Parker’s predictions, in retrospect

Ray Isle, Executive Wine Editor at Food & Wine, digs through the the magazine’s 35 years of archives to dig up predictions that Robert Parker made in their pages. Then he presents those (often inaccurate) predictions to Parker himself. What follows is lots of contrition, honesty and humility. Well, not exactly. Click through to check it all out.

I find the prediction about distributors disappearing to be the most disheartening–did Parker really think these multi-billion-dollar oligopolies would just roll over and die? His lack of leadership on the crucial and related issue of direct shipping has been particularly glaring. Without direct shipping from retailers and wineries, tens of millions of wine consumers across the country face higher prices or simply can’t get many wines. Had he used his bully pulpit and renown to champion this issue, it would have burnished his reputation as a consumer advocate, papering over some of the cracks caused by the polarizing styles of wine that he championed.

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8 Responses to “Parker’s predictions, in retrospect”

  1. Thanks for the article Tyler. What makes Bobulous’ inaction in Maryland even more glaring was the apparent fact that he has been able to work the system to carve an exception for himself to allow delivery of his French purchases in Maryland through friendly dealers while the consumers he alleges to care about did not have similar rights of importation.
    He is a hypocrit and The Winery/ITB Advocate.

  2. you worried that “the continuing obsession with technically perfect wines is stripping wines of their identifiable and distinctive character. It seems to be the tragedy of modern winemaking that it is increasingly difficult to tell an Italian Chardonnay from one made in France or California or Australia.” You added, “Winemakers and the owners of wineries, particularly in America, must learn to take more risks and to preserve the individual character of their wines, even at the risk that some consumers may find them bizarre or unusual.” Looking at things now, did winemaking move away from that trend toward anonymity, or did it continue?”

    After I read the first paragraph, I quit reading. “the continuing obsession with technically perfect wines is stripping wines of their identifiable and distinctive character.”

    Why didn’t Ray Isle say, “Didn’t you mean that the continuing obsession with making Pakerized wines is stripping wines of their identifiable character and causing them all to show impenetrable color, smell of brash new oak, exhibit gobs and gobs and gobs of jammy overripe fruit, be low in acid and high in alcohol and thus generally undrinkable to civilized palates.”

    Parkerized wines are the oenological equivalent of the Tea Bagger (sic) Party.

  3. Tyler, congratulations on making IntoWine ‘s top 100. Very cool.

  4. I’ve tried a couple of Robert Parker’s world class winery picks (Abreu, Harlan Estates), and found them to be unenjoyable and indistinguishable because of the characteristics that Gerry listed in his gobs and gobs and gobs reply. I’m not opposed to high alcohol wines, but I prefer the finesse of a low alcohol wine (that’s 14.5% isn’t it?).
    It seems as though Robert Parker does not have his finger on the pulse as much as we would like.

  5. I really don’t believe wines are as good as they could be when they top 13.5% and I prefer less. My upper limit is 14% for my portfolio and I only have a few of those.

    “High-alcohol wines, those that exceed about 14 percent alcohol, are often described as “hot” and unbalanced. Alcohol’s irritating effects account for the heat. And flavor chemists have found that high alcohol levels accentuate a wine’s bitterness, reduce its apparent acidity and diminish the release of most aroma molecules. Alcohol particularly holds down fruity and floral aromas, so the aroma that’s left is mainly woody, herbaceous and vegetal.

    I couldn’t find any recent trials of wine dilution, but it’s been practiced since the days of ancient Greece, so I went ahead and tried it on a California zinfandel with 14.9 percent alcohol. I poured a partial glass of the wine and added about a quarter of its volume in water, to get it down to 12 percent.

    A glass of the full-strength wine tasted hot, dense, jammy and a little sulfurous, while the diluted version was lighter all around but still full of flavor, tarter, more fruity than jammy, and less sulfurous. . .” — Harold McGee, aka Curious Cook and author of On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen, on High Alcohol in Wines in his article, To Enhance Flavor, Just Add Water in The New York Times (July 7, 2010).

  6. Jack – Yes, his lack of public action in Maryland was particularly egregious. I hope that he at least wrote the Governor, but the fact that for years he enjoyed a critic’s exemption while letting the rest of Maryland consumers fritter away with no ability to comparison shop is astounding. The good news is that an advocacy group in Maryland did achieve reform and consumers can buy wine from out of state now.

    Gerry – Indeed, his stylistic preferences are polarizing. Taking a lead on shipping liberalization would have gone some distance in gaining him more goodwill.

    Philippe – Ha, thanks! I’m going to have T-shirts with #23 made up. Oh wait, could just buy Bulls ones and save the custom printing. Still, all that and $2.25 will get me a ride on the subway…

    Robin C – yes, many of his New World picks can induce palate fatigue at fifty paces. Interestingly, while criticizing white Burgundies for not aging well (because of premox) he failed to mention anything about the aging potential of the style of reds he has championed (shiraz etc).

    Gerry – Yes, alcohol management is a thorny subject–does a winemaker achieve lower alcohol by picking early or watering back? If the method matters to a taster, then drawing an abv line in sand would seem too simple.

  7. The higher the alcohol, the dumber the vino. The exceptions are Ports, Sherries, etc., but a case could be made that they are lower alcohol wine liqueurs. 😉

  8. Tyler

    When I read this in the magazine I was like—1987? That seemed certainly way before the curve even while the wine world was still quite innocent. But Mr. Parker wrote those words in the 1999 Buying guide, twelve years later in his essay in that guide called The Dark Side.


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