The latest assault on the establishment media by blogger barbarians involves accusations hurled at Robert Parker and his staff by a blogger who took time out from his all-expenses paid press trip to cast aspersions on the Parker team’s integrity. A couple of members of Parker’s writing staff allegedly accepted hosted press trips to various wine regions. So what? Does that mean that these writers are completely corrupted and likely to heap praise on mediocre wines? I doubt it.
I have observed the work of Robert Parker since he started writing about wine, and I have always admired his highly-developed work ethic as well as the volume and quality of the criticism he provides consumers. His standards are thoroughly consistent and extremely precise.
Critics are an essential part of any field that offers a variety of choices to consumers. Legitimate industry leaders in all of these areas welcome, or at least accept, the necessity of critical commentary. To this purpose people that make movies, own restaurants, publish books, produce concerts, sell art, release recordings or make wine and spirits employ people to interact with critics—to inform them of new products, to show these products in as favorable a light as possible and to help reviewers gain easy access to these products. These people are called public relations specialists, and they are a basic part of bringing useful information to consumers.
The implication of some of these militant bloggers is that any contact between producer and critic is a sign of corruption. Does accepting review copies of books, movie tickets or wine samples constitute undue influence? Should wine critics be required to spend over $100,000 a year to buy wines for review just to avoid even the appearance of taint?
And who are these bloggers anyway and, more important, what is their motivation? It would be comforting to find that they are altruistic wine lovers who see their purpose as bringing insight and valuable information to like-minded consumers. But the image that presents itself is of bitter, carping gadflies who, as they stare into their computer screens and contemplate their dreary day jobs, let their resentment and sense of personal failure take shape as vicious attacks on the established critical media.
I’m sure this is a condition that could be quickly remedied by the appearance at their door of the FedEx man bearing multiple new release samples.
Anthony Dias Blue