Halliday launches a bomb

Robert Parker, criticus maximus, may be known for admiring wines that he calls “hedonistic fruit bombs.” But it is Australian wine writer James Halliday who has launched a verbal bomb at Parker that started a squabble among the world’s top wine critics.

In a speech in Sydney last week, Halliday lit the fuse as Decanter summarizes: “He said the trophy results of the last six Sydney Royal Wine Shows showed that Australian judges clearly preferred wines with finesse, such as Clare Valley Rieslings, to the ‘monstrous red wines so beloved of Robert Parker’, from regions like the Barossa Valley.”

Halliday then turned to Matt Kramer, who writes a column for Wine Spectator, calling Kramer “even more misguided than Robert Parker.”

Parker shot back on his bulletin board calling the style of wine that Halliday likes from Australia to be “Euro-imitations” that are “vapid, innocuous and in truth no better than very minor wines (and much cheaper)of Europe…all made by the formulas laid out by Brien Croser(add acid, then add more acid to denude any texture or trace of a wine’s place of origin).” He underscored his admiration for the “old-vine shiraz and grenache treasures” of Borossa, McLaren Vale, and Clare Valley.

Jancis Robinson then posted the Halliday speech on her site as well as a full-throated defense of Parker by his co-author David Schildknecht. Pierre-Antoine Rovani, another co-author in the Wine Advocate, accused Robinson of not being even-handed (among other things). Robinson has put some of this back and forth behind her paid subscription barrier but there is a free 15-day trial.

Yikes. While Parker does like some odd, almost freakish Australian wines such as the disjointed and unbalanced Connor Park, The Honour, Shiraz, 2002 (17% alcohol, 95 points; find this wine) he also gave 45 Australian Rieslings in his latest newsletter 90 or more points. Will all parties heed a call for balance in criticism of other critics?

**UPDATE
For what it’s worth, I was just doing a review of the NYT and WSJ columnists and was surprised that Asimov had written not one article on Australian wines in the last year while Gaiter and Brecher had written only one (trashing cheap Aussie Chardonnays). Are they steering clear of the Aussie thicket?

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4 Responses to “Halliday launches a bomb”


  1. In answer to your question on this little bun fight – No, they will continue to butt heads.

    Glad to see someone else has not been impressed with 2002 Connor Park, The Honour. I rated the ordinary Shiraz just a little better, and the Durif (Petite Syrah) is not that great either.


  2. Hey Mike –
    glad you saw this — I was going to ask you your view!
    As to “The Honour” I poured it blind at a class recently and only one person liked it out of 25.
    Cheers,
    Tyler


  3. Hi Tyler

    I really cannot understand why Halliday gave the speech he did. I’ve posted my thoughts on it and it boils down to Halliday shooting himself in the foot. Halliday knows so much about the Australian wine scene that he doesn’t need to create an argument with Parker in order to be noticed. And the exposure he is getting from this is not positive in the US or Australia.

    Best,
    Mike


  4. Interesting. Thanks for your thoughts. Competitions and judging do seem to be more popular down under so it was an interesting comparison that Halliday made at first–but then, as you point out, he had that bizarre comment about “instructing” the judges. Schildenkrandt took him to task for that–and added that judges often have their way paid by the wineries whose “wares” they are evaluating. It’s a pity that what could have been an interesting discussion about different methods of evaluation has degenerated…In vino,
    Tyler


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