Parker repudiates heaviness?

Jancis Robinson has done it again, displaying her talent for capturing the essence of a story in a snippet of prose, or in this case video. In Robinson’s hands, a Flip camera is a dangerous weapon.

On Friday, Robinson posted a 42-second video of Robert M. Parker Jr. speaking at WineFuture Hong Kong, during a much-touted tasting of 20 Bordeaux wines he selected. She doesn’t comment on the excerpt herself except in the suggestive title of her post, “Parker repudiates heaviness.”  As she is also a keynote speaker at the conference, however, you can see her image on the wall behind Parker, as if she’s stalking him.

I suspect this video will prompt lots of introspection and hand-wringing in the blogosphere about Parker, seeing his influence wane as he approaches his sunset years, repudiating not just heaviness but the entire style of ripe, high-alcohol wines that he has been accused of promoting over the years. This would be wrong.  The video is short enough that I won’t quote Parker here. (You’ve already spent more time reading this than it would take to watch it.)

My point is that Parker is not repudiating ripe, rich, alcoholic wines, only the “heavy” ones. We can argue over what that means, but it boils down to this: He has always favored wines of a particular style that are made meticulously and expensively in the vineyard with low yields and in the winery with new barrels. Such wines are easy to imitate, as Parker points out in this excerpt, but they are difficult to imitate successfully.

So it may sound like Parker is quoting his critics here, but I don’t think he’s repudiating anything other than 100-point wannabe wines. Parker isn’t the problem. The problem is winemakers who think they can or should produce a “Parker-style” wine according to some recipe (“add an extra 1.5% alcohol …”) without putting in the sweat equity.

We could have a very fruitful debate over how many “Parker-style” wines the world needs. But for now, repeat after me: The problem isn’t Parker.

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About Dave McIntyre

Wine columnist for The Washington Post, co-founder of DrinkLocalWine.com, and blogger at Dave McIntyre's WineLine (dmwineline.com).
This entry was posted in Bordeaux, Parker, Rants, Wine and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Parker repudiates heaviness?

  1. Dave, do you think it’s interesting that Parker — who was silent about this for so many years — has suddenly decided to start talking about it? A couple of years ago, he would say, if asked, that winemakers made wine they wanted and leave it at that. But in the last year of so, he is giving interviews and explanations and comments like the one you note here. It’s damn intriguing, if you ask me.

    • I think anything he says is intriguing, to be honest, in that incestuous way we all tend to make too much of whatever he does or doesn’t say. And we must remember that this is just a few seconds of his speech, so the comment is out of context. Of course, that lack of contest makes it all the more arresting, and interesting.

  2. Allen says:

    Robert Parker has been been the biggest influence in the wine industry for the last 25 years. He prompted a huge amount of us all to not only drink wine, but to pay attention to what we are drinking. He also influenced the way winemakers and wineries make wine. While you may have issue with what Parker deems a great wine, I can assure you that the owners of those wineries that were seduced are laughing all the way to the bank!

    Whether you choose to agree with his opinion of any given wine is up to the individual to decide. HIs stature in the business makes him an easy target. At this point, I can’t imagine he lets what other people think ruin his day.

  3. Allen Clark says:

    The descriptions don’t work for me – any wine I’d call heavy is necessarily concentrated and high in alcohol. So if “heavy” here is a pejorative, but most Parker-touted wines are heavy, then I think we’re dancing around what makes one heavy wine undesirable and another desirable. I think the answer is structure (generally the tannins and acidity) – a heavy wine without structure is what we used to call flabby. Yeah, that’s a heavy I wouldn’t want to tout, either.

    • Dave McIntyre says:

      Who are you calling flabby?? Oh yeah, you mean the wine.

      You’re absolutely right – this begs the question I alluded to in the post, of how a 15% wine can possibly not be “heavy.”

      Sent from my iPhone

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