Parker Pandemonium

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parker.jpegBy Courtney Cochran

It's not easy being Robert Parker.

If the recent rash of criticism of the wine ratings czar is any indication, the lawyer-turned-world's-most-recognized-wine-critic isn't sleeping easy nights. Things first turned tough for Parker this spring when respected wine blogger Tyler Colman (AKA Dr. Vino) as well as The Wall Street Journal penned exposes on ethical missteps by members of Parker's tasting staff. And things have only continued to heat up since, with Colman penning follow-on pieces examining the veracity of Parker's so-called perfect tasting recall and discrepancies in the quality of wines rated in his publication, the Wine Advocate, and on the market.
Pushing "Parkerphiles to Paxil"?
And we certainly can't forget the scorching send up the guy in my friend Alice Feiring's new book, "The Battle for Wine and Love, or How I Saved the World from Parkerization" (the little ditty on Paxil above comes courtesy of Ms. Feiring). In a favorite chapter called "My Date with Bob," the feisty wine auteur details a series of desultory conversations she has with the larger-than-life critic; she ultimately blasts him for failing to take responsibility for the far-reaching influence of his palate, which she asserts has caused winemakers to abandon natural winemaking in favor of regimes relying on copious amounts of technology and new oak - which Parker loves.

Clearly, it's a tough time to be this guy. But what do you think: Villain or not? Could it be that Parker is just misunderstood?

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Mr. Parker is the emperor at the top of the wine review game. His dedication and hard work are displayed in the quality of his reviews. However for Mr. Parker to belie the effect and of his scores on creating 'Pakerized' wines is at best disingenuous. Just ask Leo McCloskey at Enologix if his model is not, in part, based on the analysis of Mr. Parker's highly rated selections. It seems as though the emperor has no clothes. Time marches on, and just as Mr Parker surpassed Mr Finnegan and Mr Balzer in the mid 1980's,as the most influential wine critic, a new ethos will evolve. One hopefully that doesn't rely on the false precision of scores. With the demise of Gourmet, and the constant comment on Mr. Parker's role, I realize how I miss the excellent narratives of Gerald Asher. Narrative which help direct my career in the wine business.

PS: Alice, you go girl!

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