Wine Futures

The Wine Advocate

The Wine Advocate, informally abbreviated TWA or WA, is a U.S. bimonthly wine publication featuring the consumer advice of wine critic Robert M. Parker, Jr.

Initially titled The Baltimore-Washington Wine Advocate the first issue was published in 1978. Accepting no advertising, the newsletter publishes in excess of 7,500 reviews per year, utilizing Parker's rating system that employs a 50-100 point quality scale. These ratings may have a significant effect on the economic performance of the reviewed wine.

Background and history

Robert Parker was born near Baltimore in the late 1940s. He first developed an interest in wine on a trip to France while in college studying law. In the 1970s, Parker was influenced by the activist consumerism philosophy of Ralph Nader and saw in the wine industry a lack of independent wine criticism that was not sponsored by the distributors or wineries being reviewed. He released his first edition of The Baltimore-Washington Wine Advocate in 1978, originally as a complimentary bi-monthly feature. It soon changed to a subscription periodical and by 1984 was successful enough that Parker could quit practicing law full time and focus on wine reviews.

Parker and The Wine Advocate first garnered international, mainstream attention for his early prediction of the superiority and quality of the 1982 vintage of Bordeaux wine. Parker's enthusiastic endorsement created a spike of interest from American wine buyers in purchasing wine futures of this vintage, prior to its release to the public. This had the effect of raising the price dramatically for 1982 Bordeaux wines. Subscriptions to The Wine Advocate continued to grow and by 1998 had over 45,000 subscribers in 35 different countries.

Influence on the wine industry

While not the first American wine publication, nor the first to use a numerical wine rating scale, The Wine Advocate was the first to widely adopt the 50-100 scale and use it as parallel to the American educational grading system. This system was familiar to his original target audience of the average American consumer and provided a guideline for quantifying a wine quality in a standardize format. Retailers have used The Wine Advocate's "Parker scores" to aggressively market wines with high scores. The scores have also become focal points for collectors and wine spectators (investors) who purchase highly rated wines in the hopes that the Parker scores will increase the value of the wine.

Throughout various wine regions, most notably Bordeaux, The Wine Advocate early vintage evaluation-sampled while the wine is still in oak barrels-can have a dramatic effect on the eventual prices of all the region's wine upon their release. Individual scores of wine can also affect whether or not distributors or retailers will order the wine to sell with some retailers refusing to order wine rated below 85 points.


The influence of The Wine Advocate on the demand and commercial interest of wine has met with some criticism, with wineries being accused of making wines tailored to Parker's tastes. In the late 1980s, wine expert Jancis Robinson noted that Parker and The Wine Advocate were " danger of controlling the international fine wine market." The subject of scoring wines in the manner of The Wine Advocate has also been criticized by wine writers, such as Hugh Johnson, who has stated that wine tasting and evaluation is intrinsically subjective, with the wine having the potential to dramatically change and evolve over time. In partial response to these criticisms, The Wine Advocate publishes on the cover of every issues its philosophy that " is no different from any consumer product. There are specific standards of quality that full time wine professionals recognize."

The effects of The Wine Advocate scores can be pronounced in the retail sphere, with wine rated above 90 points usually selling well while those even in the 85-89 range, which is rated "good to very good", will often be ignored by consumers.


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