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The Wine Advocate’s “system”: to WineNews, the magazine’s CEO, Mickael Moiroud

Synergies between wine and food critics, the role of sustainability, and a model hinged on independence and impartiality

In the elite of international wine critics, “Robert Parker Wine Advocate” occupies a prominent place in terms of prestige, credibility and history. With the hundredths scoring system that literally revolutionized the way of reviewing and reporting on wine. Today, the magazine passed from the end of 2019 under the control of the Michelin Group, is able to guide consumers in discovering the best productions of every wine territory in the world, from Piedmont to New Zealand, from Tuscany to South Africa, from Sicily to California, from Veneto to Bordeaux, from Burgundy to Champagne.

Among tens of thousands of tastings, only a handful of labels reach excellence, the coveted 100/100, achieved by just 32 Italian labels, reviewed for years by Monica Larner, Italian editor of the magazine led by Ceo Mickael Moiroud, whom WineNews had the pleasure of meeting and interviewing at “Matter of Taste Zurich”, one of the most exclusive events in the wine world, signed by “The Wine Advocate”, staged today in Zurich, in the setting of the majestic “The Dolder Grand Zürich”. At the center, the integration between the world of wine and the world of haute cuisine, the importance of sustainability in the production chain of tomorrow and, above all, the “The Wine Advocate system”, hinged on the concepts of independence and impartiality, which guide the work of a solid team, present in all the most important wine regions of the world.

For the past few years, “The Wine Advocate” has been part of the Michelin Group, publisher of the Michelin Guide, recognized by consumers around the world as the most important restaurant guide. The Michelin Group, therefore, controls both of the world’s leading food and wine guides: how important is this?

For “Robert Parker Wine Advocate” to be under the Michelin Experiences umbrella is important to ensure that we continue to offer the best recommendations to consumers, independently, for both wine and food. Both the restaurant and wine guides were founded to offer consumers the best reviews, from independent experts, through a solid methodology, and we believe it makes sense for the consumers we serve to have independent recommendations on both restaurants and wines because they complement each other.

Are there synergies and points of contact, or are they two realities that will continue on independent paths?

Of course, from the consumer’s point of view, there is already a “natural” synergy. Many people, when dining at restaurants, also check the wine list, and order a glass or bottle of wine. In fine dining restaurants, consumers often interact with the sommelier as well as the chef as part of the dining experience. From an editorial perspective, it is important to continue to address both wine and restaurant audiences, separately and collectively, because the needs of a wine enthusiast or wine collector, compared to those of a gastronome, are different. And the same goes for the working team, because the methodology and skills to review a wine are different than those needed to review a restaurant, despite sharing the same principles of independence and impartiality.

For our readers and consumers, what is important is that the Michelin Guide offers advice on both wines and restaurants when they need it, because they go hand in hand. One of the examples of synergy between the two areas can be found on the Michelin Guide website, where we have begun to introduce wine-related topics into the editorial line, but also in Michelin Guide events, into whose ecosystem we have incorporated wines rated by the Robert Parker Wine Advocate. And it is also true in the opposite direction, for Robert Parker Wine Advocate events where we have invited sommeliers and restaurateurs from Michelin Guide venues.

The Wine Advocate is an international publication recognized worldwide. From your perspective, which areas of the world show the greatest passion and knowledge for fine wines, and where is interest among wine enthusiasts growing the most?

Passion for wine can be found anywhere in the world, just like passion for food. Obviously, there are strongholds for wine in the more established wine regions because of the role that wine tradition and history play in society and culture. Recently, we have noticed a growing interest in Asia, for example from China, where we have been producing an annual report on fine wines for the past 3 years.

A few years ago you introduced the Green Emblem awards to reward innovative work in the field of sustainability: what prompted this and what future developments do you expect on this front

The “Green Emblem” is part of a more general Michelin Group project on sustainability. For restaurants, we have introduced “Green Stars” to reward the work of environmentally friendly chefs and restaurants, and from the Michelin Group we have many initiatives related to sustainable production and travel.

For “Robert Parker Wine Advocate”, in a special way, we hope to see more and more winemakers thinking about the environment as a whole, at every stage of production, from farming practices to packaging. By giving visibility to environmental issues in wine, and highlighting those who support the environment, we hope to spark a change in consumer knowledge and habits.

The Wine Advocate sets the bar for international wine critics, in terms of prestige and authority, and continues to invest in its team of critics, which is growing larger and more specialized in wine regions around the world. What exactly is The Wine Advocate system, and how can it continue to grow during an economic cycle that has forced many others to make cuts or adjustments?

The Wine Advocate system remains and will remain the same for the foreseeable future: independent wine reviews by independent wine critics, based on our system and cent grades. It is our commitment to consumers, and the guiding principle that underscores the value of what we do to those who follow us and to the wine community. We have expanded the team in the past two years, with two new, experienced and recognized critics: Erin Larkin, based in Perth, to cover wines from Australia and New Zealand, and Yohan Castaing, based in Bordeaux, to cover Loire Valley, Languedoc-Roussillon, Provence, Southwest France, Champagne, Pessac-Léognan, Sauternes-Barsac and the satellite appellations on the right bank of Bordeaux.

Today, your team of critics covers most of the world, and there are multiple people assigned to the same country, as is the case in the United States and France. Will there be developments in this direction in other countries?

Not for now, but we will make the necessary adjustments to follow consumer feedback, demand and industry trends.

Can you give us a little portrait of The Wine Advocate, and tell us what role events like Matter of Taste will play in the future? Will there be more integration between wineries, collectors, subscribers and wine lovers, to create real “wine experiences” in different parts of the world? Will there be more synergies among Michelin Guide signature events? Finally, what are the future plans to grow online recognition of your scores?

Robert Parker Wine Advocate offers unbiased, independent consumer reviews by industry experts stationed around the world to provide insights from the field, from the land and from the winery, using the “RP100” scoring system. Our reviews are free of any commercial involvement; we pay out of pocket. Events like Matter of Taste allow the public and our community to physically enjoy the experience of tasting the wine they have read about, and to interact with our critics and the people behind the wine production. One example of this is the masterclasses we offer at Matter of Taste events, led by members of our team along with the winemaker.

Many other major wine guides, which use the 100-point system invented by Robert Parker throughout the year, also publish an annual ranking of the top 100 wines. Why has The Wine Advocate decided not to do the same, and do you think this will change in the future?

In essence, we already do this: just filter the 100-point wines by country, region, vintage, critic reviewed on our website. To complement that, we also give consumers an idea of what our critics think were the best wines of the year - not necessarily just 100-point wines - based on their experiences and travels over the past 12 months, which can be found in the free-reading section of our website.

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