Randy, at the Wine Whore Blog asks an interesting question: What would the world be like without Robert Parker?.
There are two ways to interpret this question, each interpretation has a different answer.
If the question is asking: what if Robert Parker retired today and no longer did wine reviews? Then I am not sure how much of an impact that would have. I think there would be a fracturing of wine criticisms, because it is doubtful that anyone would be able to fill the role he does.
Think of it like late night talk shows. When Johnny Carson was on the air, he was the undisputed king. When he retired and Jay Leno took over, there was a fracturing and now you have Jay, David Letterman and Jimmy Kimmel. I think you would see the same thing in wine, each of the competitors to Robert Parker would step up, but none would truly replace him. Which would give wineries some freedom to make the wine the way they are now, because one of the many critics out there would like the wine...and they could still publish high scores.
A more interesting interpretation of the question is: What if Robert Parker had decided to become a cellist?
Robert Parker has had a huge impact on the wine industry not just in the United States, but around the world. To the point that wines with a high concentration of fruit and lots of alcohol are considered "Parkerized" -- because that is the style he likes. Would Oregon Pinot Noir enjoy the popularity it does right now without Robert Parker? More fundamentally, would Pinot Noir enjoy the popularity it has right now without Robert Parker? Would Bordeaux wines be as popular as they are in the United States without Robert Parker? Would every guy/gal with a strong opinion on wine and a website think they were qualified to be a critic?
Some argue that Robert Parker has fundamentally changed the wine industry. Had he decided to become a cellist, would someone have stepped in and been able to do the same thing?
I don't think so.