“Mr Parker, I think you are wrong”

Written By

July 2nd 2015

Let me start by saying I am one of Robert Parker’s biggest fans. My own view is that he has been the single most influential person in the wine trade over the last 30 years. Whilst I don’t necessarily always agree with his reviews and scores, there is no doubting his passion for wine and professionalism. He undoubtedly does like a specific style of wine and whilst the “Parkerisation” of a modern era of wines is often a criticism cited against him, I think this it is more a fault of producers rather than himself. The greatest winemakers in my view, have a passion to make a wine true to themselves, their vineyard and terroir, if it happens to get a good score so much the better, rather than setting out to create a wine for the ever alluring 100 points. Most importantly of all he has made everybody in the industry focus on quality; estates could no longer rely on their historical standing and reputation, overproduce, underperform, overprice and get away with it. Robert Parker made sure they had to stand up and be judged and there was no hiding place.

Phew! I have got that out of the way… now I am afraid that is where my praise comes to an end. Having just read his review of the 2005 whilst he does concede that it is a brilliant vintage, it ends up being rather faint praise as he follows on by extolling the potential superior virtues of 2009 and 2010 and reinforces his comments when he first tasted the wines en primeur, that because of their enormous structure and age worthiness it is “risky to conclude that the finest wines of 2005 are superior to the best of 2003, 2000, 1998 ( Pomerol/St Emilion) 1990 or the most profound 1989’s and 1982’s”.

Mr Parker I couldn’t disagree more; from the minute I tasted this glorious vintage back in the spring of 2006 and on every occasion since including a three day review blind tasting appellation by appellation in Southwold in 2009 and more recently as well, there is no doubt in my view that “2005 is the greatest vintage I will taste in my lifetime en primeur” and if I ever do taste another comparable again I will be a very lucky man indeed. Whilst I don’t want to denounce 2010, 2009 and years such as 2000 and 1982, for they have produced wines of extraordinary quality, 2005 has all the credentials of being the next 1961 as one of the truly hailed vintages of a century. Yes of course they will require huge patience, but isn’t that what a great year is all about, the very best should have the ability to age for at least 50 years and hopefully beyond, I want not only my children but hopefully my grandchildren to have the opportunity to taste the exquisiteness of these stunning wines, in the same way that I have been fortunate enough to have even sampled the odd bottle from the 19th century and still be able to appreciate their delights.

Cloister-and-facade-of-Chateau-La-Mission-Haut-Brion
Ch La Mission Haut Brion

Now to the wines themselves. Whilst he does give 12 wines 100 points, totally justified for a vintage of this quality, it is where he has given them which is rather strange. 10 are in the right bank, 2 in Pessac-Léognan, (quite rightly so, for Haut Brion and La Mission Haut Brion are totally sensational), but none in the Médoc. Really??

Even more mystifying is having upgraded his initial en primeur score of 96 points for Mouton to 99+ in December 2014, six months later he has suddenly downgraded it to 97. If tasted blind it could be a justification for total impartiality, but in reality a more realistic score should be based on the many occasions a wine is tasted over a 10 year period and the true score would be based on accumulated experience, particularly at this level.

At the end of the day it only serves to show that reviews are hugely personal. I would have loved to see such exquisite wines as Ch Margaux, Lafite, the likes of three Leoville’s, Ducru, Pichon Baron just to name a few in the Médoc, nudging towards perfection, but that I suppose is my taste as opposed to his. Isn’t this what makes wine such an amazing thing: whilst intrinsic quality should always out we all have our favourites in the same way that one man’s marmite is another’s curry…

Mr Parker, I still respect you enormously and am even more delighted that whilst we choose to agree on so many things our palates remain very different, “vive la difference”.