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Parker: influence is “scary”

Wine critic Robert Parker has admitted that sometimes he finds his own influence “scary”, referring to himself as “just the messenger”.

Speaking to Liv-ex, Parker said of his potential to impact on the market: “I really try to never think about that. I am gratified that people give credibility to what I write; a lot of hard work and passion goes into it.

“I don’t have any hidden agendas and I try and be as fair as possible to both the producer and consumer when I taste the wine. But I do know the impact my scores can have, particularly in Bordeaux. It’s scary sometimes; no one should have that kind of influence.

“It’s also a double-edged sword. It creates a lot of criticism of me when in fact I’m just the messenger.”

However, Parker has spoken before about those that attack what he does and defended his style of writing and his points system, arguing that quality across the region has improved enormously during his time as a critic and he is pleased to see smaller estates garnering higher praise.

He said: “I think that by writing about high quality in Bordeaux, whether it’s a petit château, a cru bourgeois or a cru classé, you are doing a service and trying to recognise the effort that people are putting into it.

“A revolution of quality has taken place over the last few decades. When I first went to Bordeaux to taste the 1978 in March 1979, finding a dozen great wines was no easy task. The quality of the crus bourgeois and many of the classified growths was mediocre at best.

“We can talk about jealousy among Bordeaux chateaux and the competition in the pricing of their wines between neighbours, but this jealousy has a positive side in that they keep pushing quality higher and higher.

“We are in a very, very fortunate place today in that you do not need to buy first growths or super seconds to get exceptional quality Bordeaux.  It sounds absurd, but the quality of the first growths’ second wines is better today than their first wines were thirty years ago.”

On the subject of 2009 he said that his two favourite wines were Latour and Cos d’Estournel. As db has previously covered, Parker has made clear his love of the vintage before, both at last year’s “Magical 20” tasting in Hong Kong and with the release of his in-bottle scores.

He thought Latour’s 2009 effort was “a very, very special wine – one of their all-time greats. It has a sweetness that you don’t often see in young Latour.”

Meanwhile, his choice of Cos d’Estournel – a controversial wine from the vintage – he defended by saying: “In 10 years I don’t think it will be considered controversial at all, once the baby fat melts away, which it’s already starting to do.

“Sometimes these wines are so overwhelmingly rich in their infancy that tasters can’t find the tannin and wonder where the structure is and think that it belongs in Napa Valley, not Bordeaux.

“But if you look at the evolution of wines like the 2000 Pavie, it’s starting to become very civilised, very St Emilion. I think we’ll see that in 10 years Cos will still be very distinctive and very singular, but there will be no doubt it is a St Estephe – and a great one.”

Overall, he said that 2009 was the first vintage since 1982 that had filled him with “that same sense of joyfulness and almost infantile pleasure”, and had to admit that across the board: “It’s just a magical vintage, a watershed vintage, and so many chateaux did such a great job. Quality is at an all-time high.”

Looking ahead to 2010, he added: “It’s a great vintage – it’s more masculine and the tannins are more noticeable. I think the wines will be more structured and intimidating than the 2009s.”

However he did not think that the scores would be as high as 2009 and didn’t think “they would ever have the charm of 2009”.

The full interview with Parker can be found on the Liv-ex blog page here.

Part two will appear on Monday 19 March.

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