A Consumer Revolution in Wine

Friday, 1 November, 2013
David White, Palate Press
“This democratization of wine is great,” asserted Jancis Robinson, one of the world’s leading wine authorities, over coffee one recent morning.
Robinson was in Washington, D.C., to promote the seventh edition of The World Atlas of Wine, the indispensable reference book co-authored with Hugh Johnson.

Robinson has spent the last four decades writing about wine, publishing thousands of reviews. Yet while chatting about wine criticism, she seemed excited about the prospect of consumers putting less stock in her opinion.

“No longer are wine critics and reasonably well-known wine writers like me sitting on a pedestal, haughtily handing down our judgments,” she said. “Nowadays… [consumers] can make up their own minds. That’s altogether a lot healthier.”

To hear Robinson so eagerly applaud the declining influence of prominent critics was refreshing.

In the optimistic future of American wine, well-informed consumers will be confident in their own preferences and eager to explore without consulting a professional critic. Already, we’re well on our way.

Just look at CellarTracker.

In 2003, Eric LeVine, a wine collector, built a data-management program for his cellar. His friends soon begged him to share it online so they could catalog their wines and record tasting notes. So LeVine made his program available to everyone, for free.

The website has become extremely popular, with nearly 1 million monthly visitors. Each day, more than 2,000 wines are reviewed on the site. This means CellarTracker users review more wines every six days than Robert Parker, the world’s most famous wine critic, reviews in an entire year.

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