The Death of The Wine Critic Is Greatly Exaggerated

By Charles Olken

I have been reading about my death (professional, not personal) for a half dozen years now, and maybe more, depending on when the jabbering classes stopped dissing the Wine Spectator and turned their collective ire on Robert Parker. Now, to be sure, Mr. Parker is getting old and he has amassed both a great deal of power and respect on the one hand, and a growing but hardly equal amount of disdain on the other.

But this is not an essay about Parker. It is about me. Like Mr. Parker, I am a wine critic and I am getting older. In fact, I am older than Mr. Parker and that means that my “death” must be even more imminent than his. I wish it were not so, but every time someone mentions the role of the wine critic in today’s more robust wine commentary world, along comes some well-spoken individual to announce that critics are no longer important. They are a dying breed, soon to be replaced by sommeliers or winery social media efforts or bloggers or the ever-popular “voice of the people”.

Now, I will admit that there are many more pathways to wine information than ever before. The Internet has seen to that. But here is a funny thing, despite that fact that we critics are dead and don’t know it, wine consumers keep buying our words and following our recommendations. In this, there can really be no dispute. We are all still in business and in no danger of being tossed out with yesterday’s lunch.

Just as wine consumers ultimately determine whether to buy a given wine or not, so too do they ultimately determine whether Mr. Parker or the Wine Spectator or Connoisseurs’ Guide is surviving or not. The wistful thinking of wineries who do not like getting low scores or bloggers who wish they were making money but aren’t or sommeliers who think that they are the new arbiters of taste notwithstanding, the critics are not dead. They simply have more company. Welcome to the future. It feels like heaven to me.


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