Sommelier Journal & Robert Parker

Posted by | Posted in Out of the Glass | Posted on 05-02-2012

Last year, Alder Yarrow urged his readers to subscribe to Sommelier Journal: “The magazine contains really great content, from profiles of wine lists at top restaurants around the country, to in-depth coverage of the world’s wine regions, to witty commentary.”

I just finished reading the most recent issue, and I’m convinced. It’s an excellent magazine and well worth the tariff. Plus, Sommelier Journal has kindly offered a special discount for Terroirist readers! (Read on for details.)

The most recent issue contains a must-read interview with Robert Parker, conducted by sommelier and educator David Denton. In the interview, Parker pulls no punches — chiming in on everything from Campogate and “natural wine” to wine bloggers, message board participants, and his legacy.

Parker’s harshest words are directed at Alice Feiring:

When we talk about all these catchphrases like ‘natural wine,’ I can tell you that people like Alice Feiring are charlatans — I think they are no better than the snake-oil salesmen of yesterday. They are selling a gimmick. Most wines are natural.

Joe Roberts has chimed in on this – correctly contending that “that “Feiring is no more responsible for all horse-sweaty, undrinkable juice than Parker is for all over-extracted, boozy Frankenwines.”

This isn’t the only juicy quote. As to his impact on the wine world, Parker says the following:

The main thing I’m proud of is that from the very beginning, I was interested in quality — in raising the level of quality, pointing out underachievers in every area, whether it was a vin de pays or an appellation in California or whatever. I think my legacy will be that I was about recognizing the quality that exists out there.

I think he’s right here. Had Parker not pioneered a Consumer Reports-style approach to wine criticism, a much higher percentage of bottles would be flawed.

Parker also argues that today’s palates are more much more sophisticated thanks to wine education and geeky wine lists:

With all the by-the-glass programs, with all the educational programs, with the diversity of wines that are available, they have to be… it’s not adequate to drink just Burgundy or Bordeaux. You’ve got to be trying Toros, you’ve got to be trying inexpensive Mourvèdres from Jumilla, you’ve got to try Albariños. And now you are seeing these really great table wines coming out of Portugal and Greece.

He also makes some interesting points on terroir — praising Riesling and criticizing Burgundy:

When people talk about terroir, they say to just look at a great erroir like La Tâche or Romanée-Conti, and I ask, “Well, what do you say about he fact that those wines are aged in 100% new oak? What would they taste like without oak?” I mean if you want to talk about terroir, talk about German Rieslings or Alsace Rieslings, where the wines are naked — there’s no makeup, other than a little bit of sulfur.


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