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Wednesday Warblings
Parker Makes The Wine World Go Round—Again

By Stephen Eliot

The debate over alcohol levels, whether or not the 100-point scoring system has any real validity and anything that Robert Parker Jr. may be doing are still the topics most likely to generate social-media buzz, and Mr. Parker’s recent announcement that he was selling a substantial portion of the Wine Advocate has the world of wine journalism in a state of sheer pixilation.

Most everyone who writes about wine professionally and those legions of “civilians” whose voices are part of the unending on-line wine conversation have weighed in with their opinions, and we are told in no uncertain terms what the sale means. I confess to doing some head-scratching myself, but my puzzlement lies with the reactions of others rather than with the infusion of capital that will change the Wine Advocate.

We hear that the new Wine Advocate will become even more powerful and, conversely, that its influence will wane as Parker’s role must surely be marginalized. There are baffling claims that world’s wines are bound to get riper because of the sale and that prices for those most highly rated are certain to soar. One observer excitedly states that the groundwork is now laid for “one of the most important world-wide wine publishing ventures in history,” while another would have us believe that the sale is emblematic of Parker’s inevitable obsolescence and his irrelevance in North America and Europe.

In the midst of it all, I feel a bit like a disbelieving and disinterested guest at a séance. Crystal-ball gazing may be pleasant entertainment, but the business of prediction is thorny.

Of course there will be changes. A business must change along with the times or it must necessarily whither, and none lives forever. The best laid plans, however, do not always play out as expected and success sometimes comes when it seems highly unlikely. I am amused by wildly speculative leads about the changes ahead for the Wine Advocate, but I see no incontrovertible future in the tea leaves. Like everyone else, I will just have to wait and see what it all really means.

For now, the only things that are certain are that the Wine Advocate has new capital and that Parker’s bank account has accordingly grown. It means that whatever directions the Wine Advocate may or may not take will no longer be decided solely by Parker, and, in the short term at least, it also means that there is new grist aplenty for the internet mill of listen-to-me journalism.

Or as the blogosphere likes to put it, “Robert Parker is the gift that keeps on giving”.


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