Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Robert M Parker-Socialist? In the best possible way...

Robert Parker is an easy, slow moving target. We in the wine industry like to dismiss his motivation, power and palate. I'm here to defend him. When Parker started, about 30 years ago, when ratings didn't really matter much. He didn't envision a world where his scores would fill the void. His intention was to bring a little organization and reason to the vast, confusing world of wine. Labeling was different back then.The consumer was easily confused. Wine also was much cheaper than it is today, so ratings were taken a little less seriously.
In the years since, Parker has remained consistent in his Independence and palate.I know what he's going to like just as I know what my wife will like. We sit around and talk about "Parker wines". He likes concentrated jammy, almost sweet wines. This doesn't make him less of a person, even though he and I like different wines. This doesn't mean he has less of a palate than anyone else. His writing is astute and descriptive. His editorial comments are always right on. I've heard he doesn't write tasting notes while at the wineries, but remembers everything.
He has also remained independent. When is the last time you though he was giving a higher score to Columbia Crest than they deserved and suspected that they may be in his pocket? With all the "controversy" surrounding the little travelgate thing happening right now, it's really a testament to how clean he has always been.
Here is why Parker is great: He has given voice to the small wineries. By treating every producer the same regardless of marketing budget, distribution, etc, he has leveled the playing field. Thus, allowing small producers to emerge in this wine-saturated landscape. Because he cares only about the highest quality wines, he searches far and wide to taste everything possible. Think about how many tiny, mailing list only wineries have thrived because of what Parker said about them. You may not agree with his ratings, but at least you don't need to put your arm around Marvin Shanken to get them...

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