Parker Comments on “Parkerization”

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 02-24-2014

Parker at WWS14

Robert Parker at the Wine Writers Symposium.

Last week, some of the nation’s top wine writers gathered in Napa Valley for the annual Wine Writers Symposium.

The most anticipated event took place at 8:30am on Wednesday. While wine writers typically aren’t a morning bunch, the room was absolutely packed a full thirty minutes before Parker’s arrival.

Those who followed #WWS14 on Twitter were able to follow (and react) to Parker’s remarks in real time. Bill Ward collected some of the best quotes, and Fred Swan has already reacted. I recorded the event and will be publishing most of the transcript in parts.

While personable (at times) and disarming, it was mostly disappointing. I’ll offer more substantive thoughts later this week.

In the meantime, here’s a question posed by Tony Lawrence, a wine educator in Philadelphia.

Tony Lawrence: What is a “Parkerized” wine?

Robert Parker: Maybe one of you can tell me what it is!

In the 60s in Bordeaux, the most famous enologist was a guy named Émile Peynaud. And he had a lot of clients. And he was the first one to sort of begin to advocate some more radical things that weren’t being done, and more selective process, in making better wine. Some of his critics started using the term Peynaudization, because they said that all the wines tasted alike.

I think “Parkerization” is a derivative of that. I think it’s the people who don’t read the Wine Advocate, who don’t see the breadth and diversity of wines that we cover. Pull out one Australian Shiraz that I gave it huge score to and say “Parker likes these bombastic fruit bombs and it’s been Parkerized — the wine isn’t worth a damn anymore.”

Again it’s just sort of a simplified, knee-jerk reaction to try and put my palate in a little cubbyhole, or in black and white terms. You know, I’m hoping one day it gets into Webster’s Dictionary, but so far it hasn’t happened! You know, people that know me are just shocked by some of the things they see about what I’m supposed to drink.

When I judge wines, I do believe that flavor intensity is critical. And I’m looking at wines that I want to see improve in a bottle and be better in five and 10 years than they are today. You cannot have a diluted, shallow wine being produced and call it elegant and feminine, or whatever, and expect that wine to do anything in the bottle. It’s just going to fall apart because there’s just nothing there to begin with. You need some power, you need some richness, you need some intensity.

Just here, a few days ago, at Press, we had one last bottle of 1969 Chappellet.

I remember interviewing Philip Togni, who made the wine, and he said it was the greatest Cabernet he ever made. I said, “come on, Phil, greater than any of the wines you made up on Spring Mountain at your winery?” He said, “Yes, it’s the greatest wine.”

So one of my old colleagues, Jay Miller, found it being offered at an auction and ended up buying the entire allotment, which I think was four cases at $35 a bottle. And we had this wine — 45 years old now — and it’s brilliant. It’s powerful, it’s rich, some nuances have started to develop, and it could go for another 45, 50 years, where it’s stored. There has to be matter, there has to be intensity.

I remember talking to the great Hermitage winemaker, Gerard Chave, about his 2003 which, you know, there was no acidity in it, none. I mean, literally. And the pH was over four. I said, “you’re going to put this wine in a bottle, and you think it’s going to age?” And he said, “yeah, ’cause it’s just like my father said the 1929 was. Because it has so much dry extract, so much fruit and extract, that it will survive on that.”

Now, of course, it’s a little too early, 11 years later, to say whether he’s right or wrong, but I bet he’s right. They’ve been making wines since 1481; they usually get it right.

Comments (9)

  1. Thanks for this first synopsis David. I wish I could say anything about RP surprises any more, but I am enjoying watch him inadvertently accelerate the shift he despises. Eagerly await your own thoughts and candor.

  2. Richard Jennings also has a synopsis up:

  3. I’m excited to read more and get your take!

  4. Thanks David. I’m looking forward to hearing what else you have to say on the subject.

  5. What’s the big deal? Robert Parker was a reviewer and critic like any other. He gave his opinion and that’s all it was. It was all the sheep, the insecure winemaker, the retailer, the proprietor and the growing conglomerates of wine who latched on to his opinions as cheap marketing. He gave everyone what they wanted. The consumer got assurances and everyone else got sales. If you chose to do your own thing you probably suffered or survived and are stronger today. God bless all who persevered and thanks Bob for making wine a bigger deal today than it might have been otherwise.

  6. These idiots in France will bottle anything and call it winemaking. I’ve had some great Chave, when Bernard was making wine it was phenomenal. Since he’s stopped its crap. No longer fruit forward and sexy. Now very austere. The French like to perpetrate a joke on us ‘Americains’ like were too self absorbed to notice. Not true. We’re very attuned to bad product. Of course they say talent isn’t hereditary.

  7. Bernard? Maybe the wrong Chave.

  8. @Dennis Lapuyade: Gérard Chave took over from his father at Jean-Louis Chave in 1970. While he handed the winemaking reins to his son in the mid-90s, he continued to run the property for another ten years.

  9. […] with his thoughts. I’ve published a transcript of Parker’s response to smart questions posed by Tony Lawrence and Jon Bonné. More snippets will be published in the coming days. But here’s my […]