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02.16.2011

Fight For Your Right to Write....About Wine

Much to-do has been made over the past week or two of Robert Parker's handing over his responsibilities for reviewing California wines at The Wine Advocate. By handing the mantle to Antonio Galloni, he further reduced his influence in the world of wine, and increased the focus on (and speculation about) the growing responsibilities of his staff of contributors.

Amidst speculation as to whether anyone can step in to fill the void that may be left by the waning power of Robert Parker, many are increasingly paying attention to the activities of James Suckling, who recently left the Wine Spectator to strike out on his own. Suckling quickly created his own subscription-based web site that he is populating with blogs, tasting notes, and videos.

This week Suckling made moves that suggest he may be even more ambitious than the theatrical trailer for his eponymous site might have suggested, with the appointment of former Beastie Boys front-man Mike D as a member of his wine blogging staff. As reported by web site Hip Hop DX, his first blog post hinted at some of the diversity he may bring to Suckling's enterprise, as he reviewed a half bottle of "red Burgundy" he drank at a fancy Asian restaurant in New York, calling it "surprisingly ready to rock -- ripe fruits, earthy notes, even a little bit of refined funk. Elegant and restrained with well-balanced tension. 93 points."

Whether future reviews will include any of D's masterful rhymes remains to be seen.

Speculation is rife at Suckling's strategy for filling out his own staff of contributors. Largely based on the videos he is making available to his subscribers, each featuring the owners or winemakers of the world's greatest and most expensive wines, many suggest that Suckling may be populating his site with the voices of the world's most highly paid entertainers, at least those that aren't already winemakers in their own right, such as Suckling's friend, heavy metal rocker Maynard James Keenan.

In a world where the best wines, at least those that deserve 100 points from James Suckling, are increasingly thousands of dollars out of the reach of ordinary consumers, having a staff of celebrity wine reviewers is undoubtedly a sound strategy. The unique combination of leisure time, existing private cellars filled with expensive wine, monstrous egos, and built in followings of raving fans will surely ensure Suckling can corner the market on the world's most exclusive bottlings while generating exponential growth in his reader base.

Any bets on who's next? I've got my money on blind tenor Andreas Bocelli, who Suckling undoubtedly knows thanks to his (rightfully) proud promotion of his daughter's rising career as an opera singer. Bocelli has everything going for him, not the least of which is the fact that as a blind guy who sings, his palate has got to be great, right?

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Comments (13)

Tim Elliott wrote:
02.17.11 at 5:45 AM

This would make for a great April Fool's post if it weren't true... as Dylan once said, "The Times They Are a-Changin."

1WineDude wrote:
02.17.11 at 6:38 AM

I LOVE the Beasties. But this is weird.

Phil wrote:
02.17.11 at 7:31 AM

This brings up an interesting point about our great future of magazine-less wine criticism (tongue firmly in :), I know you don't feel this way Alder): it's sort of extremely expensive to procure immense amounts of wine samples, so anyone wanting to do so either needs ultra-rich friends or compliant producers who will send them for free. So even if the magazines and current uber-critics like Parker go away, aren't we just going to end up with a new group of small uber-critics?

Meet the new boss, same as the old one?

Phil wrote:
02.17.11 at 7:33 AM

Sorry, that bit about new critics isn't clear as I wrote it, what I mean is a new small group of uber-critics, not that the new critics themselves will be small...

CJ and PK wrote:
02.17.11 at 7:53 AM

Thank goodness for that - we're both over 5'10", and we'd be happy to volunteer as uber-critics...

Tracy wrote:
02.17.11 at 8:07 AM

Good lord, as if the rating systems weren't already suspect enough, although, it may be interesting to find out if the requisite "bitches" "pimps" and "ho"s of hip hop are parlayed into a new rating system. Is it too much to ask to find out what someone liked and why, preferably someone with enough experience to know pretense from substance and enough humanity to be able to get the point across without resorting to excessively exclusive vernacular?

Alder Yarrow wrote:
02.17.11 at 9:04 AM

Tracy, perhaps you haven't seen Sadat X?

Dennis Schaefer wrote:
02.17.11 at 9:52 AM

I'm 93 points on that post, even though it was bit cheeky.

02.17.11 at 10:03 AM

I love the comment with the 'April Fool's'. The future will tell.

Chuck Hayward wrote:
02.17.11 at 11:54 AM

It's not "I'm 93 points on that." As the great Sadat X asks, "What's the fucked up factor on this?"

Tracy wrote:
02.17.11 at 1:26 PM

Alder, no. I was woefully? wonderfully? uneducated. That has been remedied. Now, if you'll excuse me, I must go explain to my husband why I'm laughing at my laptop like an insane woman in the middle of the day.

Jason Cohen wrote:
02.17.11 at 7:26 PM

I think there's a really good teat-suckling joke to be made here.

tom hyland wrote:
02.22.11 at 7:10 AM

Alder:

If someone else wrote this post, I would have thought it was a joke, but I know that you keep up on the latest news and report what's going on. Still, I couldn't resist clicking on the link to make sure this was really happening.

This really is all about self-promotion for Suckling - you nailed it. I just returned from Tuscany where a producer told me about Suckling's upcoming event with dozens of local producers (who will foot the bill). The event will be held at Sting's estate in the Chianti Colli Fiorentini zone, of course! Another opportunity for Suckling to mingle with celebrities.

As you said, wine analysis like this is out of the reach of ordinary consumers.

Nice to see you in NYC a few weeks ago.

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