Monday, October 24, 2011

Robert Parker Makes Some Predictions

Just came across this article, written by Mr. Parker, on the website. He writes twelve wine predictions to take place between now and 2015. The list is an entertaining read, and I noticed a couple of intriguing items to touch upon.

His second prediction is this:
"2 The wine Web will go mainstream
Internet message boards, Web sites tailored for wine geeks and state-of-the-art winery sites all instantaneously disseminate information about new wines and new producers. Today the realm of cyberspace junkies and hardcore Internet users, these sites will become mainstream in 10 years. A much more democratic, open range of experts, consultants, specialists, advisors and chatty wine nerds will assume the role of today's wine publications."

It appears that Mr. Parker is giving a tacit nod to wine bloggers as a legitimate voice of wine criticism. He, who infamously called them (us) "blobbers", is basically saying that the role of wine critic, held today by wine publications like Wine Spectator, The Wine Enthusiast, and The Wine Advocate, will be taken over by a wide range of new voices. Obviously that includes wine bloggers.

This isn't surprising to me or my fellow bloggers, indeed we're already seeing guys like Joe Roberts and Alder Yarrow become more and more known as respected voices in the wine community. The aforementioned wine guys are moving beyond the digital domain by having their work exposed to a wider audience. That audience is not the wine-blog-reading type, rather, the people who may google a wine's name and then quickly scan the relevant (to them) article. Enough of the self-congratulations though, because wine bloggers do have a long way to go in order to garner the levels of respect accorded the print publications and critics.

Another prediction, the sixth:
"6 Spain will be the star
Look for Spain to continue to soar. Today it is emerging as a leader in wine quality and creativity, combining the finest characteristics of tradition with a modern and progressive winemaking philosophy. Spain, just coming out of a long period of cooperative winemaking that valued quantity over quality, has begun to recognize that it possesses many old-vine vineyards with almost unlimited potential. Spanish wineries recognize that they are trapped neither by history nor by the need to maintain the status quo that currently frustrates and inhibits so many French producers. By 2015, those areas that have traditionally produced Spain's finest wines (Ribera del Duero and Rioja) will have assumed second place behind such up-and-coming regions as Toro, Jumilla and Priorat."

On one hand, having just returned from Spain on a blogger trip, I agree that it is indeed ascendant because there is a lot of seriously good quality wine just waiting to make it here. I saw evidence of this in Navarra, where winery after winery was producing inexpensive, high quality, expressive wine that would appeal to a large part of our wine drinking population here.

However, Mr. Parker fails in that he notes a region already held in high esteem (Rioja) and a region that still is known for producing high priced red wine (Ribera del Duero) versus a more balanced selection. Instead, Parker needs to elevate Toro, Navarra, and La Mancha into the tiers of wine that we should be seeking out from Spain. First off, with Rioja, Parker completely avoids the fact that the stylistic framework of those wines is evolving away from his signature style. That style being a highly extracted, intensely fruity, heavily oaked wine. Momentum is shifting towards fresher, low-oak wines that have a lot more acid than your typical Rioja. A lot of his high scoring Ribera del Duero wines are the same way, as are the Priorat and Jumilla wines he gives those big 90+ points to. Big, overly extracted, heavily oaked wines that are borderline undrinkable.

Lastly, the 11th prediction:
"11 Value will be valued
Despite my doom-and-gloom prediction about the prohibitive cost of the world's greatest wines, there will be more high-quality, low-priced wines than ever before. This trend will be led primarily by European countries, although Australia will still play a huge role. Australia has perfected industrial farming: No other country appears capable of producing an $8 wine as well as it does. However, too many of those wines are simple, fruity and somewhat soulless. Australia will need to improve its game and create accessible wines with more character and interest to compete in the world market 10 years from now."

Once again, Parker sidesteps the fact that he helped create this fruity, soulless wine currently lapping our shores from Australia. He also completely misses the fact that this style of wine does and will continue to hold immense appeal to many casual wine drinkers. The kind of drinker who probably doesn't read any wine blogs, who buys Yellowtail because they've had it and it's easy to drink, and who thinks a 90 point score means the wine is good.

Another question I ask is whether Australia wants to be known as the world's best producer of $8 wine or not? I doubt it, because at the $20 and $40 level there are some wonderful Australian wines to be had. For $8, there are solid, unimpressive, good quality wines available, but if a consumer has only bought those wines before, what's the chance they'll risk it and take that $20 bottle off the shelf? I would argue that they would turn to France or Italy, even California, to buy that "expensive" bottle. Therefore, in the value-wine segment, I have a feeling we'll see Australia's role diminish from "huge" to more along the lines of California. It will take a concerted effort from the Aussies to make this happen though. Hmmm, maybe they should send me on a blogger trip down there?

What do you think? Care to make any predictions for the next five years?

Beau Carufel


  1. As I learn more about wine I am turning more to bloggers and twitter for help and information. I have been intimidated by certain wine magazines. I love the wine blog scene and know that more people, such as myself, will take the word of a blogger on wine than magazines that turned it's nose up at many of us.

  2. I see the bloggers playing a big role in giving voices to less known regions. At some point, search results for most wines are going to include multiple reviews, and that kind of information will be beneficial to lots of people. To go on the record with something interesting, I see Riesling ascendant in the future, both in Oregon and internationally. I think in Oregon, we'll hear of at least one vineyard that took out Pinot Gris and grafted over to Riesling. Internationally, I see the top wines continuing to swell in price (not so great), while the market opens to the dozens of high quality but lesser known producers that are still offering phenomenal value.

  3. How can you enjoy popcorn and DVD with that special someone with Parker's preference of "Big, overly extracted, heavily oaked wines?" Or, cake on your birthday, Halloween candy or homemade guacamole with chips for that matter?

    As a blogger I look to unknown regions for their value, but also their versatility with food. Wine brings people together and where there are people gathering...there is typically food. That's a huge reason I look for the "fresher, low-oak wines that have a lot more acid." Plus, these lesser known regions give more bang for your buck and if you love wine, you owe to yourself to see what's out there besides California Cab and Chardonnay!

    Here's a toast to changing the way people view wine and hoping to be one of those bloggers that gives a voice to ALL wines...especially with food! ChEErS and great post!

  4. An interesting read, but didn't Parker make the very same predictions in October 2004? What gives?

  5. @Sean: did he really? I was unaware of that, and if he did make the exact same ones, that's a bit disingenuous isn't it?

    @Courtney: I agree 100%. Well said. As a fellow blogger, I try to do the same thing, searching out those unknown regions where the "Parker effect" isn't taking place. Plus, they usually always give greater bang for your buck.

    @Dan Interesting prediction indeed. I believe Oregon's future lies beyond pinot gris, an uninteresting varietal in the best of times. I see riesling, chardonnay, and pinot blanc defining Oregon white wines over the next ten years.

  6. @Beau: I have zero idea why Parker re-published his 2004 predictions, but it seems he did. The article I linked above has the Oct 2004 date stamp at the bottom, and here's one of several other notes about it:

    Kind of lazy on his part, but the predictions still make for interesting conversation, no?

    @Sublet & Beau: I wholeheartedly agree that Oregon's white future is not pinot gris. The grape grows well here, and there are a good number of wineries (besides the ubiquitous King's Estate) that consistently produce really solid juice. But I think Beau hit the nail on the head with PG's problem - while versatile and usually food friendly, it just isn't all that interesting. When was the last time you had a PG that made you stop and think? Frankly, my hope is that a lot of PG gets pulled and replanted with something that has more varietal character and reflects Oregon's many microclimates.

    I would love to see riesling become the white star, but given how poorly the established and exceptional rieslings from Europe currently sell in the US, as well as silly preconceptions about the wine (i.e, "sweet"), I'm not holding my breath. Brooks and a few others seem to be testing the waters with some pretty interesting stuff, so maybe I'll be proven wrong. I hope so. How cool would it be if Oregon was able to turn people on to the beauty of reisling?

    That said, I see chardonnay as the most probable. The Eyrie, Adelsheim and Bethel Heights have long shown that seriously good chard can be grown in Oregon. And after all the late 90s pulling of chard vines, the last 6-8 yrs have seen a lot of new plantings with better rootstock and clones, and really nice results (e.g., Brickhouse, JK Carriere, Crowley). Far more Burgandian than Cali, with lots of acid, nice minerality and fruit, and prices that make them easy to drink on a regular basis.

    Well that turned into a blithering rant on grape juice, didn't it?

  7. @Sean that was awesome, thank you for sharing your views with us. I too would love to see riesling shine, as I believe it can. Dan is a big riesling-head and does a lot to promote Oregon rieslings via his video blog, Wine is Serious Business.

    You bring up an interesting point about all the chard-pulling, and how perhaps it'll later be seen as a mistake. I strongly feel that the WV climate is conducive to producing some extremely good old vine chardonnay, and while there might be a touch less acid, the minerality and fruit components could even challenge Burgundy for sophistication and nuanced flavor.

    Maybe we can make a prediction here on this blog: Within the next ten years, pinot gris will (thankfully) not be Oregon's preeminent white grape.

  8. I recently paired Oregon Riesling (Trisaetum) with caramel popcorn and the syrupy texture of the wine accompanied by its touch of sweetness and balanced acidity created a delicious pairing. Check it out:

    I'm with you on hoping that people start to take notice of Oregon Riesling!

  9. I think people will, given enough time and enough word being spread. Perhaps a concerted effort from Oregon's riesling-producing wineries, plus bloggers, plus retailers will all help elevate this state's rieslings into the average wine fan's eyes..