In Vino, Criticorum – When wine critics attack

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There’s been a lot of chatter in the wine world lately regarding a statement by simultaneously hated and celebrated wine critic Robert M. Parker Jr.  Parker has unleashed a verbal whipping on unspecified wine writers and sommeliers, who he claims are “a vociferous minority” of “euro-elitists” vying for journalistic market share “perpetrating nothing short of absolute sham on wine consumers.”

Sheesh…how can he actually taste wine with all that venom frothing out of his mouth?

Anyways, what’s his point?  Too many critics spoil the wine?  Not quite…he believes there isn’t enough focus by “wannabe” wine-o’s on the classic regions, like the big boys of Bordeaux and Burgundy and their noble varieties like Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and Cabernet Sauvignon.  He complains that these unnamed wine scribblers are wasting everyone’s time by focusing on unknown regions and obscure grape varieties…nevermind the fact that in the not-so-distant past Piedmont‘s MVP Barolo region and its grape Nebbiolo would have been part of that group of so-called grape and region no-names.

Should everyone in the world write about only Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, or bottles of Burgundy that cost $25,000 a pop (Domaine du Comte Liger-Belair La Romanee Grand Cru)?  Writers and sommeliers should only consider and talk about wines made of the french noble varieties in French vineyards that are already well known?  Is Mr. Parker speaking on the behalf of curious readers, the consumers he says are being taken for a ride?  Or is he perhaps worried that some day he might be in an awkward situation when  someone will talk about wines, regions, and grapes that he knows nothing about, having spent his entire career caring primarily about French wine?  Maybe he just doesn’t see the worth in wines made by producers that don’t tailor wines for his palate.

If it’s a question of “misleading” consumers by talking about wines that might be hard to find all around the world, than I’d say it’s equally a “sham” to write about wines that the average wine drinker can’t afford, period.  And while certainly not every bottle of “obscure” region wine can match the quality of bicentennial Chateau Spare-No-Expense, is that all that counts?  What happened to talking about wine to inform the consumer, who god forbid, might enjoy less expensive non-French wines!

The wine world is a dynamic place, not to be forced into a static frame.  And this is what is really exciting for wine fans:  there will always be new things to discover, different wines to like (and to dislike).  I find nothing wrong with wine writers sharing information on things they enjoy (or don’t enjoy), that people might otherwise have never heard of.  Who knows, people may even get the courage to try something new!  In the end, people (consumers) are free to read and even reject subjects they find uninteresting or irrelevant, like unfamiliar regions and grapes.

Let’s keep the public criticism on the wines, and not the writers.  Drink up!

Aubrie Talarico

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5 Responses to In Vino, Criticorum – When wine critics attack

  1. I am a lover of French wine as well as italians (well being Italian does help). I was fortunate enough, being wine one of my passions, to have enjoyed the Grand-Cru (Romanee-Conti) or Brunello di Montalcino (Farina) 1985 as well great Barolo (1964) and so forth. However there is nothing more enjoyable, at least for me, to sit in any cafe in Paris and ask for a verre de vin rouge or in a trattoria in Umbria and ask for a glass of “della casa”.
    That’s great wines and great wines tradition.

  2. Those are some really great wines you have had the chance to taste! Don’t misunderstand me- I LOVE French wines…I’d drink a Chateaneuf du Pape, Loire Valley Chenin Blanc, Chablis, or any Provence or any other French wine for that matter Rose’, White, Red, Sweet, Sparkling! I just think it’s outdated and silly to think that only the wines and grapes of the classic regions in France are the only ones worth talking about.

  3. I agree with you and that was the gist of my comment. Forgive me if I wasn’t clear. Often times I had great and unknown wines. Is not only matter of “labels” I think, but of culture and often tradition.

  4. Sure! And also, if the market only demands Bordeaux blends and French grapes, it’s probably because it’s all the world knows about, no? Cheers!

  5. Indeed marketing plays a great role…

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