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Robert Parker on Wine Trends: The Rise of the Wine Critic

Wine writers have been around for almost as long as there has been wine, but in the past, generally speaking, most wine writing was uncritical and emphasized wine as a romantic, historic beverage. Criticism and comparative tastings were eschewed for fear of offending the trade, which most writers depended upon for survival. However, by 1978, when I launched The Wine Advocate (in which I accept no advertising), several critical-minded publications were already in existence, most notably Robert Finigan’s Private Guide to Wines and the Underground Wine Journal; Wine Spectator was a superficial tabloid newspaper in the years before Marvin Shanken acquired it.

Both Finigan’s newsletter and the Underground Wine Journal ceased publication long ago, but there is no question they have been replaced by hundreds, if not thousands, of wine writers and bloggers throughout the world. This is no more apparent than during the spring tastings of the new vintages in Bordeaux. When I began visiting Bordeaux in 1979, only a handful of writers were there to taste the wines in the spring (and nearly all were British). Today, more than 2,000 wine journalists from all over the world descend on this hallowed region each year.

These changes have resulted in an extraordinary increase in the amount of information about wine, which has been both a good and bad thing. On the positive side are critics who are serious about their responsibilities; who put in the work, time and discipline required for professional tasting; and who offer unbiased, comprehensive reports on wine. On the negative side are writers who are simply there for a free ride—free wine, travel and lodging. Nevertheless, consumers need sources of information, and an independent press continues to have a growing and important role.

Robert Parker: 30 Years of Wine Trends

Published September 2008
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