surinenglish

No more Parker points

There can be few wine aficionados who have managed to enjoy drinking their own selected wines without the interference of the most notorious critic of all time, Robert Parker.

Parker was a small town lawyer when he discovered he happened to have a good nose for wine, and an early trip to France led him to realise something that in the USA was not obvious back then - food was better if accompanied by wine rather than by beer or soda.

As a result he founded The Wine Advocate magazine 40 years ago and this became the channel through which he published his views.

As a Stateside drinker once said to me, 'Without Parker's scores how would we know what wine to buy?'

Last week Parker announced his retirement from the wine business, which is no bad thing. His ratings became the yardstick many wines were judged by, particularly French first growths, and his unreasonably influential scores managed to change the way in which some producers made their wines.

His preference for heavy, full-bodied, reds led Parker devotees to abandon more classical styles. A new word found its way into the wine dictionary - 'Parkerisation'.

Wineries loved Parker if he gave high scores to their wines, and he even claimed a French chateau owner had encouraged his daughter to sleep with him.

Other critics found him intransigent and opinionated, and the media did not love his methods. His lawyers would be let loose on anyone who dared criticise him in print and I speak from personal experience.

In my case the out-of-court agreement involved an undertaking by the publication in question that it would never mention his name again.

His organisation is now run from Singapore and the Michelin Guide has a 40% stake. There is a network of Parker-reviewers, including the excellent Luis Gutiérrez in Spain.

Unfortunately many less than ethical wineries still refer to the 'Parker Points' their products may be awarded, even though Parker has not reviewed a Spanish wine for a decade. Adios Robert Parker.