THE BOOZE BIN
By Pia Mara Finkell (@piamara)
This weekend marked a changing of the guards as the Oprah of the wine world, Robert Parker, tapped one of his core writers, Antonio Galloni, to review California wines for The Wine Advocate. While his personal brand left its irrevocable mark on the wine industry, this move is yet another indicator that the power of a single voice has waned, as wine lovers learn to think for themselves.
The original personal brand in the wine industry, Parker was arguably the world’s most influential wine critic (or critic in any industry), who had the ability to move thousands of cases with the blessing of one positive rating. The effect of his favored big-and-bold style preference garnered its own term, “Wine Parkerization,” caused by wineries around the world altering their winemaking practices to suit his taste and receive higher marks.
California cult wineries like Harlan and Screaming Eagle owe a good deal of their fame to Parker’s 100-point scores, while wineries and wine lovers with a more delicate, “Old World”-lean have often been left wanting in many instances. Needless to say, this has caused more than just a bit of resentment over the years among the latter.
Parker’s announcement has sent ripples through the online wine world, leaving us to wonder what it all means. Whether or not you are fan or foe, one cannot undervalue the impact Parker has made on the California wine business, and his departure certainly creates a void to be filled. On the flip side, the new generation of wine drinker could likely care less.
In his “Diner’s Journal” blog, The New York Times wine writer Eric Asimov spoke to this point:
A new generation of wine consumers has come of age in the high-speed Internet era, when far more sources of information exist beyond The Wine Advocate and Wine Spectator. The chorus now includes bloggers, merchants and sommeliers, people who can exert immediate, direct influence over drinking decisions. And while Mr. Parker’s primary passion is Bordeaux, these younger consumers, particularly in the United States, are far less interested in Bordeaux and so are less concerned with his opinions.
To be sure, The Wine Advocate will continue to be influential in the wine industry and it will be interesting to see how tightly Galloni follows in Parker’s footsteps. One thing is certain, however, and that is one voice will never again hold as much industry-wide, unfiltered (pardon the pun) supremacy. It’s not that personal brand is dead. Oprah Magazine has 132,847 followers on Twitter, whereas her personal handle has over 5 million. Personal brand is arguably more important than ever.
But even the new king of personal brand, Gary Vaynerchuk, places the highest importance on listening and discussion vs. simply talking and, as Dr. Vino puts it, “handing down knowledge and scores.” As Robert Parker understandably limits his critiques to his personal passion in Bordeaux and the Rhone Valley, there is more room than ever for new voices to rise…
…as long as they speak in softer and more humble tones.