And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time (TS Eliot, from The Four Quartets)
In many ways, this isn’t news; it’s been anticipated for so long: The Wine Advocate’s coverage has evolved over the years with various correspondents; the development of the Asian market has lessened the significance of the American market; and but even here, it’s been no secret that the US wine market continues to evolve, if slowly, in so many ways: More people drink wine, are fascinated by it, are incorporating it into their lifestyle. Wine styles are evolving, too, with a greater interest in diversity of grapes and styles, purity, “authenticity,” provenance, and so on. One of the biggest changes in recent years is proliferation of “authoritative” wine voices — the wine industry’s notorious fragmentation now manifests itself here — and most notably, the increased recognition that people rely on their social network for recommendations for any number of decisions. (We know the review, but did our friends like the movie?) And not only that, with a willingness to explore, many Americans are slowly growing more confident (if tentatively) as wine drinkers, thus less dependent on major tastemakers. Asia mostly likely will get there, eventually, but they are not there now; from South Korea to Singapore, “expert” reviews and still matter, as they often do to any neophyte seeking to learn.
It has been quite a while already since merchants could rely on RP scores to move their wines; changes at the WA simply reinforce the fact that marketing wine remains a on-going challenge as consumers, markets, and wines themselves evolve. With luck, more consumers everywhere will explore wine, and never lose the sense of wonder, discovery, and camaraderie it engenders.
Kudos and the very best of luck are due to my friend Lisa Perrotti-Brown MW – her fine judgement and skills will serve the new stage of The Wine Advocate well.