'Emperor of Wine' picked apart in new book
26 October 2007, BORDEAUX (AFP) - Celebrated US wine critic Robert Parker, whose pronouncements have influenced Bordeaux wine sales for more than two decades, is picked apart in a new book released Thursday despite a legal bid to prevent its distribution.
26 October 2007
BORDEAUX (AFP) - Celebrated US wine critic Robert Parker, whose pronouncements have influenced Bordeaux wine sales for more than two decades, is picked apart in a new book released Thursday despite a legal bid to prevent its distribution.
"Anatomie d'un mythe" (Anatomy of a Myth) by one of his former assistants Hanna Agostini, alleges errors and cronyism by the man who has become known as the "pope of the vineyards" for his ability to make or break a vintage's sales potential by delivering scores from 1 to 100.
Parker, who began working as a wine critic in the 1980s and is now widely recognised as the world's Bordeaux expert, has his own subscription website and a range of wine guides including "Bordeaux, A Consumer's Guide", now in its fourth edition, and the "Wine Buyer's Guide" now in its sixth.
Agostini, who trained as a lawyer, worked for Parker between 1995 and 2003, organising tastings and from 1997 translating into French his bi-monthly "The Wine Advocate" as well as other works.
"When I was translating I saw what was not OK," Agostini told AFP. "But it's like a puzzle you have to put together little by little. The publication of another book on him in 2005, which was not contested, put its finger on a lot of other mistakes."
Accusing him of cutting and pasting from one year to the next and failing to update his facts, Agostini said Parker "does not respect the consumer. He says 'I am the defender of the consumer', and at the same time sells a book with flaws."
"He says himself over and over again that a critic must be independent, and not have friends. Then he dedicates his book to friends in the wine world and I must ask if he is really faithful to his ethics," she said.
Reiterating a frequently-heard criticism of Parker, Agostini says in the book that he and an international wine-making consultant, Bordeaux-born Michel Rolland, work hand in glove in favour of richer, riper, easier to drink wines liked by Americans but not necessarily by French wine-lovers.
Asked for his view, Rolland, who was not at the launch, said it was inevitable someone would write about Parker. "If I write a book about the growth of the chestnut industry in the Dordogne, that wouldn't sell many copies, but a book on Parker will," he said.
Agostini however also pays tributes to Parker and at the launch some wine-makers spoke out in his defence. "He should have a statue," in Bordeaux's central square, said Tristan Lurton, member of a prominent Bordeaux wine family. "He doesn't like my wines so much, but he has done lots of good things for Bordeaux."
Since the wine critic began visiting Bordeaux to taste its wines, he is seen as a key player in sustaining the region's reputation for producing the best, and most expensive, wine in the world.
Wine taster, and critic for Britain's Wine and Spirit magazine, Gavin Quinney, tempered the criticism, saying it was difficult to remain independent.
"You have to accept some form of hospitality when you taste in bottle (meaning at the chateaux). If you become friendly with people, as Parker has done over the years, that can be a pressure."
Parker's reviews and points system, he added, were useful marketing tools for wine merchants, helping them to sell more easily. "Merchants quote him all the time because he is so quotable. And the 100 point system really works for consumers," Quinney said at the launch.
"Plus, most of the time, I have to say, he is right about the wines."
Meanwhile a legal plea filed early this week by high profile Bordeaux winemaker, Alain Reynaud -- described in the book as a member of Parker's inner circle -- requesting that certain paragraphs be deleted, was thrown out by a Bordeaux court Thursday afternoon.
Subject: French news