Wine critics, an endangered specie
August 10, 2021
Wine critics were once the most feared people in the wine industry, they could break or make a wine or winery, they were so powerful that they were revered from wineries all over the world. Robert Parker was the most powerful person in the wine industry, only the name would create a tsunami. Newspapers and magazines were full of wine reviews and wine experts were sought after, everyone wanted to become a wine critic, being paid good money for drinking, ops, tasting wine and visiting wineries and regions around the world. A dream job.
Fast forward 20 years and wine critics’ opinions have very little impact: wineries are more interested in Instagrammers and social media celebrities than wine critics, even traditional regions and appellations such a Bordeaux and Champagne are rethinking their marketing strategy and focusing, aka spending, less and less on wine critics. The wine critic job is not a safe job anymore.
The reason of the decline is mainly due to the wine critics themselves and their inability to adapt and modernise with the industry; they haven’t been able to evolve, they are still 1.0 despite the world now being in a complete different era. And not because they haven’t gone “online”, every single wine critic has a website, whether they get any hits is a different matter, but because of their rather snobbish attitude.
Wine is now a main stream subject, 20 years ago it wasn’t, and wine critics are still thinking and writing like then. Wine critics have been unable to update their job description and language for the new wine drinkers, they have allowed the likes of Vivino to become the trusted source of wine reviews.
In the UK, where I live and work, one of the big error wine critics made were to remain too much London focused, and whilst London it is still the center for many things, but for wine, thanks to consumers shopping online, the location doesn’t really matter anymore, it has become irrelevant. And London wine scene has become boring and expensive: there is much more excitement and value for money outside London. Wine merchants, such as us, based outside the capital have to work twice as hard to make our wine offering interesting enough to attract wine drinkers.
Is there still a space for wine critics or will they eventually become extinct? Difficult to say. To be able to survive wine critics must be able to bring back the excitement, the joy of discovering new wines and make their language suited for a modern, educated audience and palate; they must make wine an interesting subject again, and avoid repeating themselves year on year, like a broken record player playing always the same track.
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