The recent announcement by Robert Parker Jr. that he was relinquishing his long term tenure as the California critic for the Wine Advocate met with a barrage of commentary. Alder Yarrow of Vinography called it “ The End of an Era“,The New York Times critic Eric Asimov, in his always carefully considered way, opined on the matter, as did W. Blake Gray, Jon Bonne and myriad others. Chat rooms have hundreds of comments ranging from the outlandish and accusatory to an iron clad defense of Parker influence on the overall quality of wine produced around the world.
Indisputable is the fact that Antonio Galloni will bring a different perspective, let alone palate, to the job. Will his work in Italy and now the Cote d’Or inform his reviews? This is the widespread question. From the acid, tannin and perfumed aromatics of Burgundy to the structured wines of Barolo and Barbaresco to the mineral driven wines of Champagne and Friuli – you have to imagine so.
Considering the style of our wines at Meteor Vineyard, we have been greatly pleased by the scores and written commentary posted by RP on our wines. In fact, in a certain twisted logic, the 92-95+ range represents a tremendous compliment. As a longtime sommelier we often joke(d) among ourselves that wines that receive 100 points from the Wine Advocate share a monumental intensity and richness that borders on caricature. Shed several point and some of the baby fat and you start to find a mother lode of wines with more balance and elegance, typicity and terroir.
Perhaps the new “perfect scores” from California will be less about caricature and more about site and balance. Only time will tell. In the meantime, while winery owners and winemakers scratch their heads about the direction to take their wines, some of which are already in barrel or bottle – we know that we are doing just what we have always done; producing balanced, structured wines of place, that capture the temperate climate of Coombsville, the unique soil structure of Meteor Vineyard and a combined winemaking legacy of a combined 70 years…
In the meantime, I think Alder’s phrase is apt. Whether or not you agree with his palate, Robert Parker has been one of the most important figures in the history of the wine business. Criticism, be it about Picasso or Bach, the Met’s performance of Wagner’s Ring Cycle or Malcom Gladwell’s most recent musings are always the perspective of the critic. You need not agree with Michiko Kakutani’s review of “Freedom” or Tony Judt’s view of European history post WWII. Part of the intrigue about criticism is the debate itself. Nowhere is this more true than in the world of wine.