A healthy dose of Mr. Parker

It took a long time for Robert Parker to work his way to the podium, inching up with metal crutches (from spinal surgery) and looking much older than 66.

But once he started talking to the attendees at the Symposium for Professional Wine Writers, the legendary wine savant sprung back to life.

Some of his more noteworthy comments:

• “I got interested in wine by fortuitous circumstances. I went to France to protect my investment [a girlfriend, now his wife]. I Parker 2went to see her, and she made me drink wine. I wasn’t fond of alcohol. I thought liquor was numbing, and beer was so filling. We drank bistro wines, probably the kind we wouldn’t touch today. For me, the most important part was a nice euphoria that came incrementally. You could talk after drinking it.”

• “The climb to the top is what makes it worthwhile. Once you get to the top, there’s nothing there.”

• “Today the Internet neutralizes things.”

• “When I started in 1978, the greatest wine in Spain, Vega Sicilia, wasn’t even imported to the United States. The alleged greatest Aussie wine, Penfolds Grange, wasn’t imported to the United States.”

• “My alleged thin skin is actually quite thick, just like my waistline.”

• “Wine to me is something that brings people together. Wine does promote conversation and promote civility, but it’s also fascinating. It’s the greatest subject to study. No matter how much you learn, every vintage is going to come at you with different factors that make you have to think again.”

• “People do still want to read tasting notes. It’s as true today as it was 35 years ago. People want some guidepost, some sign that this is what that guy or woman thinks about the wine.”

Napa sign• “California is making more world-class wines than it ever has. I see chards and cabs that can rival France’s best. And I don’t think that story is told enough.”

• “I never met anyone who wants to drink alone; people always want to share wine with another person.”

• “Bordeaux is in a bad, bad patch right now. When some vintages came along, they should have dropped their prices. They’ve got to come to God.”

• “I had a daughter and missed a lot of her upbringing. But it’s a tradeoff. There’s no such thing as the idyllic life.”

• “I think the press from the get-go has overestimated my power and also tried to pigeonhole my taste.”

• “Yes, there are styles I don’t like. … As a consumer advocate you are required, expected to state your opinion. Do I sometimes overdo it? Yes. … Even people that fire back, I can’t fault because they’re coming at it with passion. But there is a simplified knee-jerk reaction to put my palate in a cubbyhole. I hope [“Parkerized”] is in the dictionary someday [laughs].”

Underripe• “I do believe flavor intensity is critical, and I look at what the wine is going to be. You need some power, some richness, some intensity; otherwise, the wine will fall apart because there’s nothing there. … I think it’s a mistake to have a formula where your objective is to have low alcohol. You’re not getting an elegant wine, you’re just picking underripe fruit. I’m gonna flunk a wine that doesn’t have intensity … You haven’t gotten full phenolic expression of grapes or the terroir. Excessive manipulation can be picking too soon or picking too late.”

• “The truth is on my side. History is on my side. … But I’m not an absolutist.”

10 Responses

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  2. Bill,

    For as much as you rip on Parker there is no one in the world that has championed the Old World regions as him.

    Also believe it or not TVs, cars and restaurants are reviewed so why not wine.

    John Glas

  3. Bill Ward

    John, do you actually read posts or do you just go to the comments section and fire away? Must be the latter. This post is just a string of quotes from an often wistful, often willful chat he gave. And you must have missed this post (http://www.decant-this.com/archives/8776) in which I point out that he helped me discover the Rhone. I am and always have been a fan of Mr. Parker.
    Oh, and it’s “no one in the world WHO,” not “THAT.”

  4. Pingback : Terroirist: A Daily Wine Blog » Parker Comments on “Parkerization”

  5. Bill Ward

    Amen, William, although I blame the vintners as well for chasing his scores. His influence on the prices has been lamentable, too: I fell in love with CdPs with the ’89 Beaucastel, which I got for $30. Now you need an extra Benjamin on top of that to buy one.

  6. Michael Donohue

    I used to sell wine in the early 2000’s and there was nothing easier (or more compensatory) than sending out an email blast offering a Parker 95 for <$25. I remember being properly chastised by winemaker Rainer Lingenfelder, who suggested an alternate career if one could only quote Parker. Let us not forget that it was us (boomers, newbies, merchants, etc.) who put Parker on a pedestal, awaiting the arrival of the latest Wine Advocate with bated breath, as if it were the absolute truth.

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  8. I’m amazed at how his every word of that talk is being dissected. I know the counterargument is that by doing nothing to curtail his influence he has brought that scrutiny on himself, but… Still… Dang!

  9. Bill Ward

    You are right, Dude, as are you, Michael. He’s a compelling figure, and he had a huge effect on a lot of our drinking/buying habits (http://www.decant-this.com/archives/8776). Unfortunately, too many vintners chased his ratings and made a lot of boring stuff. (Witness Cathy Corison’s cabernet being poured at the Synposium with “Unusaul California wines.”) There now at least are more options than ever of different styles of wines in the market.
    I just found a lot of his quotes noteworthy and worth sharing. I decided to leave the dissecting of the “real meaning” of his talk to others and to just share his words.

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