This is a recent opinion piece written by RP. I love the quote from DRC that was written AGES ago.
"There Is No Reason And The Truth Is Plain To See" - Procol Harum - 1967
by Robert M. Parker, Jr
One of the alleged benefits of long-term experience is the ability to entertain, on equal footing, totally opposite points of view and logically process the merits (or lack thereof) of both positions and reach a reasonable conclusion. Nearly of equal importance is the desire and motivation to express an opinion that takes in both perspectives and tries to find the positive in both. This has become relevant since, as someone with 35 years of wine-tasting experience, I have essentially seen and heard it all. Yet it is extremely difficult to bite one's tongue and hold back comments when a vociferous minority are perpetrating nothing short of absolute sham on wine consumers. For 35 years I have written on behalf of the wine consumer, taking on issues that negatively affect quality. When I started in 1978, it was the incestuous relationship between the wine press and the wine trade - the "never met a wine I didn't like" school of thought. Then it was the harsh criticism of famous estates in France, and of excessively acidified, filtered and processed wines of California and throughout the world. Next it was the deplorable shipping and storage of fine wine frequently handled more irresponsibly than cheap national brands or beer. The high restaurant mark-ups, wine fraud (written about way back in 1995) and inflated pricing created by speculators, and the collector "museum" mentality of some wine enthusiasts were all addressed in The Wine Advocate and my books.
Virtually any worthwhile consumer movement has gotten my attention, and even after 35 years, I do not intend to shy away from a fight about quality.
The Cross-Fertilization of Ignorance
Make no mistake about it - I love the internet. It's addictive, efficient, and an infinite source of knowledge and learning. Yet it's also a breeding ground for the perpetration of myths, half-truths, innuendoes and at times outright falsehoods. How frequently do we see such individuals passing off as conventional wisdom things that have been created and manufactured by one person and then bouncing them off hundreds if not thousands of people in cyberspace. Of course, this becomes a self-reassuring circle of group think, or it may be called "Kim-Jung-unism". Those that start this nonsense care little for the truth or about actual quality, even though it would seemingly be easy for most people to see how self-serving and agenda-driven their rhetoric is. The worst results can be that perfectly reasonable people come to blindly accept these statements as fact. Of course, that is the intention of the perpetrators. The propaganda machines of totalitarian regimes work the same way.
What Are The Bright, Shining Lies - and Why Do They Exist?
In the wine world, crusaders would have wine consumers believe that the only wines of merit are something completely indefinable but which they call "authentic" or "natural". They are quick to accuse some renowned wine producers - oftentimes those to whom I as well as many others have given favorable reviews over many years - of practicing industrial bulk wine techniques, adding artificial color, and even artificial tannins - something that is virtually never done by the sort of producers whose wines appear in this publication or in most serious wine publications.
It appears this is an ill-conceived attempt to simply differentiate themselves from me and/or other established critics, because that's the only way they feel they can create attention for themselves. Obviously 35 years of comprehensive writing about the wines of the world doesn't leave too many stones unturned, and so it is difficult to impossible for new wannabes to get attention, and even more unlikely to monetize their internet site. So they do what many people do in many fields when they can't stand on their own merits and credibility - they simply try to discredit the people at the top and use both the producers and their readers alike in their self-serving scheme.
It is easier now than it was 35 years ago to enter the "wine writing" field and - at least theoretically - become a "wine writer/critic", but because of that, it is also quite difficult to make money at it. And money, one's livelihood, ultimately becomes the real truth serum. Few website owners make a living from their sites, largely because many of them are 1) lazy, 2) have narrow agendas, 3) offer little in the way of content and substance, 4) appear to be constantly whining about the failure to monetize their sites, or 5) are the antitheses of consumer advocates.
Let me remind readers that I was and remain a crusader for serious wine consumers. I have always proposed tasting wines in a democratic fashion, considering only one major criteria - what is in the glass? How good does it taste? How good is the quality? And how does it compare to its peer group and previous vintage? Moreover, I plunged into this field with very stringent ethics as well as conflict-of-interest rules. Thirty-five years later they are even stronger than they were in 1978, something the new investors in Singapore have accepted unconditionally.
This sort of vaudeville, thinly veiled behavior is intended to divide the wine-consuming public into an elite minority of "truists" (they are not really; no real truth there) versus the "oh so uneducated masses" or downright stupid consumers blindly drinking supposedly unhealthy, reprehensibly made, compromised, industrial crap. The absurd heights of this have even added phony words such as "spoofing" or "spoofilator" to the wine lexicon to suggest some omnipresent evil laying waste to "authentic" wine. Don't these people consider how offensive they are to you - presumably a wine consumer? Of course, these false prophets of doom are simply putting forth self-serving propaganda, but they can be extremely effective at passing off a bunch of unverifiable minutiae as well-conceived, conventional wisdom, and that is why I have written this. As I was the first wine writer to condemn the exclusive processing of wines, the deplorable transportation and storage of fine wines, and the increase in fraudulent bottlings, this subject is not a rant or unjustified, but is a story that needs to be told.
There is no historical precedent for any of their promoted absolutisms - something that doesn't have any place in a subject as fascinating and as diverse as wine - and no way of finding any merit to it. We've seen this in less fanatical versions in the past, such as in the 1960s, when the French term "Peynaudization" became, to a vocal minority, a malevolent trend. This was criticism of the now-deceased, world famous and well-respected University of Bordeaux oenologist and professor Dr. Emile Peynaud over his belief in stricter selections, picking riper fruit, and lower acid. (He even wrote in his famous treatise, The Taste of Wine, that "the first prerequisite of a red wine is to be low in acidity.") But a small group felt that his advice was being adopted by too many producers, resulting in a sameness (how many times have we heard that inanity now?) and blandness adversely affecting the diversity of wines. Of course, that was false then, and is even more preposterous today. Following in the 1980s was the fixation, primarily emerging from California, of "food wines". What that meant was wines that were low alcohol, dull, sterile filtered, insipid and so innocuous as to not interfere when eating your favorite tofu. That is not a food wine; that is a hapless, characterless and sterile wine. Of course, this didn't last, because it was another gimmick and winespeak advocating mediocrity, and had no merit. That was followed, of course, by "Parkerization", which was a theory that attempted to define my palate in black and white terms, ignoring 35+ years of wide-ranging wine writing and the most comprehensive coverage of diverse styles and wines that has ever existed in the world's wine writing community. Of course, it still gets parroted back and forth among small group think tanks that Parker only likes high alcohol, over-oaked, and excessively extracted wines. Again, there is no merit to this position whatsoever, and it is easily proven false just by reading The Wine Advocate or any of my fourteen different books.
Most recently we had the low alcohol movement (I'm not sure if one can even call it a "movement"), which is/was essentially a phony anti-California, anti-New World movement by Eurocentric, self-proclaimed purists. I say "self-proclaimed" because what they espouse - and denounce - perverts the word "pure". This has been spurred on by a very tiny group of wine producers who claim Europe as their spiritual mentor, which would be fine were it not for the fact that the along the way, they virtually trash just about everything in the USA, South America or Australia. Their preferred method of wine production is the crazy notion that fruit should be picked long before it's ripe. Of course, anyone can pick grapes a month before they're ripe. There is no risk, with chances of rain virtually zero. Get the grapes harvested and fermented and go on vacation in early October, when the serious producers are just beginning to start their harvests. Are those producers fools for busting their asses trying to make something with flavors reflecting the vintage and character of their terroir? Under-ripe fruit never has and never will show more terroir. It just brings hard, harsh, unpleasant flavors that a few wannabes and some lazy, self-aggrandizing producers then call terroir. Truth be known, it detracts from terroir, and from quality, so just repeating it ad nauseum doesn't equate to the truth. Has anyone enjoyed eating an under-ripe apricot, peach apple, tomato or pineapple?
But, even these Euro-elitists have it wrong. They often quote from ancient texts. How do they explain the following extract from the late Richard Olney's book, "Romanée-Conti - The World's Most Fabled Wine", published in 1995 by Rizzoli International Publications, New York, New York. Page 79 contains this passage regarding the diary notes of the estate's proprietor:
This is from the diary notes at Romanée-Conti by the proprietor J.-M. Duvault-Blochet, who published vintage notes for 47 years, from 1822 to 1868. He defined quality as, "At 11.5% one makes barely passable wines, at 12% one makes decent, marketable wines, at 12.5% above average, at 12.75% lively, firm and ruby, at 13% and 13.5% one makes great wines, at 14, 14.5, 15 and 15.5% one makes altogether exceptional, incomparable wines."
Why is it that nearly 150 years ago the proprietor of the world's most famous vineyard then (and probably now) knew more about quality than today's neo-intellectuals and extremists? Moreover, what about some sommeliers and retail wine buyers who refuse to purchase any wine in excess of 13 or 14% alcohol. How would the broad litmus test fare in the mid-1800s with the wines of Domaine de la Romanée Conti? Sommeliers following such nonsense would have wine enthusiasts drinking "barely passable" wines.
Strangers In A Strange Land
What we also have from this group of absolutists is a near-complete rejection of some of the finest grapes and the wines they produce. Instead they espouse, with enormous gusto and noise, grapes and wines that are virtually unknown. That's their number one criteria - not how good it is, but how obscure it is. Remember the "ABC" movement ? "Anything But Chardonnay"? That's dead, and rightfully so. Chardonnay produces some of the greatest dry white wines in the world and has done so everywhere from California to the East Coast of the United States to Western Europe. Same thing for Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah (although Pinot Noir, at least from France, seems to be the one exception to these crucifications). Of course, they would have you believe some godforsaken grapes that, in hundreds and hundreds of years of viticulture, wine consumption, etc., have never gotten traction because they are rarely of interest (such as Trousseau, Savagnin, Grand Noir, Negrette, Lignan Blanc, Peloursin, Auban, Calet, Fongoneu and Blaufrankisch) can produce wines (in truth, rarely palatable unless lost in a larger blend) that consumers should be beating a path to buy and drink. Most aren't, and just how absurd this notion is becomes evident when the results are oxidized, stale, stink of fecal matter as well as look like orange juice or rusty ice tea being poured into a glass and passed off as "authentic", "natural" or "real" wine. This is the epitome of cyber-group goose-stepping, a completely deranged syndrome that somehow the internet has allowed to persist. Again, there is only one reason for this type of writing, and that is not to bring greater pleasure to readers and wine consumers, but rather a lame and fraudulent effort to get self attention to the detriment of the wine consumer.
In short, it needs to be condemned. It also needs to repudiated. Diversity in wine is something that I have taken seriously ever since I wrote my first sentence about wine, but it has to be good, not flawed, and not just different. It has to be of interest, and it ultimately has to provide pleasure. It also must reflect the vintage character, varietal composition, and vineyard terroir itself. Flawed, desiccated, stinky, oxidized, astringent, vegetal, and under-ripe wines do none of this. Stop and think it over, when in the centuries of wine consumption has a pleasurable or delicious wine been dismissed in favor of a self-flagellating beverage that has no flavor and no character? Forewarned is forearmed.
In conclusion, please realize this was motivated first and foremost by the fact that I am a wine consumer advocate. While it is usually my inclination to take the high road and just avoid these firestorms, widespread deceptions and distortions mandate an intelligent response.
I desperately have tried to find merit in these movements, and would love to invite well-reasoned arguments that support them. The fundamentals of open and cordial discussion and debate are essential.