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Friday Fishwrap
Eight Reasons Why Robert Parker Does Not Care

By Charles Olken

Picking on Robert Parker has become the latest parlor game for the blogging set. It is great theater, but it has no impact. Here are the reasons why.

-- Mr. Parker does not care what a bunch of writers with far less power, prestige, market presence, financial wherewithal and small weenies think of him. He is the big dog and folks like Jim Budd, Gray Blake, Tom Wark and Charlie Olken are just small tickles in his world and are best ignored. Joe Roberts (1WineDude) is right when he says that nothing we say will get under Mr. Parker’s skin. It will take CNN or 60 Minutes to expose the pay to play scandal that now attaches to the Wine Advocate.

-- To put it another way, other than Marvin Shanken, Mr. Parker is the biggest financial cat in the wine world. His money is secure. His way of life is secure. He is semi-retired because he has made a bundle and is still making a small fortune while letting others do his work. I wouldn’t say that I am jealous, but facts are facts.

-- Jay Miller, who seems to be at the heart of most of the bad news related to the Wine Advocate, must have compromising pictures of Mr. Parker. His overblown ratings are not worthy of attention, his financial arrangements with folks he is supposed to be judging independently and without bias are sleazy at best and unethical in some folks eyes. But Parker never seems to blink an eye. Some snoopy journalist is going to get to the bottom of the Parker-Miller symbiosis one of these days.

-- Parker knows that the newsletter business is not long for this world. He knows he pulled a rabbit out of a hat with his Bordeaux futures coverage three decades ago and shot to the top. He knows his writing is no better than Alan Meadows or Steve Tanzer or CGCW or any of the other independent newsletters. He is just bigger than the rest combined. But he knows that the slick paper magazines with their ability to sell advertising and thus to produce more pages for less money are increasingly going to take over.

-- And he also knows that the competition from a thousand wine bloggers, each of whom is out after his ass for even the slightest misstep, let alone the big missteps of recent years, along with the agglomeration sites like Snooth and Cellar Tracker are simply going to take over the independent end of the business. So, why care when he knows he is running a dying empire.

-- As long as folks like Miller and Parker’s handpicked replacement for himself, Antonio Galloni, can sell their influence for money, it is proof that the power of the Wine Advocate has not waned all that much. Bloggers like Alder Yarrow can write things like “. . . . erodes what little brand equity the Wine Advocate has remaining”, but Parker can barely even hear his or any of the small-time bloggers buzzing.

-- Mr. Parker has seen it all before, and he has beaten it all before. Go ask Alice Feiring. She skewered Parker big-time, earned a few minutes of fame and has dropped back into her niche. Go ask the late Bob Finigan whose newsletter was the big dog for imported wines until Parker came along. Finigan disagreed with Parker and got buried for his sins.

-- Jay Miller is Robert Parker’s love child.


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by Jim
Posted on:12/2/2011 1:38:17 PM

Charley ~ Thanks for cutting to the chase. I admire your candor. Now it is time to move on. Ron was right.

Why Robert Parker Does Not Care
by Leonard Maran
Posted on:12/2/2011 2:57:12 PM


Spot on: I'm in complete agreement. Thank god though I discovered CGCW so many years ago. As a consumer it has been indespensable to me

No Subject
by Kathy
Posted on:12/2/2011 4:58:16 PM

While I agree with the sentiment of the topic, I do want to point out that neither of the two wineries I represent that held tastings for Galloni in October were asked to pay to participate.  It may have perhaps happened in Spain, as the blogsphere currently reports, but I saw no evidence of it here.

by Samantha Dugan
Posted on:12/2/2011 8:47:16 PM

Don't give a rat's ass about him. I did however wish to commend you on using small weenies in a blog post. Made me proud Sir Charles.....

Big Dog Big Penis
by Charlie Olken
Posted on:12/3/2011 12:39:09 AM

So much has been written about Robert Parker that it was necessary to reflect on all the penis envy that is going on in the blogosphere. No matter that Parker deserves some of it and Jay Miller seems to deserve his frequent pillorying, a good deal of the Parker bashing is simply bandwagon jumping.

Oh well, what would blogging be with Parker to kick around, the 100-point system to kick around the occasional foray into shipping news.

Parker, ad nauseum
by bruce nichols
Posted on:12/3/2011 6:50:44 AM

Over three decades in the business, and the first thing clients want to know, even before price, is what Parker said. You and I may not like it, but there it is. The consumer speaks.

I would love to hear from the winemakers who supposedly have ante'd up. In hushed tones, I have heard many bemoan having to play to his palate (often in the guise of consumer demand), fall to their knees in prayer that they break that magic number "90" ot better. If there was pay-to-play at hand, here's their golden opportunity to end it. Show me the money...

move on, nothing to see here
by John
Posted on:12/3/2011 9:31:28 AM

Charlie thanks for being the cop waving on the gawkers. There may be a small story here - that the behavior of a subset of wine reviewers coule be interpreted as their using their influence to finance a personal lifestyle above their station. Stop the presses!

The downside to this is that it does attache a whiff of sleaze to wine reviewers generally - including CGCW. I disgree that the online aggregators are going to take over the independent end of the business. I believe the high-quality, independent newsletter unsupported by advertising, will always have a niche. You need to protect that niche.

by TomHill
Posted on:12/3/2011 3:29:56 PM

Certainly Squires & Miller had been caught red-handed w/ their hands awaiting to be greased....but I'd not heard any allegations of such towards Antonio. Could you elaborate??



The Caesar's Wife Test
by Charlie Olken
Posted on:12/3/2011 5:39:30 PM

There is a very simple test here.

Are the writers for the Wine Advocate paying their own ways or are they being subsisized, coddled, paid for "services", etc, by the wine industry?

If the answer to any of those questions is yes, rather than "no, the only money that the WA" every sees comes from its subscribers, then there is a correction to be made.

It is also high-timne to look at all reviewers. How independent are their opinions? It is one thing to go on an organizationally sponsored trip to an area. It is another to be paid to go there and to review the wines of the sponsoring group.

Mr. Miller seems to do this in one form or another regularly. Mr. Parker takes speaking fees, but it is not clear that he has accepted funding from organizations whose wines he reviews while on trips that those organizations have sponsored.

Several decades ago, the "caesar's wife" standard applied to winewriting. If one reviewed wines, one did so in a many that was transparent, independent, designed to eliminate bias.

Mr. Parker may yet sue somebody or he may just be rattling his law books at those who would question his and his minions' questionable practice.

Blake is right. Come clean Mr. Parker. And for goodness sake insist that everyone in your employ follow the rules you once pledged to follow.

If not, you are going to be continually criticized for being failing the caesar's wife test.

Gray Blake
by Blake Gray
Posted on:12/3/2011 7:24:30 PM

Hey Charlie, who's Gray Blake? I'll bet he's good.

Parker Bashing
by Al K.
Posted on:12/4/2011 12:05:50 PM

I am not privy to hard data one way or another on this subject.  That said, I am a little concerned that you have chosen to take it on.  Gossip is seldom constructive.

Having been a subscriber to the CG for a very long time, I have been wondering for some while whether you guys make any profit margin on your 2 & 3 star wine offerings, or is this activity merely a courtesy to your readers? Is this open to speculation that you are operating at less than at arm's length with these wineries??

People in stone houses shouldn't throw glass...

Glass, Stones and Houses
by Charlie Olken
Posted on:12/4/2011 7:36:52 PM


The wines to which you refer are offered though a wine-of-the-month program called the Connoisseurs' Series.

The program is owned and operated by the California Wine Club, itself a purveyor of wines of the month.

Our role is two fold. We tell the California Wine Club of our two and three-star ratings at the same time as we post them to the website. Often, they get our excerpted listing after the issue goes live because our first responsibility is to get the issue out to our readers.

Our second responsibility is to inform our subscribers of the existence of the Connoiosseurs' Series.

We do get royalties this service, but never before the fact. Wineries ask how they can get included in Conn Series, and the answer is always the same. Make great wine that rates at two and three stars. Then wait for the California Wine Club to contact you. We have zero role in the selections. And we come by CGCW ratings through blind tastings only.

I am uncomfortable throwing stones at Robert Parker because he is a fellow journalist, but, in all honesty, I think the behavior of some in his employ sullies the reputations of those of us who try to operate by the caesar's wife rule.

by The Sediment Blog
Posted on:12/7/2011 4:56:33 AM

"I wouldn’t say that I am jealous"


Well, we are!


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