Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Robert Parker steps down as editor of The Wine Advocate – the end of an era?

In news that has rocked the usually sedate wine world this week, US wine critic Robert Parker has stepped down as editor-in-chief of The Wine Advocate after selling “a substantial interest” of the company to a trio of Singapore-based investors. As reported on db.com, Parker has appointed Singapore-based correspondent Lisa Perrotti-Brown MW as the new editor-in-chief of the bi-monthly publication, with the investors taking over the financial operations.
Parker told the Wall Street Journal’s Lettie Teague he had taken on the investors after being presented with “a plan he couldn’t refuse”, though refused to name them. On his erobertparker.com bulletin board he refers to them as: “Three highly qualified business and technology people and enthusiastic wine lovers.” In an announcement to his subscribers earlier this week, Parker revealed significant structural changes were to take place at TWA following the move.
He intends to turn the print version of his bi-monthly newsletter, which has grown to be one of the world’s most influential wine publications, into a printable pdf version for his 50,000 subscribers, with a Kindle version in the offing. Another surprising step for the fiercely independent publication is that it is to start accepting advertising, though spaces will be limited to luxury lifestyle rather than wine-related companies.
The new investors plan to release a condensed Southeast Asian edition aimed at corporate clients such as luxury hotels and airlines, while a new Singapore office is to be opened for Perroti-Brown MW to operate out of as editor. Guildford-based Wine Advocate correspondent Neal Martin welcomed the news. “I’m very happy about the move, it’s exciting both for myself and The Wine Advocate,” Martin told Wine and the City. “It means we can upgrade the website, conduct more tasting events and expand the readership in the Far East,” he added.
Perrotti-Brown will soon appoint a Singapore-based Asian correspondent to cover wines produced in China, Thailand and other Asian countries. Wine tasting events are also planned in China and Thailand, signaling a shift away from TWA’s previously staunchly independent stance. In his address to subscribers, Parker was keen to dispel rumours of his retirement. “Nothing could be further from the truth. I am still in this profession for the long-term as I remain the CEO and chairman of the TWA board, and an owner,” he said.
While Parker will continue to review the wines of Bordeaux and the Rhône, his stepping down as editor is a fascinating move with far-reaching implications, as is the decision to accept advertising and the introduction of Wine Advocate tasting events. For a publication that prides itself on its independence, this week’s news raises questions as to whether TWA will be able to continue in this vein. And with the emperor of wine relinquishing a large chunk of his power, does this signal a chance for the industry to become a democracy again after years of dictatorship? 

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