Tuesday, March 3, 2009
DR. JAY'S MAGIC SNAKE OIL
I have this ongoing issue with Robert Parker's Wine Advocate. No, I am not talking about wine ratings (that's the other 800 lb. Gorilla in the room). And not with Mr. Parker per se, but with one of his current contributing reviewers, a Dr. Jay Miller. I have written a few emails to the magazine, complaining that Dr. Miller's coverage of Australia, South America, Spain and pretty much anything he does, is a bit frustrating, because of all these wines he scores, yet offers no tasting notes whatsoever.
In a response on the first go-around, I was actually told that he DIDN'T EVEN PROVIDE THE MAGAZINE WITH HIS TASTING NOTES! I responded, "Why does he even bother? And more directly, why do you?" I can't understand how somebody can do their job half-ass and still keep it (insert joke about a politician or corporate executive here).
I was then told that they're isn't enough room in the magazine. I told them to do at least what Spectator does, whatever content doesn't fit in the print medium, list it as WEB ONLY. Hell, that alone is why I subscribe to the online versions of all these wine mags.
Isn't that the smart thing to do?
Which brings me back to my complaining to RP, this whole compulsion to dole out "LISTS" of "VALUE WINES." The fact that it is simply the low end of the economic spectrum shows you that the intended audience of this magazine is the high-end trophy wine buyers who couldn't give a crap about a good $10 wine. The fact that said $10 wine scored 90 points should be enough right? But in using these reviews to help sell wine (which I unfortunately am forced to do in this market), I need more than points. Customers want to see what it was that earned the wine such a score, or at least see where the taster's mind was when trying said wine.
It's tough for me to bash on RP. For years, I have looked up to David Schildknect, Wine Advocate's resident reviewer of German and Austrian wines (since going full-time for RP, he has added Alsace, Loire, South Africa and other regions to his duties). David is considered one of, if not THE authority on German and Austrian wines in the world (so much so that Jancis Robinson had David rewrite the German section in the latest edition of the Oxford Companion to Wine), so it pains me to be complaining to his employer, but if Mr. Parker is trying working toward turning his magazine over to a younger generation, or just wanting to move into a Publisher's role (like Marvin Shanken at WS), then he should expect nothing but the best from his reviewers. David, along with Antonio Galloni, who is arguably one of the best Italian wine reviewers out there, and Neal Martin who works on New Zealand, as well as wine writing illuminaries Kevin Zraly, Karen MacNeil, Lisa Perrotti-Brown, Mark Squires and Lettie Teague, I have to say that Dr. Jay Miller - you are the weakest link.