A Brief Interview with Robert M. Parker Jr. – Wine Bloggers and the Internet
Source: Catavino.net | Ryan Opaz.
Robert Parker is arguably the most powerful voice in the wine world, or at the very least in the US wine world today. His point system, which is both heralded by some and scorned by others, nonetheless causes markets to shift and wines to sell. Personally, Robert Parker is also one of the reasons I first started to get interested in wine some 12 years ago. At the time, I read his books and often purchased the wines he rated well. Ironically, this exploration and education by Robert has led me to follow his suggestions less and to trust my own palate more when it comes to buying wines. (photo by gastromía y cía)
As a result of new media bubbling to the surface, wineries, wine consumers and wine media are looking towards the rising influence of blogs and as a result this has led at times to tension between both the old media and new media, at times coupled with unfair attacks on all sides, often without good information. Last year, this came to a head with several online “scandals”; one of which consisted of Dr.Vino questioning, quite fairly in my opinion, the ethical standards of Robert Parker’s writers. The follow-up scandal involved Robert himself claiming that “blobbers” (derogatory for bloggers) are in some way in bed with the industry. Read the full story here. Both of these events resulted in more bad blood than serious dialogue.
At the time, when I saw Robert’s statement, I was hurt that someone I respected spoke so poorly of bloggers, claiming they lacked of ethics without properly investigating his remark. Seeing that it was on a forum, I chalked it up to a bit of frustration, posting the comment without enough forethought and consideration. Thus, I was excited to meet Robert this past year at the Wine Future Conference in Rioja, and although we didn’t have time to chat one on one, I was able to garner more insight as to who Robert is, rather than who the media portrays him to be.
Robert Parker is a wine lover. Yes his palate has been given too much power by what is largely a lazy wine consuming public; but whether or not you agree with him, Robert has a pretty damn consistent palate. I don’t always agree with it, and feel that some people tend to follow him blindly, but I do hold great respect for what he has done in his life. For this reason, after hearing him laud the internet as fundamental to wineries self promotion at the closing roundtable of the Wine Future Conference, I knew I needed to offer him a place to respond to the wine blogging world. What follows is a short video on his thoughts about blogs taken from Wine Future, followed by a short interview we sent to him by email, and finally, a second video on wine and the internet.
If you are winery reading this, please listen carefully. The internet is no longer an “option” to sell your wine more effectively, it is a necessity.
1. At Wine Future, you spoke of the future and how important it will be to communicate about your product directly to the consumer. Blogs are one way to support your vision. Since blogs are simply another form of the printing press, what do you see as their benefits and weaknesses as pertaining to: publicity devices, personal journals, wine reporting tools and educational platforms?
Blogs are like any journal, although they tend to be much more personal, and one does see an enormous variation in quality, from excellent ones that are informative, balanced, and very well-researched, such as Catavino.net, to ones that are axe-grinding, vicious, and largely irrelevant. Certainly, blogs are here to stay, and the good ones will rise to the top and become more and more successful and read by people throughout the world. People have to remember that blogs can reach anyone on the internet, and clearly have an instantaneous worldwide impact.
2. You yourself started as an amateur wine lover, learning much of what you know on the job. Some have even called you the first blogger. From your journey, what do you think is most important lesson for the next generation of wine communicators to hear or learn? What advice do you have for amateur wine lovers who want to follow in your steps?
I think responsible journalism, whether it is on wine or any other specialty field, is first and foremost the obligation of any blogger. The good blogs benefit from writers who are conscientious, who do their research, and who present informed opinions. People want personal opinions, but they also want fairness, balance, and accurate information, and this is the most important message wine communicators need to provide on their blogs.
3. The Internet was change dramatically in 5 years. What do you see as the Internet’s role in the wine industry in the short term? What technologies, or tools, do you think are fundamental to a winery suceeding today? What technologies do you hope to adopt and use in the future?
Certainly the wine industry has continued to lag behind in the use of blogs and the internet to the extent they should. Every winery that produces a wine should have an informational website explaining their vineyards, how they make their wines, the differences in vintages, the terroir, growing conditions, and some family history if deemed relevant. They should also have a message board for fans of their wines to post and get immediate feedback from the producers of the wines. This is what the wine world is moving to — instantaneous dissemination of information, accountability, and important feedback from the producers themselves. Unfortunately, too little of this is done, most of it today is primitive and speaks to an already captive audience, providing very little in the way of meaningful information.
4. Finally since Catavino is an Iberian Wine Blog, what do you think of Spain and Portugal’s future beyond Rioja and Port wine?
As I have written many times in my journal, Spain and Portugal (and especially Spain) have extraordinary potential in terms of wine quality in the future. Spain already has extraordinary terroirs, lots of old vines, a winemaking history, and a remarkably diverse climate, with an amazing array for different wines, from dry, crisp white wines to full-bodied, powerful reds. Portugal is still somewhat of an unknown, but based on some of my tastings, it is another country with enormous potential from varietals that most consumers know very little about. All of this plays to the internet, where the dissemination of information and so much teaching can be done through the internet.
Thanks again, Ryan, for the chance to respond, and congratulations on a great wine blog.
Robert M. Parker Jr.