The Robert Parker Tirade, Continued

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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]

  • Barney

    It might be time for both of them to retire.

  • Corwin Kilvert

    In what way has our ignorence of obscure varietals ever threatened the livelihoods of those who farm or vinify them? Many of said wines were produced as merely one facet of a farming estate or sold entirely to the local community. To claim we are threatening their very lives by not dutifully falling in line to whoever is the latest hip/obscure importer or sommelier is ridiculous.

  • Carson Demmond

    Jancis did a pretty good job of camouflaging her agreement with Parker. Love her, but neither of those two are the tastemakers they once were- only because their audiences grow older and smaller each year. They both know that & are reacting in different ways. Parker by whining and making a scene and Jancis by maintaining her cool and reasoning – but I don’t think either of them assume anyone’s going to give up their personal tastes and parrot back what they’re being told. At least I hope that’s not what they expect..

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  • Alex Bardsley

    Forsaken by the market, not by god. Nothing to do with innate quality of the wines, which are often obscure because of a historical dearth of capital or transport.

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