing rapidly every year."

This is something I've been writing about a lot recently, so I won't bore you with rehashes of my arguments. It was simply refreshing to hear this from not only a Legitimate Wine Critic but a writer who has written one of the definitive Parker biographies.

Ms. McCoy writes about the self-evidence of Parker's decline in influence as inevitable and then outlines why: the proliferation of other critics using the 100-point scale, the rise of a younger wine consumer not concerned with the "imprimatur [of] an aging guru," the dilution of his own brand through score inflation and hiring additional tasters, and the expansion of the global wine market beyond something that is comprehensible by even the most thorough reviewer.

I also appreciated the reference to perennial wine douche bag W. Blake Gray acknowledging that he "admitted in an interview that he uses it (the 100 point scale) instead of awarding stars as a way of marketing himself." That's like buying a first-class ticket for the Titanic while it's sinking, isn't it?

Most telling is her analysis of Parker's "circling the wagons," first by deleting critical comments from his forums, then by putting all of his message boards behind a pay wall. It would appear that Parker recognizes the viability of the assault on his role as critical monolith and is shielding those who still drink his Kool-Aid (Flavor Aid, actually) by walling in his garden. He doesn't want those lawyers and ibankers who've been going to him for their holiday gifts every year to start questioning the value of his ratings.

So cheers to Ms. McCoy for a thoughtful and informative piece of writing. It's not just about Parker, it's a very astute and succinct analysis of the current power relationship in the world of wine media.


marcus goodfellow said...

Great column, I just discovered your blog(searching for some more of Thierry Thiese's propaganda). It seems to me that for many of us in the industry, the larger critics are becoming more like semi-dormant volcanoes, erupting with less frequency and impact each passing year. For me, while critical reviews are appreciated, I know that the marketing path I prefer is simply getting out and getting people to put the wine in their mouths.

David J.D. said...

Thanks for the comment. I think that's exactly it. Word of mouth and good, local neighborhood wine shops are driving sales and doing it successfully. I've literally sold 2000 cases in California alone of a wine that has received 0 press coverage.