Sanders: ‘Parker pushed us to do better’

Véronique Sanders, director of Château Haut Bailly, has acknowledged the role played by critic Robert Parker in Bordeaux’s recent run of good vintages.

Haut Bailly

Graves property Haut Bailly

Speaking to the drinks business at a vertical tasting of the estate going back to 1998 hosted by the Antique Wine Company, Sanders the influence of Parker was one of the factors in Bordeaux’s dramatic rise in ascendency.

“In the last 15 years, the way we make wine has changed hugely,” she said. “Decades ago we struggled with some vintages but since 1998 we haven’t really had a bad one.”

She continued that before Parker came along there were very few châteaux actually making much money.

The interest he helped generate in the region led to an influx of money which in turn led to producers being able to reinvest in technology and make better wines and more money.

“Since Parker came along with his points,” she said, “he has pushed us to do better.

“He got us making better wine and as a business. Wine was a hobby before in my grandfather’s day.

“I don’t know many producers who will buy themselves a new Rolls Royce or Ferrari but they will buy a new sorting machine for example.”

On the other hand, she admitted too that there had been a swing in recent years towards wines that were “too ripe, particularly on the Right Bank with the Merlot.”

However, she argued, there was a difference between ripe and over-ripe and that some producers liked to be seen to be the last to harvest, “to show how late they are.”

However, while accepting Parker’s role in this success, Sanders added that what was more important was consistency from the wine and not solely the opinion of critics.

She noted one occasion when Parker had scored a vintage poorly but her distributors told their clients that he was wrong and that it was still a must buy wine.

At a later date Parker drastically reviewed his score and admitted he had made a mistake.

Highlighting how rigorous this search for consistency was, Sanders explained that: “If we are not happy with the quality (of a vintage), we will not bottle Haut Bailly. It’s a very expensive decision believe me. ”

This was the case in 1991, for which only the second wine was made.

Commenting on this year’s progress, she reported that it was two to three weeks behind the average but that the weather was good now and expected to continue.

“I talked with the consultant recently and he said we can still have a good vintage,” she said.

‘The game is not yet played but spring was very difficult. We will do what we can, we want quality not quantity.

“We always have to do what we can with factors we cannot control. You begin each year saying, ‘this is going to be the best,’ and then as it goes on you come to accept what you have.”

3 Responses to “Sanders: ‘Parker pushed us to do better’”

  1. CosCob says:

    Is this newsworthy? Is this a good thing to reprint? What is the point, that people will get drunk upon recommandation from a cricketeer?

    • ap says:

      The point – that to achieve higher scores chateaux are making better wine. Based on his ability to move markets, Parker is worth listening to.

  2. David Boyer says:

    Thanks for the great article. Although I have often disagreed with his many ‘too generous’ scores, there can be no question that Robert Parker changed the course of Bordeaux specifically, and wine in general. It’s difficult to estimate today how low the general quality of wine was when Mr. Parker first came into the wine world but it really was not very good, at least in America. The selection on most store shelves then consisted of maybe four to six French wines, which were just a mystery to most Americans. There were a few fine wine merchants that fairly knew what was happening with Bordeaux at the time but had no way to really assess or convey wine quality until Parker created his 100 point system.

    Graves, of course, is a very special appellation that becomes almost immediately apparent on the palate and Château Haut-Bailly produces excellent examples of its terroir. That Robert Parker pushed them to make better wine may be assumed by many of us, but to read that a director of an esteemed château actually made such a statement is rare. Parker indeed has moved markets and has had great power for many years. There can be no question that he was our benefactor throughout the contemporary evolution of wine.

    Thanks again,

    David Boyer


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