Robert Parker says sorry to Burgundy

Robert Parker has admitted to the drinks business that he was “too belligerent with the Burgundians”.


Although Parker is best known for rating Bordeaux, he reviewed Burgundy for 15 years

During an exclusive interview with db earlier this year, which was published in the June edition of the magazine, the world’s most influential wine critic said that he had regrets from his 37 years spent reviewing wines for The Wine Advocate, especially concerning his treatment of Burgundian producers from 1978 to 1993.

“Sure there are always regrets, and I think the biggest mistake was when I was younger and doing Burgundy that I was too belligerent and aggressive with the Burgundians; I stepped on too many toes,” he said.

However, he stressed that his motives were well-intentioned. “I wasn’t trying to get them to change the way they made wine but to recognize some of the issues with their wines once they left Burgundy, for example, why weren’t they shipped in refrigerated containers? Or why did they have mobile bottling plants that were filtering the hell out of the wines – why weren’t they using less bruising techniques?”

Nevertheless, Parker acknowledged that his approach would have angered the Burgundians. “I’ve learned through age that we all can make those points much more diplomatically. I made them way too bluntly, aggressively, and was often probably rude, and I think part of the problem was that my French – which is very good now – at that time was sort of basic travel French, and I think when you talk to someone with just an elementary knowledge of a language then you can’t express subtleties or nuances.”

Concluding, he commented, “So my very blunt, direct French wasn’t well received, and of course the fact that it was coming from an American made it even worse.”

Although Parker is best known for rating Bordeaux, he in fact worked in Burgundy for a month every year between 1978 to 1993, and only stopped reviewing the region’s wines after he was sued for libel by Domaine Faiveley for suggesting that the producer’s wines tasted different in the US – although the case was settled out of court.

As he told db, “I spilled too much blood and left.”

To read the full interview with Robert Parker, see the June edition of The Drinks Business.

7 Responses to “Robert Parker says sorry to Burgundy”

  1. Seth Rosenberg says:

    While at the beginning, Parker might have done some good by advocating independent reviews, less filtration and clean production lines, with time all this completely washed away by his insistence on thick, brutish, high-alcohol monstrosities. He shaped the entire global wine market, based on his scores, to create a insipid and nondescript product with no sense of place, no balance and no elegance. Burgundies don’t, for the most part, fit into his desired ‘unctuous and hedonistic’ profile (although some tried, sigh), and hence the resistance – and thank god for that.

  2. Seth Rosenberg says:

    I’d say that this article is pretty biased in the pro-RMP camp and whitewashes his record. It’s position is that RMP was ‘too honest’ with the Burgundians. This simply isn’t true – many of their wines simply didn’t mesh with RMP’s palate – the wines weren’t big enough, high-alcohol enough, or rich enough. RMP’s tastes have homogenized the global wine scene, and many of us think that the wine world is worse for it.

  3. Seth Rosenberg says:

    This site seems to be censoring comments that are critical of RMP. So much more honesty in the press and open discussion.

  4. Damien_From_B says:

    Reste à Bordeaux, tu leur ressembles tellement …

  5. Doug Schulman says:

    I’m far from a Parker apologist, and I think it’s clear that he has never really understood Burgundy, but this stereotype that he has only really likes/liked big, alcoholic wines is not true. He has rated many wines of subtlety very highly. He’s missed the boat on many as well, but that doesn’t mean he only wants one style.

    • Seth Rosenberg says:

      I think you’re simplifying the argument – creating a strawman. We’re not saying RMP likes only one style of wine – we’re saying he has a clear bias towards that style – statistically rating them more highly. He’s tasted tens of thousands of wines, and clearly not every massive wine was rated higher than every elegant one, but again, the bias is clear – and the market and the wineries around the world responded. There can be no argument about that.

  6. Seth Rosenberg says:

    Also – it’s important to note that the article doesn’t even mention the debates within the wine community or the criticisms of RMP’s palate – and this article is about Burgundy, an area where these issues are certainly relevant.

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