Saturday, May 13, 2006

Empires Come and ....Go

As promised in my last posting, we'll cover Emperor parker. I am sitting here with two recently acquired books. One is Hugh Johnson A Life Uncorked. The second one is Elin McCoy's The Emperor of Wine. Lets start with a well known fact that drinking and tasting wine is all very subjective. What Parker likes is not necessarily your or my cup of tea (or in this case of wine). The recent transAtlantic battle between Parker and Jancis Robinson proves that point once again. Jancis Robinson called the 2003 Ch√Ęteau Pavie "a ridiculous wine". Parker loved the wine and thereby questioned her integrity. It is Parker's rating system that is creating all the buzz. Quoting from Hugh Johnson's " A Life Un corked, "If I missed the point of what Robert Parker was trying to do with his percentages of perfection, I made a mistake. To me his numbers game was simply irrelevant. He could score away as he liked, and I could enjoy my wine untroubled. It took years for the realization to dawn that his scoring was influencing the way wines were being made. He, of course, would say for the better. We have different tastes."
Parker has thoroughly ruffled the British wine press' feathers.
Sommeliers in all the finest restaurants do not have a great love for Parker Points. Says Eugenenio Jardin of San Francisco's "Jardiniere" ... "I tell a customer who says, 'Why don't you carry this Parker 100-point wine?' that if I serve you a wine you don't like, I'll be right here to talk about it. But if I serve a wine that Parker loves and you don't like it, I won't be able to get him on the phone for you." The power of Parker points are demonstrated in this slighlly altered Bob Johnson's cartoon shown above.
And how about Parker's recent sojourn into judging "star" wines. "Parker insists that when he used “opulent and luscious”, he was referring to the wine, not the star. OK,what about that Italian winemaker Roberto Cipresso. A very respected winemaker going into business with Savanna Samson. Formerly a papal vintner and now making wine with an American pornstar. Now let me see 1.1 billion Catholics or Parker Points porn star. I think I would stick with the papal crowd. I think the "Emperor" is slipping in the ratings. My favourite all time Emperor is still Moet & Chandon's biggest fan, The Emperor Napoleon himself. And you wondered what that picture at the top of this entry was all about? Well now you know. Empires come and go. Good luck Mr. Parker.


Sanjoy Ghose said...

Good article, and great pictures!
I drink wines that I enjoy, and many times I am sure that wine critics would be appalled at my tastes. Frankly I dont give a hang what some famous wine critic says about a wine, if it doesnt taste good on my palate.
In any case, a wine recommended with high points is quickly bid up to ridiculous prices that I am unwilling to pay (call me cheap if you wish). Fortunately most wine shop owners and personnel are knowledgeable enough to recommend equivalent wines at a fraction of the cost.
So here's to the no-points wines...kampai!

Wilf G.K said...

Hi Sanjoy!
Of course they are great pictures. You fixed them up for me.
Sanjoy is my California buddy who on a recent trip to France was my picture taker, chief taster, chauffeur, etc. We had a blast.

Bradley Cooper, Winemaker said...

Points are for posers.
Palates are for pros.
Parker sells image and status. Buy his rated wines if you intend on putting wines on parade.
First rule of wine: Drink what you like.
Good post, Wilf.

poiple said...


great blog!

poiple said...

I am green and not fully up on the politics surrounding Robert Parker's wine ratings.


In my experience, every 90+ Parker wine that I have tasted I have thoroughly enjoyed.

I also appreciate how Robert Parker has opened the worlds eyes to Washington State Reds... ten years ago before anyone of note would take the risk.

However, I do apreciate how the "business" of rating wine can be a dangerous beast, dividing, measuring and conquering wine interests. That is what judging anything can do! An invitation to politics and differing opinions.

I would expect that Parker has his own interests in mind too. Who doesn't?

In my mind it comes down to the consumer's individual right to choose to either "buy in or not" to Parkers' or anyones ratings.

ie. Wine Spectator has some pretty obvious advertising connections to ratings.

As a seller and consumer of wine I appreciate the guidance of Parkers' ratings as I tend to enjoy "in your face wines".

On the other hand, I do find myself looking to other sources for recomendations like fellow consumers, wine shops, friends, other wine articles etc. I also find myself taking a bit more time with some austere European reds that may not be so quickly or ever noticed by Parker.

If a wine is a "winner" and has appeal, the word will get out, Parker/Johnson or no Parker/Johnson.

I say try everything you can get your lips on. Wether it cost $9 or $90 and make your own judgements.

Or try the paper bag method? That always gets me to trust my own senses. Thank You Wilf?

People love stories, especially controversy, it's good marketing. I am sure this ever building controversy between Parker and the wine establishment is being used to sell a number of wines, magazines, careers, etc.

Somewhere in the middle palate lies the truth?


As wine tasting can be as subjective as an other human sensory experience.

Cathryn Ravenscliff said...

Parker has made his contribution, with, as can be easily seen, both good and bad consequences, but the number of wineries in Washington state has increased exponentially in recent years just as it has here in the Wine Islands of B.C., and I would be more inclined to give credit to the united initiative of the dozens of farmgate wineries in the Pacific northwest, for bringing their wines to the notice of the world.
I'd also give kudos to Andy Purdue and the rest at "Wine Press Northwest" magazine.

I believe that it is a case of "the emperor's new clothes" that makes people afraid to trust their own palate - as if they would be mocked if they were at a party and said they liked the wine and everyone else else would sneer loudly and throw them out into the gutter .... hopefully time and education will help the "average person" to overcome the intimidation factor while retaining the elegance and ritual of wine appreciation.