“I would prefer to underestimate the wine’s quality than to overestimate it”
Robert M Parker Jr, one of the most influential and well-known wine critics, has officially retired from The Wine Advocate. Over the last many years, he has slowly stepped back his tasting duties, finally parting ways at 71 years old. The truth is that Robert Parker has played a crucial role in the entire industry with his unbiased and critical wine tasting and writing. Without any fear of expressing his opinions about wines, Robert shared with us his distinct tasting skills, going against the grain sometimes and has added many contributions that have changed the world of wine.
Who’s Taking Over?
Editor in Cheif – Lisa Perotti Brown
Neal Martin – Review of En Primeur Bordeaux
Soo Hoo Khoon Peng – Command & Control
History on The Wine Advocate (TWA)
While The Wine Advocate was only launched in 1978, the truth is that the idea was in Robert Parker’s head ever since 1967. Robert was a student in an American college and he made his first trip to France in that year (with who would become Mrs. Parker some years later). During this trip, Robert Parker had his first touch with wine tasting and he adored the experience. Despite his best efforts, he was without support from his family or friends. At the time, everyone told him that he needed to continue his studies and become a lawyer and that the whole idea of wine shouldn’t be pursued. Robert Parker ended up giving in to the pressure of his family and friends and he graduated in 1973 from the University of Maryland School of Law. Through all of it, never forgot about wine.
His interest began to increase when he discovered that most of what was being said about wines at that time were simply following propaganda. The goal of the critics back then wasn’t to share its tasting but rather to serve someone’s agenda. Robert wasn’t willing to comply with this. After all, a dream of his had always been to write an independent guide about wines to better serve wine consumers. This is how The Wine Advocate came up and remains true up till this day. Originally called the Baltimore-Washington Wine Advocate, it was later renamed just The Wine Advocate in 1979.
Did you know the word ‘advocate’ comes from the courtroom? It means to add a voice to support a cause or person.
Robert was never afraid to share his own opinions and this is how he made his reputation. His first controversy dates back from ‘82 when Robert reviewed the En Primeur tastings of Bordeaux positively while others deemed it an “overripe year”. When it was proved that Robert was correct, The Wine Advocate saw an increase in both the number of subscribers but also in its reputation. In ‘84, Robert Parker finally exited his law career to focus exclusively on The Wine Advocate.
Who Inspired Parker?
Robert Lawerence Balzers – Called one of the first serious wine journalists in the United States. He was in charge of the wine department for his family’s grocery chain at just 24 years old.
Robert Finigan – American wine and restaurant critic based in San Francisco. As in Robert Finigan’s Private Guide to Wine. He was Parker’s predecessor essentially. He made a consumer-friendly wine rating ranging from below average to exceptional, without the points.
Looking for an accurate way to communicate with consumers what he thought about the wines tasted, this led to the creation of the Parker Points System. The original creator of the 100-point wine rating system that still remains as a standard to the entire industry with various spin-offs.
Under this rating system, there has been some controversy and impact on the market. Some claim he is responsible for driving up Bordeaux prices specifically on En Primeur tastings. With some wineries changing prices dramatically the day of receiving their point rating. This has led to some controversy in the industry, especially with consumers.
Controlling shares of The Wine Advocate sold upwards of $15 million USD.
Commenting on his retirement, Robert Parker said “As I retire from The Wine Advocate, I have the honour of passing the baton to our wonderful team. The time has come for myself to relinquish all editorial and board responsibilities with immediate effect. I raise my glass to all of you for being part of this journey and hope all will continue to share the enthusiasm for discovering wines with our dedicated reviewers.”
From wine enthusiasts all over the world, thank you, Mr. Parker, for your contributions and happy retirement!!