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Friday Fishwrap
Things That The Parker Sale Will Not Mean

By Charles Olken

It seems that every wine writer, whether worth his or her salt or not, has been able to tell us what the sale of The Wine Advocate will mean. Please believe me when I tell you that they are all wrong.

I have been listening to Eric Asimov (New York Times) and Blake Gray* and The Hosemaster of Wine** and Tom Wark*** and learning a lot and learning absolutely nothing at the same time.

I mention these esteemed gentlemen because they are esteemed and deserve to be. These are not fly-by-nighters who have been around the block. These esteemed gentlemen know whereof they speak—most of the time. But not this time. I could take a couple of yards worth of text to tell you how they contradict each other, make wild claims and estimations, but I leave it to you to go to their comments and see for yourself. For my part, I want to tell you what the Parker sale will not mean.

--It will not mean the end of critical winewriting. Those who never liked Parker or who do not like ratings and tasting notes are dancing in delight at what they view as the end of an era in which the tasting note rang supreme as influencer in wine buying decisions. Believe me, please, when I tell you that there will always be tasting notes and that those tasting notes are more often than not going to come with some kind of rating. This is not some random guess. A recent survey of wine buyers said that 85% of them found value in scored tasting notes.

--It will not mean that Robert Parker has sold out to the devil. OK, maybe it does, but nobody knows because there is no evidence to suggest that the Singaporean investors intend to prostitute the Wine Advocate in any way. Maybe they will. Maybe they will raise scores, but it is hard to see how many more 100 point wines they can find in Bordeaux than Mr. Parker did last year. Maybe they will someday take advertising in the newsletter despite the fact that Parker says they won’t. Who cares if they do? The Wine Spectator takes advertising and the last time I looked, it had 500,000 paid readers. Maybe some winewriters and geeks will care, but the wine buying public has already said that it does not.

--It will not mean the end of the print edition of the newsletter. It should, of course, because the only reason to be in print anymore is to sell advertising. No advertising, no need to be in print. But, the Wine Advocate runs up to one hundred pages per issue. That alone is a reason why it cannot abandon print. It is one thing for Steve Tanzer and Dan Berger and Connoisseurs’ Guide and most financial newsletters to stop their print editions. Their rags do not run hundreds of pages. Very few are going to download an issue of a hundred pages and print it out for themselves. There may be ways for the WA to drop print, but it will first have to change itself. If it ever happens, it seems unlikely to be soon.

--It does not mean that wines are going to get riper (as one writer predicted) nor does it mean that wines are now going to get lighter (as others who do not like the Parker palate have predicted). The kinds of wines recommended will, as they have always been, be the product of the palate and tastes of the reviewer. If you change the reviewer, you will get different preferences, but no one knows if or when the existing stable of writers at the Wine Advocate will change. Stories that they are all being readied for the chop are just that. Stories.

--It does not mean that wine prices are going to go up just because the new Wine Advocate will begin to seek an audience in Asia. It is not irrational to think that supply and demand determines wine prices and that a wider audience in an emerging wine-enthusiastic part of the world will not increase demand. But, while some wines are now absolutely delimited by their own regulations, it is also true that we have seen boundaries and even rules change to accommodate bigger demand. The near panic prediction that some California wines could reach $1000 is at least partially farfetched in that most of us really do not care what Screaming Eagle sells for.

Bottom line: What has happened here is that an entrepreneur has built a business over thirty-five years of hard work and has, in his mid-sixties, sold to younger interests whose vision may lead that business into expansion. The prediction frenzy that has been set off by this event far exceeds its importance operationally. We all need to stay tuned for weeks and months ahead. This story will yet have more twists and turns than General Hospital before it is over.



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by Ron Washam, HMW
Posted on:12/14/2012 6:45:23 PM

I think I'd be sorely disappointed if anyone learned anything from my blog. I agree with your assessment here, Charlie, it's all the proverbial tempest in a teapot. An old, sick guy sold his business. Big deal. My satire was simply aimed at the ridiculousness of the response to the news, a response that seemed to be about the panic of people who felt that their God, whether they loved him or not, was abandoning them. What will we do!? Bob has forsaken us. Honestly, the genuine responses were more comical that my post. Though that's not a high bar to get over.

The Hosemaster
by Charlie Olken
Posted on:12/15/2012 5:26:18 AM

Hi Ron--

I decided to include the Hosemaster in my list of important commenters on the life and times of Rbt Parker because, despite the fact that it was intended as satire, it was as close to the truth as those folks who take themselves seriously.

And, of course, The Hosemaster is required reading as far as I am concerned. Satire, parody, lampooning may all be parts of the comic spriit but they cannot exist if they are not built on some part of the truth, especially when they are mostly topical as The Hosemaster typically is.

Posts about the writing of posts
by Blake Gray
Posted on:12/15/2012 9:41:14 AM

Charlie: May I just say that I'm amused by posts about how there are too many posts on a topic?

I suppose I could write a post about how there are too many posts about topics that have too many posts. Hmm.



Posts. I Have Post
by Charlie Olken
Posted on:12/15/2012 1:49:56 PM


In fairness, I did not say that there were too many posts on the subject but that most of them had gone off half-cocked without knowing the details of the deal or its impacts. All one needs to do is to read the four I referenced to see that they basically contradict each other even though everyone who wrote one of the referenced posts is a top-notch journalist.

Thsu my post was simply my view that some of the rhetoric was premature and some of it has hyperbolic. Mine certainly was another posting on a deep pile.

I do not object to lots of posts on a hot topic. But, it does seem far to write a post that steps back and takes a somewhat longer view. It may or may not be any more "right" than any other, but it is going to be more right than some given the contradictory nature of some of the comments.

There's more than one type of analysis
by Blake Gray
Posted on:12/15/2012 10:48:55 PM

Charlie: When news breaks, people want to read analysis right away. Then others can come in later with deeper thoughts.

Say what you want about my post; it drew something like 4 times my usual number of readers. Larger readership inevitably brings a larger share of negative people. I'm going to say the numbers justify the topic. If people weren't interested, they wouldn't have read it.

I'm sure the analysis of, say, this weekend's horrific news will also be deeper in a few days. That doesn't mean nobody's going to write about it until then. News is news.







merchandising opportunities
by Alfonso Cevola
Posted on:12/16/2012 11:47:09 AM

I can hardly wait for the t-shirt. Kind of a Mt. Rushmore theme with the aforementioned bloggers in place of the dead presidents.

by Thomas Pellechia
Posted on:12/16/2012 12:57:44 PM

What Blake says about people's desire for wanting analysis right away certainly is true, but it doesn't say much about the quality (or lack thereof) of quick analysis issued without all the facts. That activity seems more like gossip than analysis.

by David Rossi
Posted on:12/16/2012 1:03:04 PM

Ron,  Don't worry.  I read your blog and enjoy it.  I have never learned anything from it.

by Charlie Olken
Posted on:12/16/2012 4:51:02 PM


Hilarious. Ron will be proud.


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