Parker’s wine ratings dramatically affect the price of wine on the market. It is claimed that the difference between a Parker score of 85 and 95 can be ten-million dollars to the value of the wine. A wine that is rated at less than 70 can bankrupt the wine grower. The prices that people pay for wine, the wines that retailers and restaurants select to offer for sale, these are all affected by the judgments of Robert Parker. Even though his judgments may be fair and his opinions correct, I believe that it is wrong and unhealthy for any one individual to have that much power. Of course there are other wine critics and magazines who are also rating wines, but not only have most of them adopted Parker’s scoring system, most of them have also adopted his tastes and his preferences for the rich and powerful, oaky, fruit-forward reds that he so admires. Consequently we are seeing an international standardization of taste, a ‘Parkerization’ of wine.
But the ripple effect goes even further than the wine market; it reaches as far as the cellar and vineyard. A winegrower who may have a vision of a unique wine he wants to make may hesitate or change his mind when thinking about how Parker might rate it.
Of course there are many who oppose Parker and the style of wine he promotes; the ‘hedonistic fruit bombs’ – or ‘leg-spreaders’ as they are called. Parker once referred to such people as an “anti-flavor wine elite”, a phrase which went viral on Twitter and which has since been adopted by the very people he criticized. Parker’s detractors now sign themselves AFWE.
Hence my ambivalence about Robert Parker: I like his writing, I share his tastes and I greatly respect his knowledge. Robert Parker should also be admired for making wine popular and accessible to Americans and he should be commended for cutting through much of the jargon and old-world mystique and bringing a New World freshness to the business. Unfortunately, the majority of people do not read his thoughtful tasting notes or his informed reviews; they just see the numbers – the Parker Points on the shelf-talkers. That’s where power corrupts absolutely.
I just wish there were a couple more Robert Parkers, equally informed and passionate, with similar influence but with different tastes – not to mention a preference for a 20-point scoring system.
For a list of all the French wines that Parker has awarded 100 points in his system, go to http://www.comptoirdesmillesimes.com/blog/les-meilleurs-vins-robert-parker/