Posts tagged #Robert Parker

Robert Parker Emails Wine Advocate Readers About Major Changes Afoot

An inherent part of creativity is change. And Robert Parker has just followed in that honorable tradition by announcing a major change at his famed magazine Wine Advocate - he is handing over primary responsibility for reviewing California wines to his associate Antonio Galloni.

But such change is nothing new to Robert Parker, who through his own efforts altered the world of wine.  But to understand that story one has to go back to 1978 and meet a young lawyer with a growing love for fine wines.

That young attorney was Robert Parker before he became ‘the’ Robert Parker of Wine Advocate fame. Between law cases, he wrote a newsletter for follow wine lovers in his hometown of Baltimore, Maryland. His first issue was free but by the second issue Parker had over 600 paying subscribers.

Soon the newsletter was large enough to become a major publication.  That publication, Wine Adocate, went on to change the wine industry because Parker implimented two revolutionary changes in his publication. 

First, he rejected the standard review format based solely on vague wine words and instituted instead a number system for evaluation wines from 51-100 points. Second, he declared that he would not accept any promtional connection with any winery.

The affect of Parker’s changes can be seen in nearly every wine shop today.  Parker’s numbers are almost always posted on the shelves next to the wine telling the shopper what’s ‘great’ and what’s less then that.  The result is that the buyer has some guide through the vast array of wine available.

But there’s a problem.  With only one person evaluating the wine, there is only one voice heard, insightful though that voice may be. But the difficulty goes further.

Few up and coming younger critics can afford to savor bottles of hallmark wines such as bottles of Lafitte Rothschild 1982, 2000 or 2003. The tab could easily amount to over $1,000.  Ouch! 

As a result, it’s going to be difficult, without some support from the wineries, for young writers (not to mention bloggers) to develop an in-depth understanding of the wide diversity and richness of wine. How, on their own, can they literally afford to know what the great (and often very expensive) wines taste like? Without such a benchmark, personal taste replaces a broader knowledge of taste and legacy of flavor.

One can only hope that the new changes afoot at Wine Advocate will open a broader avenue between the wineries and the new reviewers.  By stepping back from either a total commercial immersion within the wine industry or a complete avoidance to it, a new broarder understanding of wine is possible.

If these two worlds of critique and production will meet and work together, a new approach to understanding wine can be achieved.  And that's the kind of change we can all raise a glass to. Cheers to Robert and all his staff!

Your Culinary World copyright Ana Kinkaid/Peter Schlagel 2011 

Restaurant Reviews - The Times They Are A-Changing

Just before Christmas the Los Angeles Time food critic S. Irene Virbila was very publicly outed by Noah Ellis of Red Medicine in Beverly Hills.   Since then leading newspapers and prominent culinary Internet sites have been raging with a variety of points of view about the event.

On one hand Virbila and her supporters (very often from the world of journalism) believe that her career has been ruined as, without anonymity, she cannot review accurately.  She seems to believe that if restaurants knew she was reviewing, they would do a better then usual job just to impress her and receive a more positive but unjustified review.  

On the other hand major chefs are voicing their long standing view that in all fairness anyone with the power to review (and sometimes ruin) a restaurant after a single evening’s dining should sign their name to their story and be publicly responsible for what they written. (Imagine if Robert Parker never signed his wine reviews: without a name it is impossible to be reassured concerning the qualifications of the reviewer).

In considering this controversy, it’s important to touch base with both our own American past as well as to think about our culinary cousins across the Atlantic pond.  Many US culinary critics past and present regularly sign their reviews.  Lucius Beebe was one such critic whose picture even appeared on the cover on Life Magazine – no secrets there. 

He wrote and proudly signed his many articles and books, writing about cuisine, style, travel and even trains - a favorite side topic that won him many awards. And though easily recognizable by his elegant attire, his reviews never suffer from his visibility and he helped many great restaurants to become famous and successful.

In Europe many food critics are considered culture stars and are both respected and admire for their expertise and leadership.  The Spanish food critic Rafael Garcia Santos is one such individual.  Even the stylized French critic Anton Ego in the must-see food movie Rataouille proudly signs his reviews.

Additionally those readers who have worked in professional kitchens know that ‘re-tooling’ the menu for a single diner on a single night is next to impossible.  Too many vendors and suppliers would be involved not to mentioned the required retraining of the entire kitchen and floor staff.

Such a point of view also seems to reflect a negative view of an industry that works to be both positive and professional every day.  Chefs by nature are creative and stand proudly by what they and their staffs share each day with dining guests.      

And as everyone knows, in this day of email and Facebook, a restaurant doing less than its best will soon be known as displeased diners light up the social network with alerts about negative experiences – all faster than any newspaper can be printed. Yet even these often young (and sometimes inexperienced) reviewers sign with their email address when posting their thoughts.

No one contests the power of a published review but perhaps in this era of growing transparency it should not surprise any of us that as Bob Doylan wrote “the times they are a-changingand perhaps for the better.

Your Culinary World copyright Ana Kinkaid/Peter Schlagel 2010