Wednesday, September 13, 2006

The Future of the Wine Advocate

It is the sign of the times. Instead of waiting for the next printed issue of the Wine Advocate to announce sweeping changes in its staffing, Robert Parker opted to post a thread on the Squires forum housed in the Web site.

Details about the new staff critics dominated Parker's post, but he also revealed new directions for the Wine Advocate's reporting and Web strategies. Parker has entrusted David Schildknecht to handle the bulk of the Wine Advocate's content. In addition to his current beat in Germany and Alsace, Schildknecht will also be covering Burgundy, Champagne, Loire, Languedoc-Roussilllon, New Zealand, and South Africa. Yet that's not all, with more critics on hand, the Wine Advocate is also looking to reach out to other wine frontiers heretofore given little coverage. Thus, Schildknecht's mandate includes reporting Central Europe and the United States' East Coast and Midwest winegrowing regions. Given his wide-ranging role, no doubt Schildknecht is Parker's new right hand man.

During the runup to the announcement, Parker observers heavily predicted Antonio Galloni, the young New York-based editor and publisher of the popular online Piedmont Report, to join the Wine Advocate. They were, of course, correct. Galloni will be covering all of Italy this time and, get this, the entire content of the Piedmont Report will be made accessible in

The other two new members of the staff are Parker cronies. Dr. J. Miller, Parker's longtime friend and supposed clone, will be taking on wine regions known for producing Port-like wines: Australia, Spain, and of course Oporto. Plus, he will be reporting on wines of the Pacific Northwest and South America. Meanwhile, Mark Squires gets the all-important task of writing about the dry wines of Portugal.

Parker, presumably, is a much happier man now, as he gets to focus on his main bailiwick of Bordeaux, Rhône Valley (and Provence), and California.

Parker also hinted bringing in a "critic-at-large" for the Web site. One who's "a prolific writer who will provide remarkable diversity and expertise, and will represent a point of view outside the American perspective that now dominates this site.” Hmmm. Could this be Michel Bettane?

Highlighting the importance of engaging readers directly via the Web, Parker also stated increased Web participation of the Wine Advocate staff: “All of us will be even more active on the Mark Squires Bulletin Board that appears on the web site”. For sure, this new emphasis on the Web will draw even more traffic to the Web site.

Overall, Parker is to be congratulated on most of these changes. The strong presence of Schildknecht and Galloni gives the Wine Advocate great credibility in the areas these two gentlemen will cover. No doubt they will help boost readership for the Wine Advocate, which, needless to say, must happen as the publication now has a considerable payroll to meet.

Perhaps more importantly, the reorganization also paves the way for the publication to thrive beyond Parker. The Wine Advocate is now a viable brand on its own. Competing wine media should take notice.

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