A New Beginning & Old World Renaissance? Robert Parker to Cease Reviewing California Wine

It’s the dawn of a new wine era. Over the weekend, with less fanfare then I expected on the Twitterverse, world renowned wine critic Robert Parker published this to eRobertParker.com subscribers:

I am thrilled to announce that Antonio Galloni will have expanded responsibilities for The Wine Advocate and http://www.eRobertParker.com as of February 1, 2011. I would like to take credit for my powers of persuasion over recent years in trying to convince Antonio of the virtues of covering additional wine regions, but if truth be known, the writing was always on the wall that his enviable talents and passion for this field would ultimately prevail, and the beneficiaries are the world’s wine consumers.

According to an article on Vinography and The Wine Cellar Insider Parker will still be involved in special tastings but day to day operations goes over to Antonio.

I can hear the likes of Alice Feiring and Randall Grahm (and many more) breathing a sigh with a hope that the era of big, tannic, extracted, dark color wines will transform into a Renaissance of Old World style, where varietals again have a chance to express themselves. I haven’t followed Antonio Galloni, but Alder does reference a belief that he is less focused on ‘intense ripeness’ as Parker. I will hold that hope close to my heart.

By the way for a great read, and more perspective, I highly recommend Alice’s book “The Battle for Wine and Love: or How I Saved the World from Parkerization” and Randall’s “Been Doon So Long.”

One can debate the pros and cons of what “Parkerization’ has done to the wine industry. Certainly it has helped wine sales immensely for some producers. Perhaps it has evolved the thinking and exposure of wine aficionados. Or one could ask if ‘devolved’ by so much dependency on a single point of view.

My beef with the Parker phenomenon has been homogenization: the world is full of hundreds of wonderful, unique wine varietals and styles; and when Spanish & Italian vineyards start planting Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay, and winemakers change their traditional styles at the coaching of a consultant to achieve a high Parker score, something was lost in the world. Hopefully not forever in some cases.

The world is cyclical if a trend doesn’t last long enough, and it ‘feels’ like the pendulum had started to shift anyway; certainly many of the serious wine aficionados I know have shared this sentiment for awhile; and it seems the consumer interest is slowly awakening as well. The millions of US consumers herd mentality will take quite some time to turn around the Queen Mary – but there is hope.

Today’s wine consumer has many more choices for wine information – yes even those dreaded wine bloggers. Brilliant wine writers like Jon Bonné each week write about  unique, interesting wines. The communication evolution has changed how consumers learn about and interact with brands, and will continue to do so. Social Media isn’t a fad, its migration of communication, just as we progressed from telegraph, to fax, to email. That doesn’t mean traditional media is dead; just augmented.

Social Media has pushed most wine writers to the web and to publish blogs, engage on Twitter. Millennials show more interest and consume more wine than any previous American generation. The movement is underway.

I send this to wine consumers, new and old. Open your minds and palates. Try new things:

  • Learn to explore more white wines; there is an ocean of complex choices outside of California chardonnay butter bombs.
  • Never let one tasting, varietal, experience, AVA or even country jade you. Try again.
  • Understand that is ok, and actually can be positive if a red wine isn’t so dark light won’t pass through it, many red grapes do not naturally produce dark red colors unless extreme intervention or blending is done to accomplish.
  • Branch out to new wine types, countries, price points.
  • Experiment, read, and ask those with more experience for suggestions. No matter how much you know, there is always someone with deeper experience – one of the  many beauties of wine.

Many winemakers today want to simply be a Shepard and let the varietal and the vintage express itself. A Pinot Noir from a Russian River Valley vineyard generally shouldn’t be the exact same each year. Learn to embrace and appreciate variation.

Let the new decade of non generic, de-globalization of the New World palate commence.

I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments below.

Cheers and thanks for reading Simple Hedonisms Wine Blog !

p.s. watch for screening of new movie: Escaping Robert Parkerlevitra buy online

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7 Responses to “A New Beginning & Old World Renaissance? Robert Parker to Cease Reviewing California Wine”

  • I could not agree with you more. It’s like having one reviewer of beer or cheese. It’s just a phenomenon that has outrun it’s value and purpose. “I’ve been reviewed” is nearly negative in wine making circles (at least in Northern CA). He does not “make” the winery anymore. The buyer, the traveler, the neighbor, the friends and the selected people for whom the wine maker shares that years’ vintage are the real tributes to the success of the wine maker. Texture, color and growing environments change every year. Why not discover why and how that makes your wine unique.

    To a winery looking for it’s own voice and for “not being found” I salute you.

  • a good post, and surely we can’t be surprised that after all these years Parker is relinquishing more responsibility. Vista: I attended VINO 2011 as a blogger and social media person two weeks ago, and during a seminar on social media and marketing, the fact was widely discussed that among the 70+ million “millenials” out there (ages 18 to 35) the most powerful forces (the ones they most pay attention to) in recommending wines are (1) their friends and (2) a young reliable enthusiastic worker in a retail store. factors we should all pay attention to.

  • Good reading as always.
    It’s been fun blaming Parker for America’s sweet tooth. It’ll be interesting to see what happens over they next few years.

  • I’m happy to see Parker passing on the reigns in alot of areas. In all honesty, it makes me happy to have a fresh perspective on California wines not only because of the direction the wines have been going but because there is a whole new segment of drinkers moving into the market that don’t know/don’t care about Parker. I myself am 33 and don’t read, listen or care about a Parker score when I’m choosing a wine to drink. This seems to be the consesnus of alot of my generation. Give us good wine, unique wine, different wine!

  • William, good stuff as always. If indeed this marks the start of renaissance for Old World winemaking in California, it cannot happen soon enough to please me. However, as was noted in an earlier comment, it will be interesting to see if Robert Parker’s preference for inky, overripe wines was reflective of American taste as a whole or the other way around. I can’t wait to see how it plays out.

  • […] Hedonisms had grown to over 6k monthly readers and 200,000 hits a month. My recent Robert Parker article saw traffic of 1,000 readers and 26k hits in 24 hours, including famed California wine writer […]

  • Here’s a fantastic and solid list with some of the most relevant wine bloggers, I do agree. However, it also called my attention the lack of women in this list but I see that this has been widely discussed.

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