Robert M. Parker Jr., a leading U.S. wine critic with an international influence, is selling a “substantial interest” of his newsletter, the Wine Advocate, to Singapore-based investors who will take over its day-to-day financial operations.
Additionally, Parker’s newsletter will start accepting advertising, though none that is wine-related. Over the years, Parker built the Wine Advocate into one of the most influential voices on wine.
The imported wine market has become a powerful force in China, and a growing trend across Asia.
According to the news service China Briefing, the U.S. wine export market was up 21.7 percent overall in 2011, reaching a total export value of US$1.39 billion according to the American Wine Institute.
China Briefing claims Hong Kong scrapped import duty on wines three years ago leading to a massive boom in wine consumption and services there.
“Wines for the Asian market are being warehoused in Hong Kong, and top-end wine auctions held only recently in the city have been an outstanding success as Asian consumers find world class wines now available right on their doorstep for the first time.”
The Wall Street Journal notes Parker intends to phase out the print version of the newsletter, and intends to step down as its editor-in-chief, turning over editorial oversight to his Singapore-based correspondent, Lisa Perrotti-Brown.
Although it is a niche publication, with only about 50,000 subscribers paying $75 a year for six issues, The WSJ claims that a perfect 100-point score from Mr. Parker’s newsletter can make a winemaker’s reputation and fortune.
“Mr. Parker has almost single-handedly created markets for wines that once were overlooked, or even scorned. Chateauneuf du Pape in the southern Rhone Valley of France is just one example of a wine region he helped to transform from unheralded to world class.”
Parker, who declined to name his new investors, said the time was ripe for a change.
“The Asian market has come of age in the last decade or so, and it would be unrealistic not to expect to be part of it,” he said.
He describes his investors as “young visionaries” in the financial-services and IT fields who had presented him with a plan he couldn’t refuse.
“They love wine, but they also saw a great business opportunity,” said Mr. Parker, who will become chairman of the new company and will continue to review the wines of Bordeaux and the Rhone for the newsletter.
The newsletter also will put more emphasis Asia’s growing wine industry. Ms. Perrotti-Brown plans to hire a new correspondent likely to be based in China.
“The correspondent will cover wines produced in China, Thailand and other Asian countries,” she said, and will help to produce tasting events, another focus of the new Wine Advocate.
Most of the newsletter’s wine correspondents will become full-time employees, instead of independent contractors. “We want to have more control over the reviews,” said Ms. Perrotti-Brown.