Mark Aselstine
 
July 7, 2011 | Mark Aselstine

How Robert Parker became Robert Parker

After our short entry yesterday about wine reviews, it made me realize that not all of our readers would be completely familiar with the most influential reviewers and perhaps more importantly, how they were able to obtain that level of influence.

Robert Parker and his Wine Advocate Magazine:

Parker’s personal story is an interesting one and I’m surely not the first person to ask how someone from Baltimore (hardly the wine center of the world) who is a practicing lawyer ends up as the most influential wine critic in the world, especially when it comes to California and Bordeaux vintages.

Part of Parker’s rise to fame was his insistence, correctly stated at the time, that most reviewers in the 1970’s had some vested interest in the wine industry. That’s hardly seen today outside of a few examples (Wine Enthusiast both rates wine as well as sells it) in large part because of Parker and some of the changes he helped to create. Parker is also largely credited with inventing (or popularizing) the 100 point scale which has helped consumers make some independent assessment about the value of a wine (we all love 90 point wine, but not if it’s priced at $200), without having ever purchased a bottle themselves. Parker’s 100 point system is often misunderstood, but the idea is to score wines based on the amount of pleasure one derives from them.  For the average consumer, this is a powerful statement.  While so many within the industry preach that you should know what a classic Right Bank Bordeaux is suppose to taste like, that's not important.  The only real question is how much did you enjoy the wine?

So why is Parker the foremost wine critic of our time? Personally, I think his combination of unbiased reviews, easy to understand language, standardized evaluation criteria and attempting to keep industry influences at bay as much as possible. He was the first wine critic able to successfully build a career as a consumer centric critic, instead of an industry mouthpiece.

There are, of course, plenty of criticisms of Robert Parker and his affect on the wine industry-we’ll follow up with some of those tomorrow. Some of these are valid, or somewhat valid and others are more fantasy than reality. At the end of the day, at Uncorked Ventures we recognize Parker’s work for what it is: some of the most valuable wine reviews available anywhere.
 

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