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Netscape Forum Poll: Parker's influence on wine

by Robin Garr » Mon Jun 19, 2006 2:13 pm

I tried to ask this question as neutrally as I possibly could ...

Articles about the American wine critic Robert M. Parker Jr. almost always attach adjectives like "powerful" and "influential" to his name, and discussions about the wine industry invariably turn to Parker and whether the purported influence of his 40,000 circulation newsletter, Wine Advocate has changed international wine styles as producers seek to make wines to please his palate. Now it's your turn to judge, as our Netscape WineLovers Community online poll invites you to rate Parker's influence on wine as good, neutral, bad or irrelevant. Please take a moment to vote, as the larger the turnout, the more meaningful the results; extra credit if you'll stay to post a comment.
Netscape WineLovers Community Poll
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Re: Netscape Forum Poll: Parker's influence on wine

by wrcstl » Mon Jun 19, 2006 3:01 pm

Not sure how anyone can say Parker has been bad for wine. They can say he forces up the price of wines they love, but that just means they agree with him. They can say he only likes big tannic wines, but that is his palate and we are all different. Lots of people don't like him but many own wineries that he does not give high scores to.

I do not subscribe to the WA. I never know what score Parker gives the wines I purchase. BUT he has been good for wine. Wine/wineries are cleaner, pay more attention to their product and more and more people are drinking wine. You can definitely disagree with Parker but hard to see how he has been bad for wine.

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Re: Netscape Forum Poll: Parker's influence on wine

by Ian Sutton » Mon Jun 19, 2006 3:57 pm

I take a differing view to Walt, though don't discount the arguments.

I'm sure he's actually raised the profile of wine, particularly in the states. If more people have got into wine through his writings then that's a bonus.

There's a perception that he has more unquestioning disciples than any other critic before him, but it would be wrong to believe that it didn't happen with other critics.

His palate is his palate and I get the impression he's pretty consistent and knows what he likes. His consistency helps me to understand his TN's even though the conclusion might be different (or even opposite!)

Where I do get disappointed is where wines are deliberately made in a "Parker style". It certainly occurs in Australia and I understand Pomerol/St Emilion have their Parker Points chasers, as do other parts of Europe. Pinning this all on Parker is a little unfair, as the "super-viticulturists" have worked hard themselves to establish the benefits of hang time and super-ripe grapes. Note however the tone of "disappointed" rather than anything stronger. Trends come and trends go. For a while Australia sought the elegant style and often hit underripe instead. German wine is currently in identity crisis of sweet vs. dry. There'll be plenty more fads and change to occur and Parker may encourage certain wines to be made now, and they may well indeed be made. Sometime in the future we'll have critics who are passionate about balance and elegance and we may even drift too far in the other direction. We'll probably criticise them as well.

Meanwhile wines at either end of the spectrum and everywhere in-between will have their fans. Everyone will still be able to find a wine style they like.

Personally I'd attribute "cleanliness" in wines firmly on Australian flying winemakers, and see Parkers' influence as minor if not insignificant. The Aussies did more than anyone else to highlight winemaking faults that had previously been considered as showing complexity or typicity. I see their influence as primary.

Parker as a critic is probably useful to me, though that often means recognising why he loves a wine to be a good guide for me to avoid it. I personally don't think I like the persona projected, of a super confident person who speaks as if his word is the truth and will challenge dissenters with the air of a lawyer. Whether this is indeed his personality, I don't know, as I've never met him. Whatever, it's pretty much an irrelevance to the question posed. He also isn't telling me how to behave, so I shouldn't do that to him!

Life's too short to (be able to afford to) drink 100 point wines :P

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Re: Netscape Forum Poll: Parker's influence on wine

by OW Holmes » Mon Jun 19, 2006 4:01 pm

I'd have posted this comment there, but as usual can't log on from this computer.
I marked good notwithstanding the facts that a) I don't like Parker style wines, b) he drives the price up, and c) his ratings and style have caused some makers to change to a style I don't really covet. My rationale is that he has been responsible for a lot of people buying better wine, has been largely responsible for the unfined/unfiltered movement, and while I don't care for his style and lament the fact that he has turned traditional winemakers into modernists, there is still an ocean of traditional wine that is a bargain because it is either unrated or rated lower than 90 points because of the Parker effect. So he has been good for wine makers in general, and has not hurt this wine drinker. I say let the pointy people followers buy all the Clos de los Siete and they want - it has no effect on me.
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Re: Netscape Forum Poll: Parker's influence on wine

by wrcstl » Mon Jun 19, 2006 4:12 pm

Ian Sutton wrote:
Where I do get disappointed is where wines are deliberately made in a "Parker style". It certainly occurs in Australia and I understand Pomerol/St Emilion have their Parker Points chasers, as do other parts of Europe. Pinning this all on Parker is a little unfair, as the "super-viticulturists" have worked hard themselves to establish the benefits of hang time and super-ripe grapes.


Ian,
This is my biggest nit with RP but looking at it another way, the consumer wants that kind of wine. The average wine in my cellar has been there 10 years and I look for evolution. The average wine drinker buys a wine and looks to drink immediately





Personally I'd attribute "cleanliness" in wines firmly on Australian flying winemakers, and see Parkers' influence as minor if not insignificant. The Aussies did more than anyone else to highlight winemaking faults that had previously been considered as showing complexity or typicity. I see their influence as primary.


You really got me there. Never heard anyone attribute "winery cleanliness" to flying winemakers from OZ. I do not drink Australian wines so I may have missed something. How about filtering, you certainly have to give him credit for forcing a major reduction in filtering.

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Re: Netscape Forum Poll: Parker's influence on wine

by wrcstl » Mon Jun 19, 2006 4:14 pm

OW Holmes wrote:I'd have posted this comment there, but as usual can't log on from this computer.
I marked good notwithstanding the facts that a) I don't like Parker style wines, b) he drives the price up, and c) his ratings and style have caused some makers to change to a style I don't really covet. My rationale is that he has been responsible for a lot of people buying better wine, has been largely responsible for the unfined/unfiltered movement, and while I don't care for his style and lament the fact that he has turned traditional winemakers into modernists, there is still an ocean of traditional wine that is a bargain because it is either unrated or rated lower than 90 points because of the Parker effect. So he has been good for wine makers in general, and has not hurt this wine drinker. I say let the pointy people followers buy all the Clos de los Siete and they want - it has no effect on me.


OW,
RPs points never bother me because I like his 85-88 pt wines, not as extracted, not as fruit forward and ageworthy. Good that I don't like big OZ Shiraz.
Walt
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Re: Netscape Forum Poll: Parker's influence on wine

by Randy Buckner » Mon Jun 19, 2006 4:49 pm

OW Holmes wrote:I'd have posted this comment there, but as usual can't log on from this computer.
I marked good notwithstanding the facts that a) I don't like Parker style wines, b) he drives the price up, and c) his ratings and style have caused some makers to change to a style I don't really covet. My rationale is that he has been responsible for a lot of people buying better wine, has been largely responsible for the unfined/unfiltered movement, and while I don't care for his style and lament the fact that he has turned traditional winemakers into modernists, there is still an ocean of traditional wine that is a bargain because it is either unrated or rated lower than 90 points because of the Parker effect. So he has been good for wine makers in general, and has not hurt this wine drinker. I say let the pointy people followers buy all the Clos de los Siete and they want - it has no effect on me.


Well said, OW. I loved it when I was in Alsace and was visiting Kientzler Winery. The old man said, "Parker sits his butt in Colmar and expects everyone to send their wines to him to taste. If he want to taste my wines, he can come to my winery." He makes the wines the way he likes them, and fortunately I like them as well. Too bad very little if any is imported to the USA.
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Re: Netscape Forum Poll: Parker's influence on wine

by Sue Courtney » Mon Jun 19, 2006 5:09 pm

Not voting on the Netscape forum but I can see his influence as good and bad, depending where you stand.
1. It's good for some in the wine industry - particularly the wineries or producers whose wines he reviews highly, the distributors that market those wines and the retailers that stock those wines. I see his scores now being used by NZ retailers to market products on shelf talkers, in snail mail or email newsletters and on their retail websites. Personally I am still unsure of what his points mean in relation to the gold/silver/bronze medal system that is widely used in Aus/NZ, but wineries get very excited about any score with a 9 in it, particularly those above 89.
2. I see his influence as good for consumers who don't have the opportunity to taste lots of wine and make their own decisions before they buy. After all, this is why wine reviewers were invented. Thus, if these consumers like the wines that Parker reviews, then it is extremely good for them, as their shopping list is designed by Parker. They just then need to find the wines, of course.
3. I see his influence as bad for the consumers who have devoutly followed a wine to have Parker then find it, rate the wine highly, increase the demand, push the price up and limit the allocation. But this takes us back to 1.
4. I see it bad for other wine reviewers, because some wineries / distributors know how powerful and influential Parker's good scores are, so if they receive a 'good' score from him, then depending where the target market is, they don't need to bother with other reviewers. I heard one quite prominent Australian wine writer say he can't get some Australian samples to review because they are sent to the USA (i.e. Parker & probably the Speck) for review, as that is the focus market. And hey, why not, if that is the market that will follow the scores and snap up the wines.
5. And to add to points 1 and 4, for a winery/producer or distributor, the cost of marketing is cheap if all you have to do is provide a couple of bottles to an 'influential', 'powerful' critic and get a review. For some wineries, just to get a mention by Parker is seen as a fantastic achievement.
6. But I see it bad for the wine industry in general if wineries/producers make wine to the Parker Style in order to get Parker Points - shades of Mondovino.
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Re: Netscape Forum Poll: Parker's influence on wine

by Paul B. » Mon Jun 19, 2006 5:14 pm

Randy Buckner wrote:He makes the wines the way he likes them, and fortunately I like them as well. Too bad very little if any is imported to the USA.

Sounds like my kind of winemaker alright. The best part, of course, is that he has a market for his wines (or, should I say, the market for his wines hasn't been tainted, so he can continue making them according to his principles instead of someone else's).
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Re: Netscape Forum Poll: Parker's influence on wine

by Ian Sutton » Mon Jun 19, 2006 5:15 pm

wrcstl wrote:
Ian Sutton wrote:
Where I do get disappointed is where wines are deliberately made in a "Parker style". It certainly occurs in Australia and I understand Pomerol/St Emilion have their Parker Points chasers, as do other parts of Europe. Pinning this all on Parker is a little unfair, as the "super-viticulturists" have worked hard themselves to establish the benefits of hang time and super-ripe grapes.


Ian,
This is my biggest nit with RP but looking at it another way, the consumer wants that kind of wine. The average wine in my cellar has been there 10 years and I look for evolution. The average wine drinker buys a wine and looks to drink immediately





Personally I'd attribute "cleanliness" in wines firmly on Australian flying winemakers, and see Parkers' influence as minor if not insignificant. The Aussies did more than anyone else to highlight winemaking faults that had previously been considered as showing complexity or typicity. I see their influence as primary.


You really got me there. Never heard anyone attribute "winery cleanliness" to flying winemakers from OZ. I do not drink Australian wines so I may have missed something. How about filtering, you certainly have to give him credit for forcing a major reduction in filtering.

Walt

Apologies about the quotes in quotes - I get a bit confused and usually get in a mess trying to insert multiple responses in a quoted message!

I'll only disagree on semantics - how about : "many consumers currently want that kind of wine. "?

You may not have drunk Australian wine, but there's a fair chance you'll have drunk wine made by an Australian. The focus on winemaking (over say viticulture or "Terroir") that the Australians brought, helped shape perceptions away from some of the more rustic European styles. Having a vintage 6 month different to the Northern Hemisphere made the pursuit of overseas experience an option. Once in situ, it often became a two-way learning exercise and for a while they were (still are?) in high demand for their technical skills (and to be challenging, their ability to make wine from less than perfect grapes?) That they produced clean palateable wines at the cheaper end of the scale was a revolution, though they've been accused of ending up producing soulless wines instead. As with Parker, perhaps you can never win!

I certainly have heard of Parker's preference for unfined/unfiltered wines, though I don't think this is his most significant influence on wines currently being produced (I don't profess great knowledge of his influence in thi area). I'm open to whether this is a good thing or not, depending really on the wine itself. I see it as a winemakers call - just another option among many.

I think you've hit on a really good (albeit mine-infested) point with the cellar vs. now. I recall (please correct me if I'm wrong), that Parker rose to prominence on the back of praise for the 1990 Bordeaux vintage, when others expressed doubts about overripeness. Maybe the current Parkerised cult wines will end up undermining him or reinforcing his position. Those that are cellaring them are braver than me! If people like the wines for what they are now and don't care for cellaring, then good for them!

p.s. Isn't it about now in a Parker debate that we're meant to get into a big fight and start name-calling? I blame that Garr fellow for his damned attempted neutrality. Send him to Switzerland I say :twisted:

regards

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Re: Netscape Forum Poll: Parker's influence on wine

by James Roscoe » Mon Jun 19, 2006 5:46 pm

Is Robin going to Switzerland?
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Re: Netscape Forum Poll: Parker's influence on wine

by Randy Buckner » Mon Jun 19, 2006 6:35 pm

James Roscoe wrote:Is Robin going to Switzerland?


I'll chip in on a one-way ticket! :twisted:
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Re: Netscape Forum Poll: Parker's influence on wine

by James Roscoe » Mon Jun 19, 2006 6:53 pm

Are we having a bad day today Mr. Buckner?
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Re: Netscape Forum Poll: Parker's influence on wine

by Randy Buckner » Mon Jun 19, 2006 7:16 pm

James Roscoe wrote:Are we having a bad day today Mr. Buckner?


:shock: :shock: :shock: :shock:
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Re: Netscape Forum Poll: Parker's influence on wine

by Bill Spohn » Mon Jun 19, 2006 7:40 pm

I won't be voting at Netscape (unfriendly place full of nuts these days) but wanted to offer a slightly different take on Parker.

Look at the whole thing from the other end - from Parker's point of view.

He is a reliable and consistent taster who ably expresses his opinions about wines. Whether or not your taste coincides with his, the reading he gives on a wine will inform you and you can pursue or avoid it as your own taste dictates. That is a marked difference from Wine Speculator, whose tasting panels are changeable and mercurial.

That's what Parker the taster does. Now the EFFECT that he has on wine producers must be considered separately. That many winemakers set out to cater to RPs preferences is understandable, as decent scores it can translate into dollars at the cellar door, but I don't think you can 'blame' RP for the fact that he is influential.

It was predictable that the buying public, being the sheep that they are, would follow anyone who translated reviews (oooh - reading and trying to think makes my HEAD hurt....) into numeric scores (Oh - I can just take a chart of everything over 90 to the store...).

It is regrettable that the interesting prose behind the scores is most often ignored, and I am sure that this must dismay RP himself, but as long as he uses numeric scores, the 'dumbspeak' that the ignorant masses clamour for, his prose will continue to be largely ignored.

I guess it is arguable how much RP did to popularize wine in the population at large - I frankly suspect that a couple of episodes of 60 Minutes did far more than RP ever did, but that's because most people know nothing about wine - but do watch 60 Minutes.
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Re: Netscape Forum Poll: Parker's influence on wine

by Bob Ross » Mon Jun 19, 2006 11:17 pm

Cross post from Netscape site:

[I voted good.]

Robin, I'm having a little trouble understanding the choices here. I'm reading the question to mean Parker's overall influence on wine, not his influence on my personal choices.

Personally, his ratings and opinions are not irrelevant to me, although at one time several years ago they were very relevant -- he was an important influence in teaching me about wine. Today I rarely consider his opinions and ratings, unless people I know discuss them -- usually in a negative way. And, I suppose, he is indirectly relevant in the sense that some winemakers and some retailers may offer wines that he scores highly.

If the question is aimed at overall influence on wine, my impression his influence is pretty much limited to wines that retail for $20 or more -- the great majority of wines in this country are sold without any reference to Parker. But in the more expensive wine world, Parker's opinion is clearly relevant, and to the extent I can form a judgment, probably on balance good, even though there are negative aspects to any critic's activities -- at least if they have any influence at all.

In any event, Parker always starts the engines for fine winelovers -- always good for a rant or two. Thanks for posting an interesting question.

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Re: Netscape Forum Poll: Parker's influence on wine

by Randy Buckner » Tue Jun 20, 2006 12:31 am

Sounds like my kind of winemaker alright. The best part, of course, is that he has a market for his wines (or, should I say, the market for his wines hasn't been tainted, so he can continue making them according to his principles instead of someone else's).


That's him! I admire the guy for his spunk. I brought back a case of his wines.
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Re: Netscape Forum Poll: Parker's influence on wine

by Graeme Gee » Tue Jun 20, 2006 1:02 am

Bill's post pretty well sums it up for me. To whatever extent Parker was responsible for any generally improved standard of wine-making in Bordeaux as a result of his criticism (a debatable point, no doubt) his influence was good, but when winemakers abandon a recognised and legitimate 'style' in pursuit of acclaim by one critic who bears disproportionate commercial influence, then the gains are lost.

Which is not to make personal criticism of Parker or his palate. It's just the way things are. But there are plenty of people around who are happy to be told what to think. Critics save these people lots of time and trouble!
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Re: Netscape Forum Poll: Parker's influence on wine

by Bob Parsons Alberta » Tue Jun 20, 2006 1:39 am

I post on Netscape because I think it is of use to help the newbies out. I did not vote on the RP thing (yet) cos I am busy trying out some merlots over there. As are some other forumites like JC, don't think she is a nut either!
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Re: Netscape Forum Poll: Parker's influence on wine

by wrcstl » Tue Jun 20, 2006 10:05 am

Ian Sutton wrote:I think you've hit on a really good (albeit mine-infested) point with the cellar vs. now. I recall (please correct me if I'm wrong), that Parker rose to prominence on the back of praise for the 1990 Bordeaux vintage.


Ian,
Parker rose to prominence on the back of the '82 Bordeaux, claiming it to be a vintage of the century when others, most in the UK, were giving it restrained and very average comments. He definitely proved himself correct on that point.

I agree that Garr is at fault.

Walt
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Re: Netscape Forum Poll: Parker's influence on wine

by Otto » Tue Jun 20, 2006 10:13 am

wrcstl wrote:
Ian Sutton wrote:I think you've hit on a really good (albeit mine-infested) point with the cellar vs. now. I recall (please correct me if I'm wrong), that Parker rose to prominence on the back of praise for the 1990 Bordeaux vintage.


Ian,
Parker rose to prominence on the back of the '82 Bordeaux, claiming it to be a vintage of the century when others, most in the UK, were giving it restrained and very average comments. He definitely proved himself correct on that point.

I agree that Garr is at fault.

Walt


I thought Parker rose to prominence only because he published his reviews of the 1982s before other writers did. And I also thought that 1982 was pretty universally liked and that it is a myth propagated by Parker and his lemmings that only he gave the vintage great reviews.
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Re: Netscape Forum Poll: Parker's influence on wine

by Randy Buckner » Tue Jun 20, 2006 10:58 am

Otto, I was under the impression that the 82 vintage set him on the path to "truth," whereas some other writers were just lukewarm. Anyone else remember this?
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Re: Netscape Forum Poll: Parker's influence on wine

by James Roscoe » Tue Jun 20, 2006 11:05 am

What was Otto doing in 1982? I believe he was barely out of diapers at the time. Bucko on the other hand, still had some teeth in '82, or was that '72? It's been a while since I've seen the old pictures. It's hard to believe that it's been 24 years!
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Re: Netscape Forum Poll: Parker's influence on wine

by wrcstl » Tue Jun 20, 2006 11:09 am

Randy Buckner wrote:Otto, I was under the impression that the 82 vintage set him on the path to "truth," whereas some other writers were just lukewarm. Anyone else remember this?


This is the way I remember it from many years ago. I tried an Internet search on 1982 reviewers. Was looking at what they thought in 1985. The problem is that they are all current reviews and everyone loves 1982, who wouldn't. My guess is that Otto is correct on the early review comment on Parker but still remember that others gave 1982 lukewarm comments.
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