Will Wine Retailing Change When Mr. Parker Retires?

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Will Wine Retailing Change When Mr. Parker Retires?

Postby Tom Troiano » Tue Jan 29, 2013 12:31 pm

All,

I'm wondering if/how wine retailing (particularly in the US) will change as Mr. Parker exits the scene. I noticed in my area that 20-25 years ago (when I was first buying good wine) there were some/many very knowledgeable people at the retail level of the wine business but as Parker and others gained momentum things changed. Today, more often than not you see wine sales people who have no real knowledge/appreciation of wine but who can tell you the Parker score of every wine they have. It sort of reminds me of the scene in the first Jurassic Park movie where Jeff Goldblum’s character says something like “it didn't require any discipline to attain your knowledge. You read what others had done. You didn't earn the knowledge for yourselves”.

Do you think Parker’s retirement and (in my opinion) less value being placed on scores will have an impact on wine retailing over the next 5-10 years? If so, how?
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Re: Will Wine Retailing Change When Mr. Parker Retires?

Postby Rahsaan » Tue Jan 29, 2013 3:48 pm

Tom Troiano wrote:I noticed in my area that 20-25 years ago (when I was first buying good wine) there were some/many very knowledgeable people at the retail level of the wine business but as Parker and others gained momentum things changed. Today, more often than not you see wine sales people who have no real knowledge/appreciation of wine but who can tell you the Parker score of every wine they have.


I wonder how much of that tracks the general decline in attractiveness of retail as an occupation (i.e. stagnant or declining wages)? In addition, the increased relative cost of fine wine makes it more difficult for contemporary wine retail folks to drink the good stuff than wine retail folks 20-30 years ago.

That said, Parker and the Points probably also play a role.
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Re: Will Wine Retailing Change When Mr. Parker Retires?

Postby Tom Troiano » Tue Jan 29, 2013 4:06 pm

Rahsaan wrote: I wonder how much of that tracks the general decline in attractiveness of retail as an occupation (i.e. stagnant or declining wages)?


This has nothing to do with any of this but I read yesterday that in 1970 in the US 5% of retail workers had a college degree and today 25% do.

The article was making the point that maybe some shouldn't be going to college. Do you really need a college degree to sell wine? Maybe. I know someone who sells wine who has three degrees.
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Re: Will Wine Retailing Change When Mr. Parker Retires?

Postby Hoke » Tue Jan 29, 2013 4:46 pm

Well, you can add in the fact that the wine world is vastly greater, broader, deeper and more varied than it ever was, much more than it was some years ago, when all you had to know to appear to be an "expert" was a relative handful of areas and producers (and, in many cases if not most, a healthy capacity to pretend you knew more than you did, which was usually pretty safe since there was such little actual knowledge out there).

With a continuing cascade of regions, brands, grape varieties, styles, etc., etc., the bar is significantly higher now...and the bullshit detection factor of the general public is significantly more sensitive as well.

Rahsaan makes a good point: being a good retailer is a transient game, unless the budding wine geek is able to become a partner, or owner, or gravitate upward to wholesale, importer, or major supplier status to raise their earnings. Very, very, very, very few attractive positions for wine specialists exists, and even most of them don't pay very well. So there's little incentive, other than desire to do that kind of work, to be a retailer. By the time you get the equivalent of a Bachelor or Masters in your wine knowledge base (and realize you'll have to keep up that learning curve every single day for the rest of your career), it isn't worh your investment to do it.
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Re: Will Wine Retailing Change When Mr. Parker Retires?

Postby Tom Troiano » Tue Jan 29, 2013 5:01 pm

Hoke wrote: Very, very, very, very few attractive positions for wine specialists exists, and even most of them don't pay very well. So there's little incentive, other than desire to do that kind of work, to be a retailer.


This seems to be a much bigger factor than Robert Parker's retirement plans.

I just find it sad when the only thing the wine person can tell you about a particular wine is that Mr. Parker gave it 91 points.
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Re: Will Wine Retailing Change When Mr. Parker Retires?

Postby Hoke » Tue Jan 29, 2013 5:29 pm

Tom Troiano wrote:
Hoke wrote: Very, very, very, very few attractive positions for wine specialists exists, and even most of them don't pay very well. So there's little incentive, other than desire to do that kind of work, to be a retailer.


This seems to be a much bigger factor than Robert Parker's retirement plans.

I just find it sad when the only thing the wine person can tell you about a particular wine is that Mr. Parker gave it 91 points.


It is sad, Tom. But just the usual Sturgeon's Law at work.
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Re: Will Wine Retailing Change When Mr. Parker Retires?

Postby Tom Troiano » Tue Jan 29, 2013 5:35 pm

Hoke wrote: It is sad, Tom. But just the usual Sturgeon's Law at work.


Are you talking about the quality of the sales staff or the wine or both?

I think its also a classic example of the principal-agent problem. As you said, unless you gravitate up the chain to owner, importer, etc. the incentive for excellence is low.
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Re: Will Wine Retailing Change When Mr. Parker Retires?

Postby Rahsaan » Tue Jan 29, 2013 5:57 pm

Tom Troiano wrote:
Hoke wrote: Very, very, very, very few attractive positions for wine specialists exists, and even most of them don't pay very well. So there's little incentive, other than desire to do that kind of work, to be a retailer.


This seems to be a much bigger factor than Robert Parker's retirement plans.

I just find it sad when the only thing the wine person can tell you about a particular wine is that Mr. Parker gave it 91 points.


I'm sure no one in the retail world would complain if you wanted to pay drastically higher wine prices to support the careers of these better educated specialist sellers!

(That said, I agree with you. And it's also why - for the most part - I shop at a very limited selection of places where there is staff who support these kinds of interactions.)
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Re: Will Wine Retailing Change When Mr. Parker Retires?

Postby Brian Gilp » Tue Jan 29, 2013 6:15 pm

Hoke wrote:With a continuing cascade of regions, brands, grape varieties, styles, etc., etc., the bar is significantly higher now...and the bullshit detection factor of the general public is significantly more sensitive as well.



On what do you base the belief that the BS detector of the general public is any better than before, especially in light of all of the new offerings that may exist? I have not witnessed anything that would imply its much different. The number of people who have some limited knowledge of wine has increased but so has the causual wine drinker numbers and from what I see they are as clueless as always. I can't tell you how many people have told me they are a wine geek and are largely clueless. They know more than Mary and Tim so they are the self anointed experts of their circle but when you talk to them they don't know Alsace from Austria and god forbid that their beloved Pinot Grigio is the same grape as that insipid Pinot Gris.
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Re: Will Wine Retailing Change When Mr. Parker Retires?

Postby Hoke » Tue Jan 29, 2013 7:35 pm

Brian Gilp wrote:
Hoke wrote:With a continuing cascade of regions, brands, grape varieties, styles, etc., etc., the bar is significantly higher now...and the bullshit detection factor of the general public is significantly more sensitive as well.



On what do you base the belief that the BS detector of the general public is any better than before, especially in light of all of the new offerings that may exist? I have not witnessed anything that would imply its much different. The number of people who have some limited knowledge of wine has increased but so has the causual wine drinker numbers and from what I see they are as clueless as always. I can't tell you how many people have told me they are a wine geek and are largely clueless. They know more than Mary and Tim so they are the self anointed experts of their circle but when you talk to them they don't know Alsace from Austria and god forbid that their beloved Pinot Grigio is the same grape as that insipid Pinot Gris.


Okay, this one's easy. I base it on my experience of more years than I like to think engaged in this trade from almost every point. I'd say that the "average" consumer is far more knowledgeable---if not actually educated---about wine and many of its intricacies than ever before. Certainly more so than when I entered the field, Brian.

The bullshit---and practicers of same, like the poor, will always be with us, but I honestly believe its safe to say that the average person who goes into a wine shop---or even into the aisle of a grocery store, has been exposed to much much more basic information about wine than what was happening back before the 'great awakening of the 70s.

Unless you were conscious back then of what the market was like (I don't know your age or experience with wine) you have no idea how limited wine was, and any awareness of it was

Just as a 'for instance', in my younger years, I was tasked with and presided over the huge change of focus for a chain of beverage stores primarily away from jug wines and the then ubiquitous "ports and sherries", which constituted much of the shelf space and sales, into 750ml focused on California varietal wines and expansions of heretofor unknown and unavailable wines from other places. About $3 million dollars worth of change, as it turned out when we were finished. And we did that to both respond to and anticipate a greater demand.

So while there's sill an awful lot of innate ignorance (and I don't mean that in a demeaning way, simply as a descriptive) the general wine-consumeing public, and for that matter the general public, is far wiser to wine than thirty years ago.
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Re: Will Wine Retailing Change When Mr. Parker Retires?

Postby Brian Gilp » Tue Jan 29, 2013 9:31 pm

Thanks Hoke. My attention to the wine market doesn't date back to much before 1990. So I guess what i am using as baseline for comparison starts from a higher than yours wrt knowledge. I only worked in the wine Industry for a short time but what I saw at the winery tasting room back then does not seem all that different then what I witness when I visit a winery or store these days. I have on more than occasion been asked by other shoppers for help as its obvious they are clueless and those that work in most of the stores where I live know how to ring up the sale and not much more. The stores where those working do know more are owned by folks who have become friends of mine over the past 16 years and they confirm my observations wrt baseline knowledge.

Having written that I just had another thought that may prove me wrong. I moved in my first house in 1997 and the local wine shop had 1991 Étude and 1992 Insignia for bargain prices as the store never raised prices and I was able to buy them out over the course of months as no one else knew what they were. Same story a few year later at a store 15 miles north when I found a stash of mid-1980s BV GdLs. These finds don't exist around here anymore but I attribute that to having a few more geeks in this area and not an overall raising of the baseline knowledge.
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Re: Will Wine Retailing Change When Mr. Parker Retires?

Postby JC (NC) » Tue Jan 29, 2013 9:44 pm

Lucky you with the bargain-priced Cabernets.
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Re: Will Wine Retailing Change When Mr. Parker Retires?

Postby David M. Bueker » Wed Jan 30, 2013 9:22 am

Brian,

Deals still show up, but they are gone faster as once someone finds it they post/tweet about it and the hordes swarm in to scoop up the crumbs.
There behind the glass lies a real blade of grass. Be careful as you pass. Move along. Move along.
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Re: Will Wine Retailing Change When Mr. Parker Retires?

Postby Brian Gilp » Wed Jan 30, 2013 2:03 pm

David, Not sure we are talking the same thing but maybe we are. What I was talking about was stock that languished on the shelf not a wholesaler blowout or some other deal. These wines were there I assume due to the limited knowledge of the those who shopped these stores as to the quality of the wines or the willingness to pay the price marked - I think the Etude was $32 while the Insignia and BVs were a little higher. I did just last week find a similar type of deal in a store that I had never visited. Looked at what was on the shelves and it was nothing of interest - standard mass market juice. But as I was leaving I found the bargain bin and in it were marked down bottles of Vermentino, Malvasia, and Tokay. All were from 2006 and apparently would not move. Not the Iconic Cal Cabs from a decade ago but a nice find none the less.
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Re: Will Wine Retailing Change When Mr. Parker Retires?

Postby David M. Bueker » Wed Jan 30, 2013 2:19 pm

Same thing. Those "undiscovered" shops now get discovered much faster!
There behind the glass lies a real blade of grass. Be careful as you pass. Move along. Move along.
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