We take a closer look at the legendary wine critic
If you know wine then it’s highly likely you’ve heard of Robert Parker, one of the most well renowned critics on the scene. His wine ratings on a 100-point scale and his newsletter The Wine Advocate, with his particular stylistic preferences and note taking vocabulary, have become influential in global wine buying. Here, we take a deeper look into the man and what you need to know about him.
- His Big Break
In 1975, Parker began writing a wine guidebook. Taking his cue from consumer advocate Ralph Nader, Parker wanted to write about wine without the conflicts of interest that might taint the opinions of other critics who also make a living grading wines. In 1978, he published a direct-mail newsletter called The Baltimore-Washington Wine Advocate, which was later renamed The Wine Advocate. The first issue was sent free to consumers from mailing lists Parker purchased from several major wine retailers. Six hundred subscribers paid to receive the second issue published later that year.
- Worldwide Acclaim
More than twenty years later, The Wine Advocate has over 50,000 subscribers, primarily in the United States, but with significant readership in over 37 other countries. While other wine publications have more subscribers, The Wine Advocate is still considered to exert a significant influence on wine consumers' buying habits, particularly in America. New York Times wine critic Frank Prial asserted that "Robert M. Parker Jr. is the most influential wine critic in the world.
- Changing the Game for Good
Until the 1970s, wine criticism was usually complementary to the production or trade of wine. The conflict of interest that might ensue from this close relationship was accepted by consumers, as they consulted wine reviews to gain an introduction to the world of wine, and not necessarily for advice on getting good value for their money. Hence, before Robert Parker, wine critics almost always had some link to the production or trade of wines
- The 100 Point Scoring System
One of the most influential and controversial features of Parker's wine criticism is his 100-point rating system, which he popularized in conjunction with his friend Victor Morgenroth. Parker designed the system to counter what he believed to be confusing or inflated ratings by other wine writers—many of whom he accused of a conflict of interest, as they often had a financial interest in the wines they rated.
The scale, now widely imitated in other publications ranks wine on a scale from 50 to 100 points based upon the wine's colour and appearance, aroma and bouquet, flavour and finish, and overall quality level or potential.
- Protecting those Assets
Parker's nose and palate are insured for $1 million.