THE BOOZE BIN
By Pia Mara Finkell (@piamara)
The blogosphere has been abuzz with chatter and predictions since the most powerful voice (and palate) in the wine industry, Robert Parker, announced this week that he intends to step down as editor-in-chief of The Wine Advocate (TWA) – the powerful wine publication he founded over 34 years ago – and sell “a substantial interest” in it to Singapore-based investors. The story broke in the Wall Street Journal, but has since been reported in dozens of news sources, including the The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, London’s Financial Times, as well as an army of blogs.
While Parker stated he will maintain a role as CEO of the publication and continue to “cover Bordeaux, the Rhône, retrospectives on California vintages and profiles of under-$25 wine bargains,” he announced his intension to step down as its editor-in-chief, turning this role over to TWA’s Singapore-based correspondent and Master of Wine, Lisa Perrotti-Brown. This news came as a shock not only because of Parker’s prominence in the wine world, but also because the new iteration of TWA will now accept luxury advertisers outside of wine. Well-known for his staunch independence, Parker had previously refused advertising of any kind as part of the publication’s official “Ethics and Standards.”
The changes also demonstrate a shift in focus for the publication – and the world of 100-point-scale-dominated wine publications – to the booming yet adolescent Asian market. 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. As Eric Asimov of The New York Times points out, “the new wine markets of Asia will benefit from any guidance and influence The Wine Advocate can offer, until, for them, too, it’s time to separate and go off on their own.”
Now 65 years old, it is understandable that Robert Parker chose to lessen his role at his signature publication and bring in investors. What remains to be seen is whether TWA can continue on without Parker’s influential leadership, face, and “million-dollar nose.”