Larger than life: Profiling Parker

You’ve been reviewing wine since the early ‘70s; have your tastes changed?

parker 4I don’t think my taste has changed. I’ve always looked for balance, which is very important, and I want wine to have character, some sort of magnetic pulling power so it pulls me back to the glass. People say, “Parker just likes big, bombastic, intense wines”, which is not true. Yes, some of those I do like, but I give plenty of good reviews to elegant wines that rarely do I get given as much credit for. But, basically I have been very consistent in my palate and one of the strengths in my career is that I have been very consistent… I know what I’m looking for and I’ve stuck to that very strictly over 37 years.

Can you provide examples of elegant wines you rate highly?

Well I’m best known for Bordeaux, which tends to be a relatively elegant wine, certainly if you compare it to Barossa Shiraz, Napa Valley Cabernet, or Malbec from Argentina. Bordeaux tends to have a lower alcohol level, even though over the 37 years I’ve done it the level has gone up from 12.5-13% to 13.5-14%. Also, there’s Burgundy. I’m not considered an expert in Burgundy, but I actually worked in Burgundy for a month every year between 1978 to 1993, until I spilled too much blood and left [Parker was sued for libel by the region’s Domaine Faiveley]. Then there’s the entire gamut of Loire valley white wines, and German Riesling, Austrian wines. I love them all.

And what have been the surprises?

I think the quality of Argentine Malbec, Chilean Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay – and Carmenère has been surprising. When I started no-one had heard of Carmenère, and even 10 years later they still hadn’t. It was a grape that did not flourish in Bordeaux, much like Malbec, so that is surprising. There has also been a proliferation of regions that were completely unheard of. For example, when I started the only thing really known [in the US] from Spain was Rioja. Even Vega Sicilia was relatively unknown, and now appellations like Toro, Jumilla, Priorat… these are terrific areas with old vines. Or Italy, from Rome south, through to Sicily, and southern France through Languedoc-Roussillon to Corsica – there have been revelations in terms of the quality that has emerged from those areas. I’ve seen, especially in Spain, the transformation from a co-op mentality based on treating a vineyard like an industrial plant to more estate-grounded concepts where quality is important.

One Response to “Larger than life: Profiling Parker”

  1. Cyrene says:

    A Hard-working man, modest, with a solid sense of humor, who love wines and food, with a true dignity and a sense of honesty that most journalists could only dream of. He did a lot for the world, getting dozens of millions to understand and aprreciate wine. Thank you Sir Robert, for what you have done and for always being true to your word. The wine world owes you a colossal statue to show its gratitude.

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