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  • Marco Giovanetti

The Influence of wine critics on Today’s wine industry

Wine Essay 🖊️




The wine industry has long been influenced by wine critics, who evaluate and rate different wines based on their taste, aroma, and other features. These ratings have significantly impacted consumer behaviour, as they have guided buyers in their purchasing decisions. However, in recent years, the power of wine critics has been challenged by new players, including wine journalists, crowdsourcing platforms, and influencers. In this post, I will argue that while wine critics continue to have an impact on the wine industry, their position is no longer unassailable. I will explore the reasons for this shift and its implications for the wine industry.



Wine Critics and Wine Journalism


Professionals in the wine industry have been using scores for decades to assess wine quality. As a historical example, in the mid-18th century in Portugal, The Marquis of Pombal developed a framework for assessing vineyards for quality Port production. Furthermore, the 1855 Bordeaux classification was able to classify chateaux of the Medoc according to their price, highlighting their quality and demand. In today's wine industry, wine ratings have become a standard practice for online wine retailers, influencing even the manufacturing process. Traditional wine critics are often associated with publications such as Wine Spectator, Wine Enthusiast, and Decanter. Wine critics use a standardized rating system, usually based on a 100-point scale, to evaluate wines and provide reviews and recommendations. Generally speaking, a professional positive review increases demand by more than 6 percent in the week after it's published.






The Legacy of Robert Parker


In the wine industry, the elephant in the room question has been whether the use of these scores does lead to a dictatorship of taste to please the wine critic and ensure the commercial success of a wine producer. Naturally, one is referring here to the influence of the mythical figure of Robert Parker. Parker, the most important wine critic in the world, helped American and global consumers to make better choices about the wines they were drinking. Parker’s powerful influence on the wine industry came as a result of positively assessing the 1982 vintage of Bordeaux, which was the lifeline that the wine region needed. One can argue that he fostered the standardization of wine by creating a mandate of taste that was the formula of wine's financial success. According to Elon Mccoy, who wrote The Emperor of Wine: The Rise of Robert M. Parker Jr. and the Reign of American Taste, Parker “turns wine into a contest instead of an experience.”. To expand, the famous wine writer Hugh Johnson stated of Parker that the dictator of taste lives in Baltimore. At the bottom line, Parkerization, the stylization of wine to please Parker is a producer's choice that reflects its decision to make an artistic or commercial wine.


Robert Parker Jr, wine critic holding a glass of red wine
Robert M. Parker Jr. Credit: Getty

Still, the wine advocate, Parker’s legacy to the wine world continues to have influence on the wine world. This is particularly felt in the premier wine regions where Cabernet/Merlot blends dominate. This includes Napa Valley, the Bolgheri and of course Bordeaux. Parker and other critics were the moguls for the baby boom wine generation consumers, who relied on a great deal on expert advice. Today, wine criticism is evenly fractured representing the heterogeneous voice of other participants such as wine journalists, and wine influencers. According to Arvid Rosegren, Best Sommelier in the World 2016, contemporary wine consumers do not rely exclusively on scores to buy wine and pay more attention to the sensorial experience of wine.



Wine journalism and wine crowdsourcing platforms


The rise of wine journalism and wine crowdsourcing platform have been filling the void left by the fall of the traditional wine critic. Wine journalism is a form of journalism that focuses on wine, wine-making, wine regions, and related topics. With the advent of online wine publications, blogs, and social media platforms, wine journalism has become more accessible and diverse, allowing for a wider range of opinions and perspectives. One of the factors contributing to the growth of wine journalism is the rise of wine tourism. As more people travel to wine regions around the world, they become interested in learning more about the wines they taste and the people who produce them. In parallel, wine crowdsourcing refers to the practice of obtaining information and opinions about wine from a large number of people using online and social media platforms. Wine crowdsourcing democratizes access to wine information to the general public providing a greater level of product transparency. The most popular platforms for wine crowdsourcing are Vivino, Delectable, CellarTracker, Wine Folly and Wine Lister.




The impact of wine influencers on consumer behaviour


To continue, the rise of wine influence marketing via social media has significantly impacted the industry and consumer buying behaviour, curtailing the influence of the traditional wine critic as well The wine influencer is the social media influencer that navigates the wine industry influencing the choices of wine consumers. From their communication accounts such as Instagram, they simplify wine communication by giving advice or other useful information. According to the Digital Marketing Institute, 49% of wine consumers made purchases according to Influence Marketing.One of the reasons why wine influencers are so appealing to Generation Z is their relatability. Unlike traditional wine experts, who may seem intimidating or inaccessible to younger consumers, influencers often present themselves as approachable and down-to-earth. Through their online platforms, they create a space where wine enthusiasts can connect with each other, share their experiences and opinions, and learn from one another. This sense of community is particularly valuable to Generation Z, who prioritize social connection and meaningful relationships in their lives.


In conclusion, in today’s wine industry, wine critics do not continue to influence exclusively retail wine purchasing behaviour. The advent of the internet and social media with a younger demographic customer base has favoured the entrance of new participants in the industry such as wine crowdsourcing platforms and wine influencers. One should see this development as not a rivalry between participants but as a source of enrichment for the wine consumer. The biggest significance these industry insiders can give is to arouse and inspire wine consumers to keep learning about the beauty of wine.




References

1-“The Importance of Wine Scores and Why They Still Matter.” n.d. USA Trade Tasting. Accessed May 7, 2023. https://usatradetasting.com/en/blog/insights-1/the-importance-of-wine-scores-and-why-they-still-matter-497.htm.

2-Campisi, Victoria. 2021. “The Rising Influence of Professional Wine Ratings.” The Food Institute. November 24, 2021. https://foodinstitute.com/focus/the-rising-influence-of-professional-wine-ratings/.

3-Friberg, Richard, and Erik Grönqvist. “Do Expert Reviews Affect the Demand for Wine?” American Economic Journal: Applied Economics 4, no. 1 (2012): 193–211. http://www.jstor.org/stable/41419429.

4-Steinberger, Mike. 2005. “The Wino in Winter.” Slate. August 31, 2005. https://slate.com/technology/2005/08/robert-parker-s-influence-has-peaked.html.

5-Morris, Roger. 2020. “After Parker: Wine in the ‘Age of Re-Discovery.’” The Drinks Business. January 16, 2020. https://www.thedrinksbusiness.com/2020/01/wine-in-the-age-of-re-discovery/.

6-“The Good Wine Writer – Tim Atkin – Master of Wine.” n.d. Accessed May 7, 2023. https://timatkin.com/the-good-wine-writer/.

7-Saladino, Emily. 2021. “Wine Influencers Inspire Strong Reactions. But What’s the Harm in Being ‘Liked’?” Wine Enthusiast. April 6, 2021. https://www.winemag.com/2021/04/06/wine-influencers-major/.






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