Do Wine Scores (and Critics) Matter? Bloomsberg Columnist Elin McCoy on Robert Parker (Video)

Our guest this evening is an award-winning journalist and wine columnist for both Bloomberg News and Decanter magazine. Her most recent book, The Emperor of Wine: The Rise of Robert M. Parker, Jr. and the Reign of American Taste, garnered international praise.

She has also written for Food & Wine magazine, House Beautiful, The New York Times and House & Garden. She serves regularly as a wine judge in international competitions, appears on radio and television, and is a frequent speaker at wine festivals and industry events.

And she joins me live now from her home in Connecticut: Welcome to the Sunday Sipper Club Elin McCoy!

Click on the “Follow” and “Like” buttons on this Facebook page to get notified when we go live.

Click on the arrow above to hear Elin’s story.

Want to know when we go live with our next guest?

Click on “Get Reminder” on the page below:

www.nataliemaclean.com/live

Click on “Get Notified” at the link above to know when we go live.

You can also click on “Follow” and “Like” buttons to know when we make updates.

Watch previous episodes of the Sunday Sipper Club (SSC) and to find out who’s coming up next.

 

Elin McCoy is an award-winning journalist and author, focusing on the world of wine. She is a wine and spirits columnist for Bloomberg News, where she writes for their global news wire, and is a columnist for Decanter magazine. McCoy’s most recent book is The Emperor of Wine: The Rise of Robert M. Parker, Jr. and the Reign of American Taste, which garnered international praise and has appeared in five foreign editions. She is also the co-author of Thinking About Wine.

A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, McCoy attended graduate school at the University of London and New York University. She was a contributing editor on wine at Food & Wine for 25 years and has been a columnist for House Beautiful, Las Vegas Life, Shattered, and Drink. In addition, she has written on a wide variety of subjects for many national publications, including The New York Times and House & Garden. McCoy serves regularly as a wine judge in American and international competitions, appears on radio and television, and is a frequent speaker at wine festivals, symposia and industry events.

Elin McCoy is at work on a new book set in California. When not traveling, she lives in Connecticut with her husband, writer/artist John Frederick Walker.

Robert Parker is considered one of the most powerful wine critics on the planet. What drew you to his story in the first place? Where were you? Why were you intrigued?

What was the most surprising insight you discovered while writing this book?

Do you think that some winemakers changed the way they made wine to suit their taste? Does that still happen?

What unusual or extraordinary things have winemakers done to get Parker’s attention, aside from changing the way they make wine?

Parker has sold his brand to an investment company, though still remains involved in the business. How has his role in reviewing diminished? Fewer wines/regions each year?

What’s the most interesting thing that someone has said about your book?

How did Robert Parker respond to your book? What did he disagree with?

What were the consequences or changes in the wine industry, or for the people involved, as a result of your book?

Apart from Parker, who are the leading (old school) wine critics today?

Does a 100-point score mislead consumers more than it helps them?

What is meant by the tyranny of the tasting note?

With the rise of internet wine bloggers and social media, is the old system of wine criticism (the ivory tower critic) with 100 point scores, over?

What proof do you see that they are less influential than they were?

In some regions, especially the expensive ones like Bordeaux, will they endure?

With thousands of blogs and social shares, is this more democratic or more confusing?

Is anyone really listening to them with so many clamouring for attention?

What’s the impact of having no fact checkers and copy editors?

What happens to balance in a story when it’s not mandated by publication guidelines?

What about the lack of independence, especially for paid influencers?

Should you criticize wines that are boring, overpriced?

Who are the leading lights of the new generation?

Describe one of the leading wine critics of the future, say 5-10 years from now. Who is this person? What does he/she write about? How does he/she reach her constituency?

 

Neil Phillips30:00 They’re importent I think for relativity. Both amongst wines, but also within the scoring of a reviewer who you may get to “know”. (Same principle as film critics.)
Lynda Fedor Michaels59:58 What an interesting session! Thank you Elin. Your authenticity is refreshing and I look forward to reading more of your work.
Neil Phillips31:15 I also appreciate the perspective of a knowledgeable critic/reviewer, versus the masses on a site like Vivino.
Top Fan

Mike Welling33:14 What percentage of all the wines out there are actually rated with a score? Is it all, or if now, how do wines get selected for rating?

 

Douglas Trapasso1:44 Did mr. Parker ever work in a restaurant? I don’t remember anyone saying he was a sommelier but wonder if he caught the wine big having worked in restaurant.

 

Reva K. Singh1:05:56 Thank you Natalie and Elin. I really enjoyed listening to Elin’s views and thoughts. I’m not a great fan of scores either. And now I feel somewhat justified. It was well worth staying up! Thanks again. Good night.
Top Fan

Lori Kilmartin35:22 I often pull up Natalie’s site in my phone when in the LCBO and look up wines. I look at the reviews of people I know have the same “tastes” as I do and take that into account when deciding what I am going to buy!

Roger Caughell33:47 Our LCBO guy is pretty good, especially when he is substituting for a sold out listing. However, appreciate a specific critic’s score, particularly when one starts to recognize consistent terms in her :-) commentary.
Top Fan

Dave Head44:08 The right glass can change the numbers

Neil Phillips49:46 Realistically, though, the “100 point” scale is really only a 20-point scale. (At best.)
David Harmon34:44 I prefer the way Amazon rates books- If you like this stye by this producer you might like this wine by another producer. Wine is Art – One person may love it and another does not.. Nobody is wrong!
Linda White Alexander1:03:36 What a fabulous down to earth information-filled guest!
Top Fan

Lori Kilmartin1:04:39 Really enjoyed this chat Natalie! She could be a repeat guest!

Top Fan

Lori Kilmartin15:54 Do you ever get contacted after by wineries after you have given them a really low score? If so – what do they say??

 

Patti Wright Hollander30:54 Such a great topic! Looking forward to reading your book, Elon.

 

Lynda Fedor Michaels33:22 I appreciate a sommelier who asks about my preferences and offers options.

 

Top Fan

Dave Head1:01:00 Funny, Kermit Lynch newletters, no #’s mentioned, only great stories of wine

 

Neil Phillips52:24 It’s partly space as well, Lori: anything less than 80 would be considered faulty so why write up?
Lynda Fedor Michaels41:09 Wine can give us a global perspective!

 

Gwen Barton31:25 If you find a reviewer whose “taste” aligns with yours….. their scores can be helpful
Lynda Fedor Michaels23:24 I love that you think about wine in terms of what you are doing!

 

Lynda Fedor Michaels22:20 I’m curious, when you write about wine how, if at all, does your audience inform your perspective?
Top Fan

Dave Head22:11 Is Two Buck Chuck still a thing?

Neil Phillips32:21 The LCBO is now brutal re score prejudice – as, alas, the market responds accordingly.
Top Fan

Dave Head12:34 For me it’s the 20 point scale

Frances Furmankiewicz20:11 What is the most expensive wine you’ve ever tasted?
Heather Proctor43:50 I agree. I like wines you like, so I buy wines that you score highly, under $15!

 

Top Fan

James Norton38:45 I always ask for a taste. I’ll try it to see if I think i will like it.

Alan Cameron2:20 Have either you or your guest ever scored a 100…??? on a wine…??
Top Fan

John Morrison58:10 Drink what you like and take any advice to widen the wine experience.

Top Fan

James Norton26:41 Yes, everyone has different olfactory sensations

David Harmon15:00 Elin – What is your favorite type of wine?
Neil Phillips0:05 Looking forward to tongiht’s discussion: the point scale is, well, a marketing dream now…

 

Top Fan

Lori Kilmartin31:05 I know the LCBO when looking at bringing in new wines place a lot of value on reviews and scores. They don’t taste every wine that is submitted and the first “go round” for selection is based on the awards, scores etc. The wine has received.

David Harmon1:02:19 Elin & Natalie – Great show – You are both invited to my winery in Napa Carneros della Notte and Own A Napa Vineyard .com
Alan Cameron2:42 What is the LOWEST score you have ever given…?
Douglas Trapasso1:44 Big = bug

 

Dennis Schaefer9:36 Elin is one smart wine person.
Top Fan

Sam Hauck16:28 As a wine writer and judge my answer to your question is yes and no. When judging in a competition, I am tasked with evaluating the wines presented and selecting those that are best. And yes some wines are better than others. On the other hand too many people get too focused on scores and miss out on some lovely wines. A lovely rosé on a great day with the right person is th eperfect wine.

Neil Phillips19:24 The classic JR scale!
Top Fan

Sam Hauck47:44 In the beginning I included my 20 point scores with my reviews, but then felt that I needed to explain that to people who were used to the 100 point scale. Instead of converting to that system, I tried to simplify it by limiting it to three medal options – Bronze, Silver or Gold. This too was confusing since some competitions have Double Gold and Platinum awards. Finally, I decided to just describe the wine and not bother ‘rating’ them – a much better decision.

Full Transcript:

Natalie: 00:00:01 Alright, so the issue tonight is one of the most hotly debated in
wine. Do wind scores, and for that matter, wine critics still
matter. Do you buy your wines based on a score maybe on a
shelf slip or something you read in a newspaper, magazine or
online, and do winemakers make their wines to get higher critic
scores.


Natalie: 00:02:42 All right, so let me tell you about our very special guest tonight.
she is an award-winning journalist and wine columnist for both
Bloomberg News and to magazine her most recent book, the
Emperor of why the rise, Robert and Parker Jr. And the reign of
american taste garnered international praise.


Natalie: 00:03:06 She has also written for food and wine magazine house.
Beautiful. The New York times and house and garden. She
serves regularly as a wine judge in international competitions.
Appears on radio and television and she is a frequent speaker at
wine festivals and industry events and she joins me now, live
from her home in Connecticut. Welcome to the Sunday Sipper
Club, Elin McCoy. Hello. Hi Natalie. It’s so nice to be with you. A
terrific. That’s great. I’m so glad to be connected. So many
people are looking forward to our conversation tonight. Elin.
Now let’s just start off with maybe a couple of your favorite
stories before we dive into Robert Parker and scores and all that
sort of thing. Now tell me a bit about the hazards of vineyards
as you travel around the world. You’re off tomorrow morning to
do another destination. Tell me about what it’s like in vineyards,
especially when there are multiple vehicles involved. Will,


Elin: 00:04:07 You know, I think everyone has such a, an interesting view of
what a wine writer does and often I’ve heard from people that
they think, oh, you’re always in these great restaurants and
lining up these great wines and it’s not always like that because
if you really want them to understand why you have to go
where they’re making it and usually a wine maker or we’ll
say, do you want to go and see the vineyard? So, of course, you
say yes, because that’s where the grapes are and that’s where
the wine comes from. And I remember, which brings me to a
little story about the time I went to a winery and Mendocino, I’d
never been there before first, there was the terrible drive that
going up into the middle of nowhere. And when I was asked you
want to go see the vineyard?


Elin: 00:05:10 I said, well, how we got there? Oh, we’re going in this big truck.
I thought what can happen in a big so off we go on this truck.
And what I hadn’t realized was that several days before it had rained
and rained and rained and rained. And in fact was cloudy
as we were driving through the vineyard. It was so muddy in the
vineyard that the truck, which was a pretty big truck, got
completely stuck. So we had to get out and try to actually push
the truck, which was useless. I had not really prepared for
stepping into huge puddles of mud and squish. So my feet were
getting sort of sucked down into the vineyard. And the
viniculture as of cultural, as just said, you know, we’re just going
to have to climb up the vineyard. And so I’m starting, you know,
trying to climb up in the slippery mud and then he said, just
remember, don’t grab the great shows thinking, oh my god, I’m
trying to grab onto anything, you know, to hell with the grape
bunches.


Elin: 00:06:28 So that’s the other side of that, of course, is that, that people
take you around in the most frightening looking, open ATV all-terrain
vehicle and are turning around as you go down a slope
that’s just almost vertical, which is exactly what Robert Kamen,
the screenwriter who was buying karate kid did with me on top
in Sonoma. So this was another vineyard experienced that was
terrifying. he didn’t see it that way, but I was extremely happy
to get true that tasting room. So what can I say? Always be
careful about the shoes you wear when you go to a vineyard.


Natalie: 00:07:27 Did it get your painting the fence? Like the karate kid or
anything like that?


Elin: 00:07:32 Oh no, no, he did Let me read a screenplay though. I’m asked
for my comments, which was very nice of him. and he’s great,
great, hilarious person. And making a really interesting,
wonderful wine too.


Natalie: 00:07:53 I didn’t realize that it doesn’t have any namesake with the
karate kid or is it? No, no, it’s called.


Elin: 00:07:59 He uses his own name.’


Natalie: 00:09:32 I don’t even know what your take on scores, like, are you using
them regularly in what you write about? I know you do long-form
and narrative and, and that sort of journalism  are you
I, you know, people seem to like it. sometimes I just use, when
I’m taking my own notes, a lot of times I just use a star system
where it’s a one to five stars unless I’m really tasting quite
seriously specifically for a specific article.


Natalie: 00:10:41 Right. Good. And what’s the lowest score you’ve ever given? 0!
Did you ever publish?


Elin: 00:10:51 well, I did not publish a zero score. I actually, I think that there
are some wines that I’ve had that I would give a minus score.
Certainly, anything that’s flawed, you know, like it’s got loaded
with volatile acidity that’s just, you know, awful or it has
absolutely horrible flavors. you know, yes, I’ve had a
lot of bad. I’m sorry to tell you that


Natalie: 00:11:21 that’s good. It’s not all just Chateau Margaux every day arriving
at your doorstep, Elin, no, no,


Elin: 00:11:27 I’m sorry. It’s not all Chateau Margaux. And in fact I’ve had, I
think one of my very fun things in which I, I believe I did use a
scoring system was when Bloomberg said, Elin, would you be
willing to do this? You know excuse me Starbucks has just
started there, now serving wine and one of the first ones in the
country opened in Brooklyn and they were going to have the wine
they’ve since discontinued this program, and I arrived and
immediately went over to look at the menu and so on. And I
said, okay, I would like a glass of every one of those wines and I
would like one of each of the dishes that you suggest pairing
with all these wines and could I have them at that table over
there? Everyone in the entire Starbucks was on laptops and
they were drinking coffee and no one apparently had ordered
any of these wines that were now available. And the at the
counter, they said she’d been now, could you pay now, please
that I think they thought I was just going to duck out without
paying. And I heard this little boy who was there with his mom,
a say and quite loud voice to his mother to see that lady over
there. She’s, she’s drinking. She has 10 glasses of wine. anyway,
let me just tell you, it was not like tasting Chateau Margaux.
there was a reason why


Natalie: 00:13:24 just continue or did it not work? I’m intrigued because we
haven’t had a wine in Starbucks here in Canada yet. so did they
just, was this an experiment for Starbucks that didn’t work or
just that one branch? What was happening there? It didn’t
work. They didn’t, they, I think that they found that


Elin: 00:13:44 nobody really ordered wine. I asked him who was ordering wine
and they said bible study groups, which surprised me because I
number one, didn’t know Bible study groups actually met in
Starbucks, but I’m at a lot of people. They claimed in other parts
of the country we’re ordering the wines. But the wines were
interesting enough and you know, I think I gave them all pretty
low scores that were, there was, there were one or two that
actually were really quite good for the price. but as an idea
that’s not why people go to Starbucks and have coffee and


Natalie: 00:14:32 check their email. That’s true. But they needed a miracle of
Cana the bible wind study, not just water into wine but
something better wine anyway. But just to return to this score


Elin: 00:14:44 idea. Yes. I mean, I think if a wine is undrinkable it gets zero. It
shouldn’t get like 60 or something.


Natalie: 00:14:56 I think she should get 60. Have you published that? Like in any
print magazine? A zero or a really low score. But I have
published zero and I’m just


Elin: 00:15:07 trying to remember when, I think, I think. Well, I have published
your, I can’t think when recently, but I do know that this
summer, I did a whole column about the outrageous versions of
rosé that are now being foisted upon the public. And I think I
have like two points to the welch’s rosé grape juice. I didn’t
even know they made wine exactly. Wine or alcohol-free. but
there were several others that, that were rose is that came in a
can. And another one that was just really available through a
wine club. And it was absolutely horrible. And so they got like
one out of 100.


Natalie: 00:16:12 No one out of 10. So that’s sort of what, I guess I’m, that’s 10
out of 100, so still pretty bad. But is, do you get any comments
or backlash when you published scores like that?


Elin: 00:16:30 I have had producers, email the told me that they were very
upset that I didn’t like the line and wouldn’t I like to try it again
and I just reply no. Alright. Don’t want to try again.


Natalie: 00:16:51 End of conversation. So at least no threats or anything like that.


Elin: 00:16:57 I’ve never had any threats from, from anyone I know that
people, I know other colleagues have had threats about the
things that they have actually written about wine, but I don’t
think, I think the main thing that I’ve had is someone emailing
me. You don’t write about our line, you know, why not. And I
usually, have somebody who has a very big PR firm or
something. And I usually say because of your wines aren’t any
goods


Natalie: 00:17:44 brutally honest. That’s great. Awesome. Well we’re going to
come back to, threats and things because we’re going to get
into Robert Parker.


Natalie: 00:18:35 I love this connection, this worldwide connection. There’s
someone who gets up in Singapore and has his morning coffee
and watches this. And then we’ve got people in London, UK and
it’s midnight there. I just love this.


Elin: 00:19:31 most of them were overpriced in the sense that what everybody
has to realize is that when you got wine by the glass, it’s not
like, you know, the idea is to make back in one or two glasses,
the price of the entire bottle. So for the quality of wine that
they were offering, I feel that most of the wines were
overpriced. There were one or two, however, they were more
expensive wines that, there was a Justin vineyards cabernet as I
recall, that was actually quite a nice one and was a very good
price considering how expensive the wine is.


Natalie: 00:20:26 Right. That’s from Paso Robles


Elin: 00:20:35 so the, you know, I’ve forgotten which color it was that said it’s
surprising, it didn’t work in some ways. I think they were trying
to capitalize on, you know, the sort of five to eight time period,
5:00 PM to 8:00 PM when people are on their way home and
they maybe don’t think of stopping into Starbucks for a coffee,
but trying to get more people to come into Starbucks in certain
markets. I wasn’t against the idea. I actually think it’s great in
the same way. I think it’s great that Walmart has started their
own line of lines, which are really, I was impressed. They’re not
expensive, you know, they’re something like 10 to $16 a bottle
and they have real character, most of them for that price range.
And when you have places like Target and Walmart and trader
joe’s having all these wine was a, you know, this is a good thing.
People are, you want people to drink more wine and get to
know wine and this is a way that they can feel comfortable.


Natalie: 00:21:58 Absolutely. No a good point What is your favorite type of wine?


Elin: 00:22:12 You know, people love to ask this question. I’m very, very
sympathetic to that. I, I would like to say though that I really like
all kinds of wines. I think it depends very much on what I’m
doing and if I’m on a picnic on a boat, I don’t want to Chateau
Lafite I want to have something that’s really crisp and fabulous.
But that being said, you know, if I were going to pick my last
glass of wine over, it would absolutely be a burgundy and as
expensive as I was able to afford,


Natalie: 00:22:58 I love that answer. That’s terrific.


Natalie: 00:24:28 I’ll Just throw in this one quick little story of when I was actually
running a wine class for a lot of people who were just sort of
getting into wine and there was this great couple who came up
and said, do you think we should buy a case of wine? And I said,
well, do you have a wine in mind? I mean, they said, yes, we had
this wine. We really liked it. Should we buy a case? I said, yeah,
go for it. You know, why not? The next week they came in and
told me that they had not bought that case of wine. And the
reason they hadn’t was that they had read that it only got 86
points or 87 points or something like that, from a critic.


Elin: 00:25:30 And they thought, well, they weren’t going to buy it. and I said,
yes, but those people aren’t going to drink that wine, you’re
going to drink it. And they said yes, but maybe there’s
something wrong with our taste buds. I thought that was the
saddest story. I. Because, you know, taste is not like, you
know,vision, where you have 20/20, is perfect vision. There Is no
such thing as, you know, everybody agreeing on the taste of
things. Yes. Yeah. And I think that I totally agree that many
people feel that they have to get higher. The wine has to
have a high score, will be enjoyable in that simply isn’t true. so


Natalie: 00:26:22 no, I love that story. and the analogy, that’s really good. it’s like
it’s not binary when it comes to taste, it really is highly
subjective. And we get so caught up with the scores.


Natalie: 00:27:41 you wrote the book on Robert Parker and it’s done so well. And
you just said, so it’s in five, four in additions and it’s coming out
in Chinese, the Chinese edition, right? Yes. Congratulations.
ExcIted that it’s finally coming out in Chinese. It’s fantastic. It
was such a good book. You captured the whole zeitgeist with
Robert Parker. So, so let’s, let’s dive into that topic. where are
you at right now with wine scores and whether it’s Robert
Parker or other critics, do they still matter? How much influence
do they have? What’s your take on it now?


Elin: 00:28:22 first of all, yes. I think they still matter. They especially matter to
consumers in places large sort of kinds of wine stores like
maybe total wine and I don’t know the comparable places up in
Canada, but like BevMo and big, big retailers. Well, of course
, you have the LCBO don’t you? So I think we’re, you don’t have
people who are knowledgeable in a wine store. scores remain
important for people. I also think that there are still important
to distributors. Of course, I’m speaking from the american
perspective with our, our system of selling wine, where I think
they’re still important. It important to some importers. I think
they’re still important to some winemakers. but I think fewer
people are actually interested in the scores because so many
people have scores now that the whoever is posting them is
posting the highest score.


Elin: 00:29:46 They’re not, you know, if someone gives a wine 87 points and
somebody else gives that main, the eight points, you can be
sure that the score that’s going to be posted in the retail or next
to the wine is going to be the 98 score. I think that there are few
reasons why they’re less important. Number one, younger
people are, are less impressed by scores and I think it’s because
they also, they’re more conversant with sharing information
about what they’re drinking with their friends and they would
rather hear what their friends are drinking that they like and
take a chance on that. and I also think it’s because there are all
sorts of things like vivino now and science where people are,
are talking about wines that they like, in ways that are more
consumer, their consumers recommending to other consumers.


Elin: 00:30:57 So I think there’s a lot of that that’s made a scores like the 100
points system less relevant. I think when people are buying a
very expensive wine or a very expensive wine for themselves,
that they are more likely to look at someone’s, a professional score
. Sure they’re doing their due diligence. Like you would
invest in a company here, investing in the bottle. You want to
know the background, right? If you’re going to spend $100 on a
bottle or $50 on a bottle, you want a little reassurance that
what’s in that bottle is going to be pleasing to you. I think the
other thing is that sommeliers have become more important as
recommenders of line. And most sommeliers want you to think
that they are you know, that their recommendations matter.
And I think there are much less likely to be using scores when
they’re talking to you in a restaurant.


Elin: 00:32:09 They’re not going to say, and I would give this wine, you know,
95 points the most lea is when they tell you a little story, they
want to engage you. They don’t want to just use a number like
that. So I think those are our reasons. And I also think there are
a lot more , except in with the LCBO there are a lot more,
passionate retailers who have their own ideas and just say, no,
you know, we’re not going to give somebody else’s scores. We
want, we want people to talk to us, we love them to ask us for
recommendations.


Natalie: 00:32:52 Yeah. And even in the LCBO, not that I’m here to defend them,
but they have staff picks and they’re trying to localize it a bit in
terms of, you know, that sort of thing.so, but, you know, when
we think about all the folks on social media, blogs, chat, etc.
There seems such a clamor of voices and, and demand for our
attention. Are they really making a difference? Like is it, is it
truly a drowning out the traditional critic? Should we be going, I
mean, what, what, where, where do you net out between the
traditional critic and their influence and all of this new voice
chatter, etc on social media.


Elin: 00:33:34 Oh wow. This is like a topic we could go on for hours. I’ll be as
quick as I can first. first of all, I, I think that what we don’t have
any more is one or two voices. And the, the thing that made
Parker so powerful and so important in the wine world, and I
made his scores so important was that he could actually move
markets if he gave a, a wine 100 points or 98 points that wine
sold out. So that is not really happening with other people,
other professionals scoring wines. So with the, with parker’s
influence was waning because he’s not reviewing is spending
wines and because it’s a different world now, the impact of all
these different voices is very, very different. , I think you people
turn to them for different kinds of things. if you want news,
you’re gonna turn to certain kinds of, of, of sites if you want
recommendations you might turn to professionals in, in, in one
way or another.


Elin: 00:35:18 I think experts are still important, but, but also if you just want
to engage about wine and you want to hear what other people
are drinking, then you join something like the vino or you know,
where you can pull this, you can check, the wine you’re
drinking, you, you can just use a way of identifying the label on
your bottle of something you’re drinking and get access to other
people’s ideas about why they’re drinking that, whether they
liked it or not. That’s quite instant. You can’t do that with an,
with some kind of expert. You can’t, you know, so. So there’s a
kind of immediate response. You can get immediate
information, which I would think


Natalie: 00:36:13 be relevant when you want a good bottle of wine, you want it
now you’Re out there shopping for your dinner party or
whatever. You don’t need to have it two weeks from now. Land
on your doorstep. You want the information right now,


Elin: 00:36:26 right? I mean, and I think also that’s the other thing that people
are using some of these things like these apps like vivino or
they’re using it when they go into a, a restaurant and you’re
looking at the wine list and as usual it has so many wines on the
list, um, that you’re, you feel like, oh my god, I better pick
something I already knew. I mean, what I would say is before
you go to the app, why don’t I talk to the white person in the
restaurant, which is what I always do. Um, and, and ask them
what they think is an interesting pick. But a lot of people are too
shy to do that. And so they, you know, take their smartphone
and they take a photo of the wine list and, you know, there are
apps for this and will tell you, oh, this one is interesting, this one
isn’t. So I think we’re people are using expertise and using all
these different ways of getting information in very different
ways and for different purposes.


Natalie: 00:37:39 Absolutely. Elin, and here in Canada, I’m just mentioning, I have
an app as well that scans the barcode, scans the label and it
uses GPS and real-time inventory to tell you not only you know
which wines are popular or get the highest scores, but where
they are in the liquor store closest to you, so you don’t have to
drive 30,000 miles to whatever Ohio to find the bottle. But I
think it’s, it’s that melding of old world expertise and new world
technology that hits the sweet spot when you can offer that,
you know, in a mobile app or social media share or whatever.
So, yeah, I love that point.


Elin: 00:38:48 you, you come to know the the biases of, of every critic. If you
follow them, guests and you know, what kinds of wines they
liked and you can match your own power against what kinds of
wines I’m a particular critic likes or doesn’t like and gauge for
yourself whether you agree with them or not. And furthermore,
you also discover I think that which are the critics that you
really want to follow up. Yes. May decide you don’t want to
follow one particular person or another particular person.
Instead, you find that your palate jives most with someone. But
I. But I also want to just quickly say one other thing here, which
is the other thing that I think is a really great, about a lot of wine
writing today is that it’s not about scores.


Elin: 00:39:53 And I would say that that one of the things that I was trying to
do with my book about Robert Parker was, was bringing wine in.
Show how wine fits into our society and, and how it reflects all
sorts of things about the way we live. Not just what the taste of
the wine is like because you want to go out and buy a bottle.
But also see wine and the wine world as part of our world, a
bigger world in the same way you think about a book about
banking is not just about how to go open an account or how to
invest, but is telling you stories about that whole world so you
can understand it in, in, in, in a deeper way. And I think that
there have been some very interesting, uh, that’s what I was
trying to do with my book and I think that there are more and
more interesting books that are really, really well written that
are telling a really compelling story about the world of wine. I
would say, you know, in Pete Hellmans, a recent book about Rudy
Kurniawan In Vino Duplicitas. Okay. Bianca Bosker book, which
is highly entertaining her book, cork, dork. I mean these are
books that are fun to read, interesting to read and not just
about whether a wine tastes good or not.


Natalie: 00:41:41 Absolutely. And you know what Elin, they both did on this show.
And that’s the reason you’re on the show as well. I love the
stories. I love the broader context. What goes on around the
glass, not just what’s in it,


Natalie: 00:43:11 You must get a lot of samples sent to you. Like, I mean, how do
you pick and are you going to events? I mean, how do you
choose?


Elin: 00:43:19 Okay. So I, because I write for Bloomberg I cover like why in the
world, which is big. I’m a huge, massive number of wines. How
do I choose what I’m going to review? wow. Well, first of all, I go
to a lot of portfolio tastings of importers and distributors, in
New York. I do get, I got a flood of samples and in fact, when I
am told some people, you know, I’m never going to review
these wines because they’re not the kinds of wines that my core
readers are interested in. They insist on just sending them to me
anyway. And so those wines are contributed to things like litter,
a dinner to raise money for literacy efforts.


Elin: 00:44:26 I do travel a lot and taste a lot of wines that way I would guess is
somewhere between four and 6,000 wines a year. how do I
recommend them? Ah, wow. Usually, I have a, a lot of ideas in
mind of something that I want to write about. Like one of my
upcoming columns on Bloomberg is going to be about really
good Italian sparkling wines that are not Prosecco. And so for
that, I got started by going to an event where I tasted a bunch of
Italian sparkling wines, that one percent goal and I thought,
wow, these are really good. I should write something about this.
And so I went through all my samples and I gathered all the
ones that had to do with, with any kind of Italian sparkling wine.
I lined them all up, tasted them blind. I then called somebody a
who had emailed me about meeting to talk about some kinds of
sparkling wines from another region in Italy.


Elin: 00:45:45 And I met with them and I tasted a whole bunch of sparkling
wines. And then out of all of those, I will pick the 10 that I think
are the most interesting, the best value for money and, um, that
I personally think a lot of readers would like and also are
available because I try not to recommend a wine that you can
get if you go to one tiny little shop in one location. I tried to find
ones that, you know, are, are, have some availability. They don’t
have to have the wide availability, but they have some
availability. So I think that’s pretty much how I do it. I also,
when I come across something that really surprises me, I’m a, I’ll
just give one example, for example, a number of years ago,
sadly, Christian wax who, you know at the time was running
a Chateaux Proteus and who is, owns plenty of, sort of top
fabulous Pomerol estates in Bordeaux.


Elin: 00:47:08 started regional producing regional wines that were
under his name. And I met with him. We tasted one that was,
you know, from the may drop one was from center, a regional
sounded maybe. Oh. And there was regional Pomerol. That
original role was unbelievable. It’s sold for $17 a bottle. I
personally went and bought two cases of this line and I thought
it was just unbelievable and I raved about it and one of my
columns and got an email from somebody I am in Japan. How
can I help this? So I think that that, those are the kinds of things
that I, I, I try to write about. I don’t try to do. Here are 100
California chardonnay. So they ever tasted in the last month. I
don’t think that is, that’s not my kind of article.


Natalie: 00:48:16 Absolutely. No, you tell stories, wonderful stories, land and we
are just flying by on time. It’s already almost 10 to the hour


Natalie: 00:49:31 we’re not even going to get to all the other topics that I had
planned Elin, but I’m with Robert Parker. What, what do you
think? Why did he rise to such prominence and what was your
intrigue with him to actually write this book,


Elin: 00:49:48 well, first of all, I should say that I did as when I was the editor
in charge of wine editor at food and wine magazine. I actually
gave Robert Parker his first assignment for a national magazine.
His, he has a newsletter of course was out, at the time, but he
hadn’t written anything for any other publication. So I knew
him. I’d known him for a long time, although we were more
acquaintances, acquaintances than friends, you know. I became
more and more intrigued by the whole aspect of power that
Parker had over the wine world. And, I’m just saying how I came
to write this book and I really decided to write this book when I
was in Sicily. And I was in a small Town at a small winery where
the winemaker was on here, the second niche and right in front
of very proudly displayed on the table in the tasting room when
I walked in was Robert Parker’s wine advocate newsletter. Open
to the page that showed this gentleman’s wine. Iwine had
gotten a very high score, uh, even though it was only his second
vintage and this winemaker who couldn’t speak any English,
really just pointed to the score of this newsletter and just went,
you know,just went Parker 94 And I thought that the middle of
Sicily in this town, and here’s this guy who can’t speak English


Elin: 00:52:10 bragging to me about that. He has this score as a result of the
score. He also was picked up by the wine It was picked up by an
importer and distributor in New York and had great sales in the
us that would not have been possible without Robert Parker. in
other words, somebody who started out was on their second
vintage, would have had to prove themselves before some
importer finally discovered them and decided to do something
like bringing them into the us. So Parker could put the spotlight
on people and really, um, allow those people to sell wines
without going through that long period of trying to get their
wines recognized. It could be overnight. So that really intrigued
me, the whole thinking about that. I thought this, this is really a
fantastic story. It’s also, to me was a fantastic story because
Parker started out of nowhere. He was a lawyer. He didn’t even
grow up with wine.

Natalie: 00:53:37 Yeah. He was the son of dairy farmers, right? Who drank. And
so,

Elin: 00:53:43 and so, he educated himself. He didn’t say to himself the way I
think a European would have, oh my goodness, I didn’t really
grow up with this. I can’t pronounce upon this. He was very
American and he said, yes, I can teach myself about this. I can
learn about it. And you know, I’m indignant that people are
being charged a lot of money for a wine that isn’t very good. I’m
going to, you know, tell people about this and the fact that he
was able to start doing this. I don’t, he didn’t have any idea that
he was going to become as powerful as he did at the beginning.
He wanted to be able to taste a lot of wine and, you know,
make some money doing it. So we didn’t have to be a lawyer
anymore.


Natalie: 00:54:44 Absolutely. And it’s very American in the best sense of going up,
pull yourself up from your bootstraps, just deciding to do it. But
also, he was like the Ralph Nader of why he was a literally a
consumer advocate for wine, which is kind of, I think, where he
might have gotten some of the inspiration for his newsletter
name.


Elin: 00:55:03 Well, yes, absolutely. I think you’re completely right about that.
And I think the thing that was so interesting was the
progression. You know, first of all, what happened was that
people like retailers and importers discovered that with one of
his numbers, people who hadn’t even heard Parker saw Parker
98. They thought, oh wow, I guess that sounds good. You know,
98 points must be a good wine. So retailers did so much
promotion for him by putting these numbers up on shelves and
also in an advertisement that they took out and huge page ads in
the new, the New York Times they would have, you know, you
know, all our best Bordeaux are rated by Parker, you know, and
people would be saying who is Parker. So I think that then it got
to the point where when people realize if you get a high score
from Parker, you’re going to sell out all your wine.


Elin: 00:56:16 It was only a matter of time before people said, I’m going to try
to make my wine. I’m a little fruitier maybe a little richer. I know
he likes texture. I’ll make my wine a little more like that so that I
can be sure he’ll get a high score. So I think that that kind of
trajectory, you know, sort of promoted him, and promoted
these scores and made him powerful. And so I thought that
story of how all of this happened was, a great Illustration of all
sorts of things. One of my favorite comments from a review of
my book was that it was a story about power and how you get
power and how you keep power and I think it’s very illustrative
of that. I actually was very happy at that review because I felt
that at the bottom that was what my book was about, the
bigger theme and a bigger theater power, not just wine but um,
but, but also I felt that it was a fury. It was very American. I’m
the kind of story that people like in America, you know,
somebody comes out of nowhere. They

Natalie: 00:57:55 rags to riches, like Ellis island to fame. Yes.

Elin: 00:58:01 Yes. I mean people like this is an American mythos if you will,
the idea that you can come out of nowhere and by the sheer
demand of hard work and smarts and all these things, you can
try triumph. And somehow Parker’s story I think resonated with
a lot of people. He himself likes to talk about it himself, like the
lone ranger,


Natalie: 00:58:27 like cowboy stories. Absolutely. That’s American as all get out,
right? It’s the lone gunman against the bad guys or whatever.


Elin: 00:58:38 I think that is part of what makes the story so he makes his story
so resonant with people. but at the same time, what I can say is
that I don’t think that story can be done ever again with wine
where someone individual has that kind of power and it partly
because of all these other things we’ve been talking about and
all the people who are commenting and saying about what they
think about scores you’ll, we’re, they where they like to have
scores or what that, that, that. It’s a much bigger world now in
terms of who people turn to, you know.

Natalie: 00:59:27 absolutely. And I cannot believe how time is flying by, but I have
to ask, did you get any reaction from Robert Parker himself on
your book?

Elin: 00:59:36 Absolutely. and he was not happy. What did he say? Well, he
didn’t say it to me directly. He, he had said it to a lot of people
who had called him, you know, like, what do you think about
this book etc. And so he said, well, she got a lot of things wrong,
you know, and so I asked one reviewer called me for a comment
for that. Did I say, well, did you ask him? Like, what is it that I got
wrong? And he said yes. And I said, what did Parker say, he said,
well, you told the story and it wasn’t a true story. I said, did you
read my book? Because I there were several


Elin: 01:00:34 things that happen to Parker where he was sort of shown up, if
you will, in a tasting or something. And the part I would tell the
story. and then I would say. And Parker when asked, Parker tells,
told me this never happened. so I said, that’s what journalism is.
You are presenting what one person says and then you’re saying
the other person says it didn’t happen. Now. And the two
instances that Parker finally admitted, these were the only two
incidents in the book that because I had done tastings with both
of these people who claim one of them was an importer called
Bob Chadderton. I was quite sure that they were correct and
that Parker really didn’t want it. I didn’t want anyone to tell a
story where his tasting ability was it all in question. So, however,
five years after the book, I had breakfast with Christian who
said, I’ve just come from seeing uncle bob, which is what he
called a Parker, and he admits that your book is fair.

Natalie: 01:02:06 Well, justification in the end, but that, I mean, if you thought it
was, was

Elin: 01:02:13 he agreed with the whole book and he was happy with it, I
would have been very unhappy. That wouldn’t have been
provocative

Elin: 01:02:21 yeah. Yeah. And it also wouldn’t have been true because you
know, most people who have a book written about them, we
wouldn’t be happy unless it was written by a doting mother.
Honestly.

Natalie: 01:02:34 That’s so true. Oh, Elin. Like we’re even over the hour now. This
has been such a great conversation. Thank you so much for
sharing all these insights. We’ve got to do part two sometime.
This is fabulous. That would be great.


Elin: 01:02:48 Great. I’d just like to say thanks to all your people who have
been posting comments, asking questions. Thanks really to you
for listing to all of this. you know, I’ve loved all your comments
and so that’s really great. So thanks for all of you for joining.


Natalie: 01:03:16 Absolutely. Thank you. Elin. It’s been a great  kitchen table
conversation and we know we can buy your book on Amazon.
Go to my website and go. Your website is it elinmccoy.com. Yes.
Okay, there you go. We will find you and I’m going to post this
on Facebook and also back on the blog post with this post and
the video people will be able to find you easily, Elin. So I know
you’re flying out early in the morning. I wish you the best with
that and all your future projects and thank you so much for
spending your time with us tonight. Take care. Alright, bye. Bye.

 

Comments

comments

Leave a Reply