ENOUGH about Robert Parker!

Robert Parker Jr. is the wine writer that many wine bloggers, wineries, and consumers love to hate.

Bloggers love to rail against the injustice of the 100-point system. We rail against the so-called Parkerization of wine. We rail against Parker’s influence. We rail against him for any one of a thousand reasons.

Bloggers are worried about the Parkerization of wine? Let’s talk about the Parkerization of the wine blogosphere.

A look at WineBusiness.com’s ‘Most Popular Blog Postings’ in the last seven days shows not one, not two, but three different posts about Robert Parker in their Top 10. This week is no different than any other. What I call ‘Parker Posts’ are regularly featured on the site, and Wine Business is not alone. We love to write about Robert Parker. We love to read about Robert Parker. Over and over and over again.

Here’s the problem.

It’s boring. It’s the same old story, relentlessly written and rewritten. Very seldom is there any research done, any new insight, or any clarity. It’s a recycling of old conversations.

Perhaps insult and injury are the sincerest form of flattery?

Robert Parker has been – and remains – an extremely influential wine writer. Why does Robert Parker remain so influential? For many reasons. Among them wine bloggers keep writing about him.

Why are so many wine bloggers writing about Robert Parker? Some are doing it because they truly believe in what they are writing. Some are doing it because these topics seem to get rediscovered every other week by another blogger.

But many simply do it because it drives traffic. And surely WineBusiness.com picks up many of these posts in part for the same reason, not because there is any there there. People click on it. My goodness I’ve done it myself! Robert Parker is the endless gift that keeps on giving. We all take advantage of his high position by railing against it. Talk about coattails - and hypocrisy.

The bottom line for wine bloggers is the more you write about Robert Parker, the more influence he has. If Robert Parker is a monster – I haven’t met him, but in most pictures I haven’t seen the horns - he is a monster you have helped create.

You want to take Parker down a peg? Put in the hard work and time – the time that Parker did I should add – and try to supplant him in some way. Write about things that are interesting and relevant to readers. Do so in a way that is compelling. Do so in a way that is different. Do so in a way that offers value.

Is Robert Parker a household name because of his 100-point system? No. Robert Parker is a household name because he offered value with his 100-point system. If you're a wine blogger, how much value have you offered lately?

So you bloggers out there, time to put down the stones, pick up the pen, and write something meaningful. What will happen if you are successful? Maybe one day – perhaps one day soon – Mr. Parker will quietly retire. And when it happens perhaps we will all write about something else instead. Wouldn’t that be nice? Right now, if Parker retires, a whole lot of bloggers won’t have anything to write about at all.

This rant is brought to you by Washington Wine Report. To my regular readers, I sincerely apologize. Did I just feed the beast? I’m sorry but I did. Yes I see the irony. But if you look at the last five years of my writing you will find no – and now I’m sorry to say one – post about Robert Parker. I held my tongue as long as I could. Back to our regular program.

Sean P. Sullivan


  1. If so many bloggers didn't write and re-write the same story over and over again, there'd be a lot fewer wine blogs.

    Parker is irrelevant in my wine world. As such, he doesn't come up on NYCR.

  2. Parker is scapegoat on both sides of the issues. Your complaining about a recurring noise, yet I may add, it's the complacency around core issues in wine journalism that makes Parkerized posts creep back up now and then. And if it's no longer Parker today, it will be yet another set of wine critics tomorrow, which will be taken to the headlines.

  3. I agree with your general point. Those who don't agree with Parker's taste/methodology/ratings should occupy themselves with building constructive alternative resources for wine criticism.

    However, the allegations that have come to light in the last week are quite serious and in an entirely different category than mere rants. If wineries are indeed being asked to pay for the privilege of visits by Wine Advocate critics, the entire credibility of the publication is called into question.

    Until Parker addresses whether or not emails from Pacho Campo MW that have come to light are, in fact, real, the wine industry - including reports, bloggers, and, if necessary, relevant legal authorities- have a pressing obligation to demand answers. Parker's recent statement about the issue skirts the entire question! It is mystifying that he has taken such a defensive and obfuscating stance. I personally think that WA had nothing to do with Vinos de Madrid's alleged kickback scheme but Parker needs to be upfront about what he knows and what he doesn't. We want assurance that he is as upset by the Campo emails as everyone else and that he's trying to get to the bottom of it. Instead he is shooting the messenger. Such a move only undercuts his credibility. Not smart.