Robert M. Parker Advocates for Civility in Wine Writing

Robert Parker chatting with wine writers after addressing the Symposium for Professional Wine Writers

Robert Parker chatting with wine writers after addressing the Symposium for Professional Wine Writers

Videos, verbatims and viscissitudes have been flying through the blogosphere from many of the wine writers who attended last week’s annual Symposium for Professional Wine Writers held at Meadowood in Napa Valley. For your reading pleasure, I recommend posts by Alder Yarrow (Vinography), David White (Terroirist), Fred Swan (Norcalwine), Richard Jennings (RJonWine), Bill Ward (Decant This) and others who will no doubt weigh in on the conversation in coming days and weeks.

Despite significant physical challenges owing to recent back and knee surgeries, and literally on his way to China to help educate the newest wine frontier, Parker spent a full hour engaging in dialogue with fellow wine writers. Throughout the exchange, he pleaded for greater civility in wine writing and criticism. It was perhaps not surprising. Arguably one of the most important wine writers in the past 30 years — if not the most important — Parker has been an obvious and easy target, the object of much vitriol in the press.

His point was a simple one: it’s okay to disagree, but with civility. “Wine is something that brings people together” — or should, he argues. Parker encouraged original wine writing, noting that much of what is written for social media is derivative. “The idea of giving content away is crazy when people are willing to pay for informed, independent perspective. People do want to read tasting notes. They want to read a description, some kind of guidepost about what you think even if you don’t agree.”

He acknowledged that the world of wine, and of wine writing, is very competitive and invites criticism that unfortunately veers into incivility. Even so, Parker advises wine writers for whom he wishes great success to “stand up for what you believe in. Live and let live. Don’t worry about the fallout.”

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