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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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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.