Has The Wine Spectator and Robert Parker Hurt the Wine Industry or Helped?

I was asked about the influence of The Wine Spectator (magazine) and Robert Parker (famous wine critic) and whether it has been a negative or a positive? The angle that was posed to me was that wines were now made for them and their taste rather than done as had been done traditionally and that wines were now more all the same… It seemed to me as if it was a statement of fact… Really, are we going to blame The Wine Spectator or Robert Parker this perception? Really? Okay, I’ve heard many frustrations regarding these wine critics, and from time to time I’ve taken issue with their assessment of a wine or two, but I guess I would have to defend them overall. My Opinion is as follows on the subject.

My view, or my two cents worth, on Robert Parker (Wine Critic) and Wine Spectator (Wine Magazine) is as follows, I like we must be fair and admit both Parker and The Wine Spectator have done wonders for the wine industry and bashing them seems to me to be sour grapes, sorry no pun intended! While Spectator seems highly political and maybe more money motivated, overall it is positive force for the consumer, though even it might help the collector more than the average wine drinker. As for Parker, he likes what he likes and who am I to argue with that, I am the same! I don’t always agree with him, but really he is good and I can’t fault his reviews or ratings much. People complain that wineries now make their wine to please him, rather than doing things per tradition or hanging when they pick the grapes to make a more fruit driven style. Maybe this is true, but if they make a better wine and people buy it, is that not good? Really, you must be realistic, Robert Parker has made fortunes for the wine industry and in my opinion, I think he almost saved the French wine trade at a time when it didn’t look good for them. The argument is that we are losing terroir driven wines, wines that show the true nature of the place or region. That is also highly suspect, I am finding more terroir driven wines now then ever before and I believe that this trend is not going to decline any time soon. It would be fair though, to say one of the bad effects, that both Parker and the Wine Spectator must accept as natural for the course, is greed.  This is a negative influence on the market place and can be traced back to good ratings from Parker especially, but the marketplace is always going to be controlled by the wealthy and what they are willing to pay. It has also been suggested that the Wine Spectator and Robert Parker are responsible for higher prices and a lack of quality wine at lower price points, okay someone needs to get a life and maybe stop taking the “Kool Aid” as this is crazy talk. The real problem is the cost of winemaking especially in California, small wineries can’t afford to make $2.99 bottles of wine here, honestly it costs most small producers about $7.00 a bottle at least to make good wine, so by the time it gets to the customer with some profit for each stop on the way, it will sell for about $20. You must remember they must grow the grapes, all the farming and utility costs, ferment, barrel age and bottle the wine, then there is staff, marketing and packaging too.  No you can’t blame Wine Spectator or Parker for those costs. There are factory made wines that sell for anywhere from $2 to 9 that have made it more hard for the small family winery to sell cheaper wines, I mean why would anyone want to compete in that price range, it would be crazy to do so. So small wineries are making more distinct wines for niche markets, that is their only hope. Especially as I haven’t even mentioned quality inexpensive wines that come from South American or even Australia. In summing it up, I can tell you that there are many factors to be reviewed and putting fault on Robert Parker’s or the Wine Spectator’s door is too simple and not fair in the slightest. All of us must grudgingly admit we all have been more helped by Robert Parker and the Wine Spectator than hurt, to me it is not even close.

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