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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."

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Required Reading for Wine Lovers

The Oxford Companion to Wine by Jancis Robinson Wine Grapes The World Atlas of Wine by Hugh Johnson to cork or not to cork by George Taber reading between the vines by Terry Theise 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 Taste of Wine by Emile Peynaud