Wine Talk

Snooth User: Craig Donofrio

Big Changes at Robert Parker's The Wine Advocate

Posted by Craig Donofrio, Dec 10, 2012.

 

Following a Wall Street Journal article yesterday, wine sites and blogs are exploding with news that Robert Parker has sold a substantial share of The Wine Advocate to a group of young investors in Singapore. The "game-changing" publication will see some major changes. Do you think these changes will be a good thing or do they risk losing subscribers?

 

A few topics for discussion:

 

-Parker is stepping down as the editor and has tapped Lisa Perotti-Brown as his replacement. How will this affect the editorial vision and public perception of the publication? What about moving the headquarters to Singapore?

 

-TWA is apparently planning global wine education conferences. Would you go to one?

 

-TWA will begin to accept advertising (apparently for luxury brands but not wine). Does this matter?

 

-TWA will cease print production as early as the end of 2013. If you get the print edition now, will you  subscribe to digital when that is the only option? Is this a bad move or just inevitable?  

 

-What do you think about the growing wine industry trend to cater so heavily to the Asian market? Will there be a backfire effect at some point? Do you think companies in the wine industry can court the Asian market without alienating customers in more traditional markets?

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Reply by Craig Donofrio, Dec 10, 2012.

Some follow up information from Robert Parker's twitter feed (@RobertMParkerJr):

-TWA print edition "will never take on ads" but will pursue non-wine ads "selectively" on the web. 

-Headquarters will remain in Maryland but will develop second office with Lisa Perotti-Brown in Singapore.

 

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Reply by gregt, Dec 10, 2012.

TWA will cease print production as early as the end of 2013.

BUT

TWA print edition "will never take on ads" but will pursue non-wine ads "selectively" on the web.

To answer your questions -

Why would the Chinese care what some middle-age Americans say about European wine?

Why would a 24 year old care what some middle-age Americans say about European wine?

Why would the WA w/out Robert Parker be any different from any number of other publications and blogs?

How many ads to you need to sell on line to make any money at all?

There are currently less than 50,000 subscribers. From my experience, anywhere from 30 to 60 percent are stores and businesses, who buy the magazine to see the scores so they can call their suppliers and order some. That's why the magazine has had weight way beyond its circulation. There are magazines with higher circulation but w/out the clout. All of that clout came from Parker, who is a uniquely American phenomenon who came along at exactly the right time in the US wine industry.

Quick - name a single other critic by name. Now name one who actually moves the market. Wine Spectator is a corporate magazine that caters to a crowd interested in the wine "lifestyle", which they strive to make glamourous, associating expensive vacations, watches, etc. with wine. That is what's going to backfire because kids don't want their father's Oldsmobile and the more they treat wine like a lifestyle thing, the more it becomes that Olds. And it's irrelevant to the Asian market.

I think he cashed out while he could and he was smart to do so. I don't think he'll ever have the clout in Asia that he has had elsewhere, especially as more Asians become wine critics.

Finally, how big is that market really?  The princelings and gangsters who amass millions may like wine, but the average person isn't really a big consumer. Wine is a poor match with a lot of food. And it's uniquely European. I'm sure there will be an indigenous fad that replaces it in time.

 

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Reply by JonDerry, Dec 10, 2012.

30-60 is quite a range, but either way 50k subscriber's who pay $139 per year for content makes it a size able business. Of course, it's no doubt in decline with RP's role diminishing and no apparent successor who's anywhere nearly as respected.

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Reply by shsim, Dec 11, 2012.

Hmm I do agree with GT. I seldom drink wine when Im home just because there are other beverages of choice that we prefer with our food. We drink wine when we cook up the occasional 'western' meal. Or when we go to a european/western restaurant where it is more appropriate. I love street food (and so do plenty of people) and wine is not necessarily the best to go with it especially with the weather in southeast asia. But then, the big big market is China. 

And yes, maybe one percent knows who Parker is anyway. As long as there is someone/something to go to for wine opinions, it is sufficient for now. 

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Reply by Richard Foxall, Dec 12, 2012.

I agree with GregT (back on the bandwagon after calling him out on Brunello v. Chianti), but my first reaction to the story when I saw it was, "What's wrong with Bob?"  I think it's a good time for him to get out, although you have to wonder about the multiple of his P/E on this--sole owner, low overhead, lots of non-monetary perks vs. essentially giving up control of the product.  Which he was gradually doing anyway, so you have to figure that he saw this as a good time to make the move, rather than wait till his influence diminishes.  And totally right about WS--I buy it once in a while, but other than the occasional business news about who bought what vineyard from a failing owner, it mostly annoys me with its wine-lifestyle porn.

Did it become less fun for Bob?  Did he grow tired of the anti-Bob sniping?  Is he just looking at retirement?  (What does Bob do for retirement?  He can't take up a hobby--his work has been our hobby!  Maybe he'll actually practice law?)

Or is Bob ill?  Quick, start the rumor mill, you heard it here first!  Gosh, he looks awfully tired. 

So, all the Bob-criticism aside, he did come along at the right time, and he did do a lot of good--demystifying wine, giving high scores to affordable wines, taking (most) Cali wines as seriously as he took French wines.  He was the victim of his success--wineries started making wines to get scores, the 100 point scale became ubiquitous, he was offered blandishments that compromised his objectivity.  (Hey, even free wine is a blandishment, and so mea culpa, too.) The flaws in his methodology became apparent as his work was more closely scrutinized than any other critic.  (Is it really blind tasting if you know that all the wines are top cuvees from CdP or first growth Bords from a vintage you have deemed "the greatest of your lifetime?")  And, having actually spurred wineries to improve their techniques, to clean up their acts, the wines are really better, so, yeah, it's hard to avoid re-using those superlatives.

I sometimes us RP as a benchmark, although more often I use Tanzer (or, RP-minus-3, as he is sometimes known--his ordering is often very much the same).  I also look at when the rating was made--RP was a lot more judicious ten years ago, although he kind of blew it when he started giving 100s for "perfect wines."  Really, what the heck does that mean, but it does just reflect the problem with a scale that presumes an absolute top.  I don't usually pay attention to him when it comes to Bords, because I can't afford what he likes, and he's gotten way too narrow on Cali Cabs.  He's driven the price of CdP much too high and is far too uncritical.  On the other hand, he gets some Cali PN right, and hasn't ignored the emperor's lack of clothes in Burgundy. 

On the whole, he kicked some butt where it needed to be kicked, made winemakers stop sniffing at their consumers and start making things they like, caused some unnecessary but not surprising inflation, and led to some homogenization that has been good in some ways, bad in others.  Much like his overall influence.  On balance, Bob did more good than harm, and probably should have downshifted earlier, but who's gonna do that when the wineworld is still your oyster? 

I hope he's doing this for the money, and not because he's unwell, and I hope his critics, who mostly envy his success like gnats on an elephant, don't crow too much, because no one will hear them and it's pretty unbecoming, if you ask me. 

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Reply by napagirl68, Dec 12, 2012.

Or is Bob ill?  Quick, start the rumor mill, you heard it here first!  Gosh, he looks awfully tired.

Uh, that was my first thought.

Considering the purchasing power of the global market (china, middle east), no big surprise here. 

I see us, here in CA at least, moving toward an Agrarian society....smaller producers, local movement.   The likes of WS and WE will gradually fade here...as they have already.  I hope...

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Reply by gregt, Dec 12, 2012.

I think a lot of people were wondering if he's ill. At the recent dinner in NYC, reports are that he could hardly even move around. Don't forget, in addition to tasting wine, he's been eating really rich foods and eating a lot of it. If you've ever seen him up close, you realize that's a guy who hasn't missed a meal in many years. I really hope he's not ill but he's seriously obese these days.

I don't know what the real circulation of the publication is - I was only speculating by what I've seen here in NY. I can probably count the number of people I know who subscribe but you always see it in stores, partly because a lot of owners really don't know anything at all about wine so they pick whatever got high points. So with that kind of subscription base, going all-digital makes no sense. The people in the small liquor shops aren't likely to browse around to find his scores. Sometimes paper is just perfect.

Parker's influence is Bordeaux, the Rhone, and California and he's given up the latter.  He has negligible or no influence in other regions, partly because he doesn't taste them. At one point, he could create a market - I think he was hugely influential in Australia and Spain, for example, but there were some producers who went out of their way to produce things they thought he'd like and in the long run that harmed them and the entire market for those wines. He never visited the countries but just tasted at home with the importers, so he had a skewed vision of what was going on. And the fact that he stopped tasting blind many years ago didn't help. Could he do it again if he started tasting wines from a new region?  Who knows, but he indicates no interest in doing so.

Everyone knows that there are a lot of Chinese but that does you no good unless you have a plan for reaching them. And I don't see a lot of them wanting to watch an American talk about sous bois and cassis. There are cultural references that just don't resonate - who in China will even know what those things are? And I'm certain that there are many more references and descriptions in the many Asian countries that westerners will not understand.

I would think that the correct approach to entering the "Asian" market, which is only 2/3 of the world, would be to have locals do the reviews.  Americans didn't want to hear British critics in the 1980s and I'd imagine that the Chinese and Indonesians and Indians pretty much feel the same.  RP can validate the concept of local wines and then a local critic would be the face of the publication - that makes sense and may in fact be the plan.

PR for the sale has been atrocious, however.  Basically they completely dismissed the current writers, saying that they could hit the road if they didn't like the new arrangements and that "there's a plethora of good wine writers. . .It's a buyer's market."

What does that really say? It says that they can serve up those readers to any advertiser and the readers will stay loyal to the magazine because they're so passively stupid. Really? Any writer can slot in for another? Gee, then what exactly is the brand? It's really just RP himself. So if they think they'll make millions by having him running around China, good for them. I don't see it.

On the other hand, the new editor announced that she wanted more control over the reviews.  Not to start rumors, but some people have speculated that it's a good investment for some wealthy collectors who are related to or interested in owning a chateau in France or bringing in wine or whatever - guaranteeing a good review helps their products.

I'm glad he got to cash out - he's worked hard, even if he's become what he once railed against. He was good for the wine industry overall. But remember what Steve Jobs said - he felt the most important thing he did was to build Apple - the company, not any single product. He felt that the company could survive without him. The mixed messages from WA are not indicative of a well-oiled machine. And the new owners are mysterious and unrevealed.  Why the secrecy?  It's the antithesis of the brand itself.

 

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Reply by Craig Donofrio, Dec 12, 2012.

 

Great comments everyone, thanks for sharing...

 

Just a few thoughts on GregT's feedback:

 

Why would the Chinese care what some middle-age Americans say about European wine?

-Well, I'm not sure the Chinese really care about what Parker says, per se. But, as you point out, Parker's opinion moves markets. The Chinese are hyper-focused on strategic business decisions and anything that helps that cause will interest them. The Chinese culture also glorifies status and power symbols. Parker creates them with every 95+ rating he gives out.

 

Why would a 24 year old care what some middle-age Americans say about European wine?

-That is not the age demographic that any wine publication is most concerned about. Additionally, rating and branding in wine is intrinsically different than cars (and a lot of other lifestyle goods). Wine brands are not (usually...although there are of course exceptions) targeted specifically to certain age segments. They are basically geared to anyone over the legal drinking age (although it could be argued that they are even geared to those under the legal drinking age). A 24-year-old consumer doesn't have the tasting experience to be able to predict how a wine will evolve and mature. To some extent, they must rely on an older palate to help decide which wines will age well and what they will taste like in 10+years. The Oldsmobile will always be the same Oldsmobile. If you're just talking from a branding perspective, I don't believe that a young demographic will shun certain wines just because an older crowd likes them. By the time I was 24, I actually wanted to act like an adult...

 

 

Why would the WA w/out Robert Parker be any different from any number of other publications and blogs?

-The same reason why some investors probably paid upwards of $40 million???? for a piece of the company (anyone want to take another guess???). It's about the BRAND Robert Parker. He's not leaving, just taking a lesser role and a big paycheck. People refer to "Parker scores" when they appear in his publication, even when they are often clearly posted by his freelance critics.

 

 

 

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Reply by Craig Donofrio, Dec 12, 2012.

Just saw Gregs 2nd posting here and I agree with pretty much all of his comments. Especially the last paragraph:

 

"I'm glad he got to cash out - he's worked hard, even if he's become what he once railed against. He was good for the wine industry overall. But remember what Steve Jobs said - he felt the most important thing he did was to build Apple - the company, not any single product. He felt that the company could survive without him. The mixed messages from WA are not indicative of a well-oiled machine. And the new owners are mysterious and unrevealed.  Why the secrecy?  It's the antithesis of the brand itself."

 

-My only comment is that I get the feeling this whole thing is like a short term project for these investors. They will blow up and expand for a few years, reap some heavy profits, and then the "new brand" will slowly decline into nothing...I hope RP will be sitting back smiling (and in good health), sipping on some "profound" wine! He deserves it!  

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Reply by Richard Foxall, Dec 12, 2012.

"And I don't see a lot of them wanting to watch an American talk about sous bois and cassis. There are cultural references that just don't resonate - who in China will even know what those things are?"

I bet there are tons of Americans, and probably more than a few English language wine writers, who don't know what those things are, but they use the words anyway.  Cassis is another name for black currant, and good luck even finding currants under their correct name in a big chain grocery; while some of us are expanding the variety of foods we eat (romanesco? ramps?), the mainstream American diet is narrowing, with fewer varieties of low-profit fruits and vegetables.  When I was a kid, one of my favorite jellies was currant, made from red currants grown in our yard; my mother bought black currants for baking, and, thanks to a girlfriend who drank Kir Royales, I know that creme de cassis is made from black currants.  But to most wine collectors, it's probably just something they associate unknowingly with cab sauv because they read it in a review by Parker or Laube.  Sous bois?  Um, that's not even used in English. 

I don't think lacking the touchstones is a big issue for the Chinese.  Heck, they are buying up wines that don't go well with their cuisine and mixing them with Coca Cola.  But they get the bragging rights, and, without going all ethnic-studies here, the idea that the brand will survive the individual is not really a stretch for them to imagine.  A 98 point Parker wine will still have quite a bit of cachet, even as "Parker" ceases to be the rater.  What looked like a lot of money to Bob was probably just a hedge for the buyers--a way to diversify their portfolios for pocket change.

"I see us, here in CA at least, moving toward an Agrarian society....smaller producers, local movement.   The likes of WS and WE will gradually fade here..."

NG, I think you are very right, and very wrong.  For you and me, the model will shift.  We buy increasingly from makers we meet nearby.  But even in California, vast lakes---nay, oceans-- of wine are sold by Gallo, The Wine Group, Bronco, and that is the farthest thing from agrarian.  It's industrial, marketing driven, logistics oriented, amd commodity-influenced. (Juice is cheaper in S. Italy?  Great, that's where we'll get our Zinfandel this year.  Hype up the romance of the Andes and sell Chilean wine.  Dessert-based labels are doing well?  Make up one of your own. Whether your Aussie wine gets bottled in the US or there depends on the price of glass and oil.  Generally, it's cheaper to ship it in tanks, so it gets bottled here.)  Wine will reflect the broader trend towards a two-tiered society, but maybe it will be three tiers:  Rich, marketing influenced folks will buy Silver Oak and expensive but undistinguished Napa Cabs, Seasmoke PN, and the like. During the week, they'll consume lots of pinot grigio. Zachys in NY ("unsung heroes of Bordeaux" being the daily drinker) and everything from K&L to Bev Mo will deal with that out here. Those consumers have money and spend it, so WE and WS will survive by selling them vacations and watches.  I have relatives and you have neighbors like this.  The fighting varietal down to box wine market will go right on with low prices, reliable if mediocre quality--no vintage variation, please--and marketing campaigns not very different from bar soap:  Good packaging, promotional prices, advantageous placement in stores.  And the tiniest sliver will be us:  Standing in the barrel room somewhere, or committing to a certain number of bottles a year because Clay, Mike, Michael, the Garys, Anthony, Brad (hmm, where are the women?) and a raft of other passionate people can reach us via the Internet, sell directly, and stay in business, sometimes just barely, by capturing the whole price of the bottle of wine.  Speaking of which, I have an email from Gracianna, OT's stepson's winery, that I should read. 


 

 


 
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Reply by gregt, Dec 12, 2012.

More info is coming out - supposedly it was a sale of $15M and about 2/3 to him, so he did OK. One of the buyers owned a big wine importing company that he recently sold.

No idea what RP's role will be but Lisa is acting like she's a lot more than a proof reader. She said they want to have more control over the reviews. Hmmmm - I wonder why?  Because some tech guys know a lot better than David S what he should be saying about a wine?  I figure they pay RP for a few years and then he eases out.

Craig - I agree w most of what you said. And don't forget, we're not talking exclusively about China - there's Indonesia, Japan, and India to start. So I guess we'll have to see. But I somehow can't see him having the effect he did in the US, where he was a native son who stood up and said he could do it as well as anyone else.

"Wine" isn't the category - sales of Bordeaux are pretty much non-existent in the under-30 crowd and in most of the wine bars in NYC.  The Bordelais are concerned enough that they're opening a wine bar in NYC that will only serve Bordeaux. They're losing the next generation of wine drinkers, who are decreasingly looking to a single authority. We have no way to know what happens in Asia over the next few years, but it's doubtful that they'll follow the same trajectory as Americans and have a generation follow a critic. More likely, the new generation will want to do what the new generation in the US and Europe does - get recs from sites like this and from friends. More and more this seems about Bordeaux and high-end Rhones.

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Reply by napagirl68, Dec 13, 2012.

And the tiniest sliver will be us:  Standing in the barrel room somewhere, or committing to a certain number of bottles a year because Clay, Mike, Michael, the Garys, Anthony, Brad (hmm, where are the women?) and a raft of other passionate people can reach us via the Internet, sell directly, and stay in business, sometimes just barely, by capturing the whole price of the bottle of wine.

Well, I have to say I find that depressing, Foxall.  Yes, I know the neighbors and relatives you speak of.  But I'm am seeing so much more of the "homegrown" effort- from having chickens in your backyard in Oakland, to making only 3 barrels of something fabulous- from local grapes and yes,even being able to sell it at a profit (see my Wine of the Year as an example).  I am happy to say that more and more of the 20-somethings I run into while out and about tasting are CONCERNED about where the grapes come from, where the wine is made.  At least in the circles I run in, support of local producers- local to California at least- is HUGE.  I think I read Edible East bay much more than WS, and I was given WS as a birthday gift!  I still have hope! 

The women are here btw... Susie Selby, Shauna Rosenblum (rockwall),  Kathy Joseph (fiddlehead), Merry Edwards, Dianna Lee (siduri), Rosemary Cakebread (Spottswoode), Evelyn white (taft st.).... for starters:-)

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Reply by Richard Foxall, Dec 13, 2012.

NG, I agree that our tiny sliver is growing, but it's going to stay a tiny sliver.  Even as people launch small wineries, those wineries will get bigger, and then sell out to a conglomerate.  You suggest a good example:  Kent Rosenblum sold out his eponymous label and now he, his son and his daughter are involved in Rockwall and some others.  But go to Flemings steak house in Newport Beach, or House of Prime Rib in SF, or any steakhouse in NYC and look at the list.  That's a lot of money buying same old, same old.  I don't really think of wine drinking as a bell curve, but more as those three different markets--one buying on price/impulse/marketing, one buying on status, and one buying on quality.  There are overlaps between them, but geeks who ask friends on Snooth or other wine sites for recommendations are never going to outweigh folks buying Fonseca Bin 27 port because there was a coupon in the paper (today, food section in the paper you probably get).

Thanks for those female winemakers.  I really need to get out more!  I just picked the last folks I arn into or whose wineries I went to. There's also Anne Moller Racke, Lane Tanner, who is making 2009 her last vintage.

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Reply by zufrieden, Dec 13, 2012.

OK, so this thread is information overload.  However, regarding the Chinese - who are a very vital part of my life here in Vancouver BC and have been for decades - you need to understand the very ancient roots of this very isolated people.  Confucianism has totally permeated the society - as it has in Korea - and this means that authority (whether that be Parker or the Celestial Emperor) is central to the way that society works.  Traditionally (and tradition is being eroded at a rate we cannot easily compute) the Chinese do not like risk; they prefer to look for an authority on particular subjects - whether that be wine or the administration of government bureacracy. 

I think that Asians - led by les Chinois will seek out authority and it will depend on how we position that request.  The food is not all that wine-friendly in my experience.  If you sell wine as a glamour product, the Chinese will respond (those that have the money, of course) but that is not due to any natural affinity of wine to food, par example.

Greg T, you are on the money as usual regarding the economic imperatives.  On the intangibles, I am not so sure - but then as fellow North Americans we tend to emphasise the money without in any way trying to make some sort of philosophical "statement".

My guess - and this is something that comes from being a statistician of sorts - is that the Chinese will warm to wines of quality but will never adopt wine as a lifestyle (as we offspring of Europe or Europeanized Asians have done}.

Wine will, of course, become a world-wide beverage (if not solar system-wide) because its merits are just too hedonic in terms of appeal. However, I have to say that I care not a jot whether the Chinese or any other cousin human of my mine likes wine or not...

 

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Reply by jtryka, Dec 13, 2012.

Despite Foxall's depressing comments (and I really don't have a dog in this fight, as find RP and his ratings interesting data points but largely irrelevant to my drinking habits), I had an interesting conversation yesterday on the drive to LaGuardia.  I was riding with a CEO who is a member of the Busch family, and although there are always fun stories, he relayed some perspective from the beer industry that might be relevant in this instance.

If you look at beer at the turn of the 20th century, most beer was local, each market had hundreds of brands, most of which were brewed in the bars that served them.  Then, with the advent of better transportation, national brands started to emerge, like Budweiser, Miller, Schlitz, Heileman, that served more basic beer to the masses, not just German immigrants.  Now to the Germans, this was the worst thing ever, beer was just watered down and destroyed, but it expanded the market greatly.  Eventually, people's tastes changed and they wanted something different, the plain old beer they grew up with wasn't good enough, so micro brews were born, with Sam Adams, the Widmer Brothers and others around the country, and the next stage was born.  Now, 30 years into that phase, the next big thing is here!  Beer brewed locally, to meet local tastes, right in the bars that serve it!

What goes around comes around, the smaller, craft wineries will survive, but only if we support them.  If not, our grandchildren will still be drinking Reunite on ice, so nice!

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Reply by gregt, Dec 14, 2012.

True all but I don't think craft producers ever become more than niche players in any market. You end up with things like Whole Foods, which try to take the concept national and in so doing, destroy it. Someone wants Pacific salmon in NYC?  Sure - we'll fly it in. As a customer I like that, but without it, the people in CA aren't going to be drinking any French wine.  And chickens are a trendy thing these days but once they get past a few early adopters, they become pests. They're actually pretty messy. Wasn't LA the first city in the US to ban horses because they were so messy? 

So I like the ideas and wish it were possible to do things on a craft scale, but it's not. First because most people don't want to make subsistence level livings. Second, because people are going to want their French saute pans to cook those local mushrooms. And once in a while they'll want bananas, which don't grow locally. I'd venture to say that very few people who are making those local, small-production wines, went to the local cobbler to have a few pairs of shoes custom made, or the local tailor to buy a pair of linsey-woolsies instead of their Levis that were made somewhere in China.

So in wine, people are going to hear about something that you all are raving about in CA and they'll want to try it out here.

The interesting thing is what's happened over the past few days. Some mixed messages out of Monkton regarding who is running the show. Steve Tanzer even posted a note about it on his board.

Zuf - good points but why would RP be an authority to the Chinese?  Because he's accepted as one in the US. I get the idea that he's thinking he can establish himself as one for the Chinese themselves, but I really think that's a stretch unless he maintains his influence in the US.

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Reply by Richard Foxall, Dec 14, 2012.

Zuf, thanks for the insights.  I wrote and then deleted a post that was going to reference Confucianism--I just felt like I was out of my depth and, for once, let that stop me.  But my limited knowledge doesn't prevent me from seconding your thoughts.

GregT, it's a stopgap because there is no native authority on wine in China.  They aren't buying Chinese wine with their dollars, they are buying mostly French, and Bob writes in a language they are more likely to understand than French, and they do look to trends elsewhere as they emerge from isolation.  Note that until recently WA scores were treated as if they all came from Bob anyway. 

JTryka, that's a great bit about beer... which lags behind wine in development of its resurgent "craft appeal," IMO.  My yardstick is when to they stop catering to childish tastes and get the oddball fruits out, and I am seeing plenty of apricot infused beers, while Boone's Farm Apple Wine (or strawberry) are mostly a thing of the past.  (Same thing about flavored coffees--we have a long way to go.)  It wasn't that long ago that local brews were dominant--my father is 81 and remembers them well.  Years ago, when I was an executive recruiter, I worked with Joe Griesedieck (this was before he was at KornFerry).  I mentioned to my father that I was working on an assignment with him.  My dad said, "Oh, he must be from the St. Louis brewery family."  Yep, he was.  Guess what?  The brand is back, as of last December.  Your Busch friend would remember the Griesedieck name because, before A-B bought the St. Louis Cardinals, GB sponsored all the broadcasts of the games.  Craft beer is still a niche compared to the huge operations of A-B--just fly out of Newark next time and go by the big brewery.  More beer comes out of that one facility than all the East Coast craft brewers combined, I will venture. If you want to look at it as a Venn diagram, the circles for status brands and price/marketing based brands are huge, and the kind of thing we like is barely larger than a dot.  If you think of it in solar system terms, we're talking Uranus and Neptune compared to a hunk of ice in the asteroid belt, or some recently declassified outlier like our old friend Pluto.

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Reply by gregt, Dec 14, 2012.

BTW - the one thing not mentioned in the WA purchase is the role of Chinese wine. Surely they can produce it and if anything is certain, it's that they're dead set on producing some that competes with anywhere else. The government is manufacturing pop stars and sending them on world tours to ensure that they become cultural hegemons.  Top down as always, but whatever.

Anyway, how does the WA review Chinese wines?  Does it call them crap, which is going to anger many people, or praise them, which will make it ridiculous until there are actually some worthy of praise? I think it was brilliant to take the money.  No idea what the contract is like but who knows - maybe one day he leaves the WA and just decides to pen his own reviews under his own name.  Then what do they do?

As far as craft beer goes - anyone can do it. I had friends in England over 20 years ago who made it under the sink because it was cheaper than paying for it at the corner store. That's good good because it's very democratic, but bad in the sense that it will never be an industry.

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Reply by Craig Donofrio, Dec 17, 2012.

Good points Greg.

There was a great piece in Reuters on Dec. 10 that also highlights the problem with the WA reviewing Chinese wines:

http://blogs.reuters.com/felix-salmon/2012/12/10/the-robert-parker-bombshell/

 

 

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Reply by Richard Foxall, Dec 17, 2012.

Okay, now here's my question:  Is it possible that Bob gets a nice payout, lets them run it into the ground, buys it back (with new technology attached, no less) for less than he was paid after a decent interval?  Does anyone know if there's a non-compete clause?  He could just take a few years off, then decide he wants back in the game and start a newsletter again.

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