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.