The Robert Parker Tirade, Continued

Last Friday in the Financial Times, Jancis Robinson weighed in on the Robert Parker tirade that’s got many in the wine world wondering whether he’s snapped. Predictably levelheaded, Robinson doesn’t come out swinging, yet she seems to side with him more than disagree, which might come as a bit of a surprise to some.

She takes issue with Parker’s (seriously misguided, if you ask most anyone reasonable) assertion that “godforsaken grapes” like trousseau, savagnin or blaufränkisch are not capable of producing wines that “consumers should be beating a path to buy and drink.” But she agrees with him that some (unnamed) tastemakers look for obscurity as the supreme determinant of a wine’s worth, and that, as a result, some of the world’s classic wines made from grapes like chardonnay and cabernet are being shoved to the wayside.

Now, with all of the noise around emerging regions that were once less visible in the market, it’s easy to assume that the avant-garde’s ditched Bordeaux and Burgundy in search of pineau d’aunis. But upon closer inspection, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Who, one might ask, is calling for the abolition of the world’s classic wines? I’d like to meet sommelier or retailer that hates Champagne and Burgundy, for instance. (Bordeaux, admittedly, is a more complicated case.) Or the unnamed wine lovers who are out to rid the world of cabernet and chardonnay.

Sure there are sommeliers who are running wine lists that focus on what many would deem “esoterica,” but that is far from any majority. In fact, what you are seeing—and what both Parker and Robinson seem to be missing—is that the classics continue to be exalted on the wine lists garnering the most attention. What’s exciting is that they are co-mingling with wines from regions making wine we previously did not have access to, or, in some cases, is better than it has ever been before. What is so wrong with that? Even in Brooklyn, where there is decidedly more leeway for those looking to experiment, many of the best wine lists are still built on a classical base.

What’s also missing from both arguments is the acknowledgement that curiosity and a willingness to explore wines or regions that are unfamiliar or underappreciated is precisely what gave Burgundy a chance to rise again. The same is true for a number of other classic regions, including Sherry. The wine world is evolving, and if we stop looking we not only threaten the livelihood of those working in the world’s “lesser” regions, but we threaten our progress on the whole. [The Financial Times] [] [Image: Flickr/Megan Mallen]