Robert Finigan, who elevated wine criticism in the early 1970s with an influential newsletter that was notable for its authoritative and unvarnished appraisals, died Oct. 1 at his San Francisco home. He was 68.

His wife, Suzanne, said the cause of death has not been determined.

Finigan began publishing Robert Finigan’s Private Guide to Wines in 1972 when wine critics generally were not known for their independence.

His newsletter was a sharp departure, offering bracingly honest evaluations not only of fine European but also emerging California wines, of which he was an early and enthusiastic champion.

“Finigan was arguably the first hard-core critic who clearly took the gloves off,” said Wine Spectator magazine columnist Matt Kramer, who called him “the first great consumer advocate” for wine lovers. “He was a demanding critic. He pulled no punches.”