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For our latest 1WineDude.com interview, I’m tasked with the difficult job of introducing someone who requires no introduction (at least, not when it comes to the world of fine wine).
Today’s interview guest, Robert Parker, is arguably the most famous wine critic on the planet; what is beyond argument is that he is the most influential wine critic on the planet – his scores are capable of sending a wine’s market value into the stratosphere. He is the founder of the consumer wine review publication The Wine Advocate, which, not unlike a blog, began as a self-published journal – it now has tens of thousands of subscribers in dozens of countries. Parker is widely regarded as one of the world’s leading authorities on the wines of Bordeaux, and his ability to taste (and recall past tastings of) wines is the stuff of legend.
Parker’s influence and fame at times makes him a polarizing figure (you knew this part was coming, right?). He established the “love-it-or-loathe-it” 100-point wine scoring review scale. His preference for wines with bold, fruit-forward profiles has, some have argued, divided the wine world into fractions of those who religiously follow Parker’s palate, and those who religiously avoid it. The divisive effects of his influence have been chronicled in both books and in film.
He has been described as a great equalizer of wine, liberating it from an era of poor quality offerings pushed onto the market at unfairly high prices; he has also been vilified as creating a market of “international style” wines crafted by winemakers attempting to solicit high scores from his reviews, at the expense of regional uniqueness and a sense of place in their wines.
Mr. Parker was a gracious interviewee, so much so that he has tied author Kathryn Borel for the quickest response to interview questions that I’ve ever received. He even expressed concern that his responses might be a bit dull for the 1WD readers – “thanks for giving me an opportunity to respond to your questions. I’ll try and keep my answers as succinct as possible so your readers don’t nod off while reading them.”
As the Wayne’s World guys might put it – As if!
Below, you will find a fairly intimate glimpse into Mr. Parker’s views on wine blogging, Bordeaux en primeur prices, my friends Gary Vaynerchuk and Tyler Colman, the booming Asian wine consumer market, the Big Lebowski (yes, seriously), and his own influence and professional legacy. It is very likely a side of Robert Parker that few in the on-line wine world have yet seen.
I’m grateful to Mr. Parker for taking the time and opportunity for what might be his first-ever wine blog interview. I’m equally grateful to Jeff Lefevere of GoodGrape.com, who acted as contributing editor on the interview questions.
Ok – appetizers are over; let’s get to the meat-and-potatoes!…
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Yeah, I know right?
There’s an upside to more and more wine being made more and more in an “international” style by more and more producers in more and more regions?
Yes, there is. Yes, I’m serious. No, I haven’t been drinking too much wine while writing this.
First, we need to explain what the “international” style is, which essentially is the advent in recent years of big, extracted, jammy, heavily-oaked, high-alcohol wine (both red and white). Robert Parker, who is the “1” in the 1 and 1/2 of the wine critics that move the majority of the wine market (Jim Laube at Wine Spectator is the “1/2”), likes the style and awards it high scores, which in turn allow producers of those styles to charge higher prices and then the market takes over to influence other producers to follow suit when making their wines so that they can sell more and charge more, etc., etc., blah-blah-blah.
The result, according to the detractors, is wine going the way of fast food, like McDonald’s taking over small family restaurants in Europe; everything becomes the same and we lose regional originality.
The whole phenomenon was more-or-less lambasted in the film Mondovino, which if you haven’t seen it yet, will give you a crash course in all things “style international du vin.”
Go ahead and watch it. I’ll wait.
Done? Okay, cool, let’s get back to what’s right about the Disney-ification and McDonald’s-ization of the modern wine market…
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The March issue of Sommelier Journal is dedicated to the topic of wine education, and (as always) is well worth a read for wine pros and serious wine geeks alike. It contains a great follow-up article by Master Sommelier Tim Gaiser on the current status of the wine certification landscape, so the issue got me thinking (as it always does) about repercussions beyond the world of professional wine service, and into the worlds of wine writing and passionate wine enthusiasts.
And it got me thinking that YOU probably should get a wine certification. it also got me thinking about the remote area of Shompole in Kenya, where even in a place where you have to buzz the runway in a small Cesna to scare zebras off of it before you can land, they saw value in the WSET certification (more on that in a minute).
Chances are if you’re reading this, you’re a passionate wine enthusiast, a wine professional, or a wine writer (or any combination of one or more of those). Actually, according to Alexa.com stats on my blog, chances are you’re a female between the ages of 25 and 44 with a decent amount of disposable income, living in the U.S. and surfing this blog from your work computer (shame on you!).
Anyway, I am growing increasingly convinced that wine certification suits 1WineDude.com readers, and is growing more an more applicable to a larger and larger audience of wine lovers. And I’m gonna give you three reasons why YOU should get a cert. And No, I don’t work for any of those certification bodies.
I know what you might be thinking, which is something along the lines of “Why do I need a certification to be an expert on how much I like or dislike what I shove into my mouth?!??” And the answer of course is that you don’t need a certification for that.
You need it for other reasons. Hear me out before you shut me out – first I need to take you to the hot salt flats of the Great Rift Valley in remote Kenya…
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