The article in the SF Chronicle today by W. Blake Gray does a good job of explaining the dynamics of an industry driven by recommendations. It also does a good job of pointing out what can happen when a handful of gatekeepers serve as the main source of those recommendations.
But sentiments like this irk me:
Winemakers and some oenophiles like to complain about the “Parkerization” of wine, implying that Parker’s personal taste for dramatic, powerful wines has taken over the world…
“We’ve gone from 13 percent alcohol to 15 percent because of this,” says importer Neal. “For some people in the wine business, if a wine gets a 95-point score, it’s a tip that the wine will be disgusting to us.”
“We’ve moved away from people making their own artisan wines with their own vision to people saying, ‘I thought I was doing pretty good until I got an 87 on this Pinot Noir,’ ” says Sebastiani’s Lyon.
Rubbish! It’s pretty disingenuous for folks to claim that the producers getting the high scores, or the ones that want high scores, are somehow “forced” to make wines that they themselves don’t enjoy. Everyone needs to align their product with a market, no matter how small. If you choose to go after the mass market, then you’re going to have to contend with the mass market’s preferences.
Here’s a flowchart I made that explains how wine really gets made.
So much hate, and for what? This rating system and these reviewers have led to an expanding market for wine and countless cases of wine sold!
I’ve beaten this example about to death, but Jordan Winery has gotten almost exclusively mid and low 70′s from Parker, and yet they are the number one most requested brand in restaurants. How to explain it? Easy: The path to wine sales doesn’t go through Parker and WS exclusively.
If you view a high score from Bob or Jim as simply a nice bonus – if it happens – and conduct the rest of your marketing, PR and branding as if your life doesn’t depend on their opinion of your wine, you should do fine. The trick is to be creative and make your wines and winery remarkable to your particular market.
Still not convinced? Check out the new study on consumer purchase decisions Steve at Vinfolio posted about yesterday. For wines priced over $20/bottle, 72% of those surveyed said that knowledgeable friends were their number one source of wine recommendations. Even more striking, 24% said they got wine related info from wine blogs – double that of Parker.
Find the people your target demographic listen to and make them like your wines. Likely this will mean getting your hands dirty and creating relationships with a lot of unwashed bloggers, or being extra-sweet to the folks that come into your tasting room. Who knows, you might forge some friendships along the way. And hey, you might even get in on the ground floor with the next Robert Parker.
You never know.