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09.11.2008

Robert Parker Watch Your Back

In the circles of wine lovers I travel in, many folks make a common observation about the evolving landscape of wine criticism. Namely that the era of Robert M. Parker, Jr. is coming to a close, and a new world of wine critics are emerging. I'm not sure I'd personally describe what I see happening in the wine world in quite those terms, but it's clear that Parker has been doing some succession planning in the past couple of years with many of the new additions to his staff. It's also clear that there are many new voices in the world of wine criticism, and some of them are beginning to carry serious weight.

One in particular seems to be rapidly gaining in power and influence, to the point that he is making markets for wine -- when he writes about a wine, it flies off the shelves and skyrockets in price.

His name is Shizuku Kanzaki, and he is a cartoon character.

Specifically, he is the sommelier hero of the Japanese comic book series Kami no Shizuku, or "Droplets of the Gods." Long time readers will remember that I have written about him before. But apparently he's gone from novelty to downright phenomenon. And when I say that he is gaining in power and influence, a single number may suffice to demonstrate that fact:

Number of subscribers to Robert Parker's Wine Advocate: 50,000
Estimated number of individual readers of Kami no Shizuku: 500,000

Influence on wine prices and inventories aside, the most impressive impact of this imaginary wine critic seems to me to be the fact that sommelier classes for women are "fully booked" in Japan.

How cool is that? Beats the heck out of the "Sideways Effect."

Read the latest story.

Comments (7)

Arthur wrote:
09.11.08 at 10:57 PM

Cool.

Has Kanzakisan gotten slapped with any fines for defamation yet? Or do they not have those in Japan?

Mark Slater wrote:
09.12.08 at 7:41 AM

Alder,
The inevitable has happened. I may as well go and join the circus.

Mark

Eric Hall wrote:
09.12.08 at 10:19 AM

You can actually download the entire translated version of these wine adventures online.. if anyone is interested ping me at Eric@Pinotfestival.com and I'll show them where. They are actually quite well done and clever, and if I can figure out the legality of it all, I'd like to have a bunch printed up for a giveaway at the upcoming Pinot on the River festival.

Dale Cruse wrote:
09.13.08 at 6:57 AM

I'd love to find a translated copy. Any idea if it exists?

And if Wine Library TV is getting 60,000+ viewers a day, it's already surpassed Parker. Wow.

Lenny Pepperidge wrote:
09.13.08 at 9:46 AM

Sounds interesting, but it's not really breaking new ground. Many of us in the wine business have long considered Parker to be a cartoon character.

Jo Diaz wrote:
09.13.08 at 9:49 AM

Silkwood Wines proprietor John Monnich turned me onto the fact that JAL has 1000 in-flight attendants, and 741 of are sommeliers. This is because flight attendant are encouraged - in down-time (which hopefully no airline really has "down time") to study and become sommeliers. The times - they are a'changin'. I still love having Parker around, though, because he's been speaking to lots of us for a very long time, and now serves as the inspiration for lots of us; i.e., to write about our passion... wine.

Dylan wrote:
09.14.08 at 6:05 PM

Japan really taps into interesting genres, I feel as though nothing is off-limits. I once saw a "hot-blooded" as they are called, cartoon show for Tennis; one character's 'special serve' literally took on a visual metaphor of being a dinosaur-killing meteor.

My younger brother saw a japanese cartoon based solely on "Go," a 2,000 year old board game that now has wide-spread popularity worldwide, and specifically in Asia; Now he and his group of friends are all playing it--he's even started to get me into it.

There's a certain power in entertainment's ability to inspire us to try something we never thought we could do. I wonder how many kid's are aching to be swimmers after watching Michael Phelps this summer?

Entertain and you will inspire.

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Required Reading for Wine Lovers

The Oxford Companion to Wine by Jancis Robinson The Taste of Wine by Emile Peynaud Adventures on the Wine Route by Kermit Lynch Love By the Glass by Dorothy Gaiter & John Brecher Noble Rot by William Echikson The Science of Wine by Jamie Goode The Judgement of Paris by George Taber The Wine Bible by Karen MacNeil The Botanist and the Vintner by Christy Campbell The Emperor of Wine by Elin McCoy The World Atlas of Wine by Hugh Johnson The World's Greatest Wine Estates by Robert M. Parker, Jr.