Tuesday, November 30, 2004

TORB on the Parkerizing of Australia
Robert Parker Jr. recently released Issue #155 of The Wine Advocate (TWA) with a review of hundreds of Australian wines. As I have noted in previous posts Parker severely criticized much of the Australian wine industry for producing wines with:-

1) “to much American oak obliterating any fruit or charm,
2) chemistry class wines with so much added acidity they were undrinkable because of tart, clipped, and shrill personalities, and
3) industrial, diluted, manufactured wines of no depth, character, or soul”.

Ric Einstein (aka TORB) has recently posted his review of Parker’s assessment of the state of the Aussie wine industry. Ric’s comments have particular value as he has a lengthy experience with Australian wine and is passionate about his subject; who else would spend 3 days tasting their way around Wine Australia 2004? He makes some interesting observations on what may just be the rumblings of journalistic combat between Parker and Australian wine writers. Given the growing importance of Australian wine in the world it makes sense that Parker will try to position himself as the premier taster/writer on Australian wine.

There is also a very sharply focused discussion with Peter Taylor (Executive General Manager, Winemaking) of Southcorp about the criticism Parker leveled at the Penfolds and Rosemount brands. Acidity, anyone!

The most interesting point Ric raises is the one that I’ve obliquely addressed here previously, and that is the identity of the 70% of wines reviewed by Parker that did not make the grade. Ric’s comment on this! “When you knock back 70% of all wines reviewed, it is just as important for a ‘consumer advocate’ who, by definition, is meant to be looking after his customers’ interests, to let them know what should be avoided as well as what they should be looking to purchase. But is Parker all about being a ‘consumer advocate’ or looking after himself first and foremost? I would hazard a guess that his number one priority is selling his publications and being a ‘consumer advocate’ comes a distant second.” TWA #155 does not list how many wines were tasted or recommended. Previous Australian issues of TWA have done so; Issue#143, 535 out of 1,367; Issue #148, 636 out of 1,223. Ric indicates that “about 795” wines were rated in #155. That would mean that over 2,600 wines were tasted. Twice the previous tasting figures!

Ric notes that Parker has a rather limited experience with Aussie wine. “His Australian experience is not very lengthy. It only really surfaced and came to readers’ attention with the fabled 1998 vintage so he has only been reviewing Australian wines for about six years.” I can’t confirm this as I’ve not taken much notice of Mr Parker myself except for the last year or two (and I’ve been seriously collecting wine for over 25 years). However Parker himself does note in TWA #148 that he was buying Petaluma reds 20 years ago. Interestingly he decries those wines for their acid levels and calls them “nearly undrinkable” as they age.

And with that a final note. I'm continually surprised that so many take such single minded notice of one man's palate, irrespective of its consistency, or wealth of experience. In wine tasting class after wine tasting class, at the feet of all the experts, from cellar door and wine shop staff the world over, comes the mantra “don’t worry about what others might say, if you like the wine then that is all that matters”. Even Parker himself says “there can never be any substitute for your own palate nor any better education than tasting the wine yourself.”

I think its getting near time that I go back and review the scientific literature that shows just how variable we all are when it comes to tasting. But before that how about a vist to the Barossa Valley and a little wine tasting? Want to come along?

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