Monday, March 23, 2009

Are you one of Robert Parker's Bitches?

Thanks to Josh Hermsmeyer, winemaker/owner of Capozzi Winery - Russian River, CA (also fellow wine blogger, Pinotblogger), for sharing this video. "Robert Parker's Bitch" was written, directed and produced by Tina Caputo for Vineyard & Winery Management Magazine. Josh was also interviewed.

Robert Parker's Bitch from Josh Hermsmeyer on Vimeo.


There is some great food for thought (or should I say, "Wine for thought?") besides various opinions regarding the point system from some of California's finest in the wine industry. My opinion?

I have never been one of Parker's bitches. I know what I enjoy and I have never bought a bottle of wine based solely on points and especially over 90 points. My palate has to like the wine or I won't spend the money. However, I have been known to pimp a wine based on points when I worked in the tasting room environs. And far too many times I have waited on a "cherry picker" whose focus was only the wine that received a 90+ score. And far too many times sold the wine without the customer ever wanting to taste it. So, do they not trust their own taste buds or just looking for a "trophy?"

Just last week a winery owner told me how a customer wasn't satisfied that their highest priced wine was only in the $50 range. This customer was persistent and just knew there was a special and expensive bottle hanging around that he could purchase to show off with. So what do you do in a case like that? Walk out of the room with a $50 bottle, take it outside and rub some dirt on the label, return a few minutes later with the same bottle exclaiming you just went down to the cellar and found a $200 wine to make this customer happy? And for your trouble and frustration you make a sale with a big profit.

I have to laugh everytime I think of these type of "wine lovers." It reminds me of a crazy friend I had that use to yell out the car window at men that drove small 2WD lifted trucks with huge tires - "Sorry about your small penis!" she would yell, thinking they were compensating...

So, are winemakers really making wines for themselves and their followers or are they following a "recipe" to make bigger tannic and more alcoholic wines to get the attention of these gurus who hand out the points? I think we are seeing more of that going on in California than we are in Washington State. Personally, I enjoy the bolder tannic wines out of Walla Walla and always have. Do I prefer them to than a more balanced and less tannic wine? No, not necessarily. And at the same time I have had fellow wine bloggers from the East Coast tell me they do not care for the bolder reds from Washington State at all, while making suggestions that is the only characteristic in wines we are known for.

I do agree with Randy Dunn about the high alcohol in wines. What is the point of drinking a good wine if the alcohol covers up the distinguished flavors of the grape variety? You might as well drink cheap plonk if you're looking for alcohol. And I also agree with Randy it is not any new commercial super yeast that is fermenting these wines to a higher alcohol percentage. It's all about hang time - winemakers achieving these dry high alcoholic wines by picking the grapes at a higher brix.

The last couple of years I have ranted about points and the wine fads these guru of points have led the wine consumer - - more bolder tannic reds and higher alcohol percentages. It has become so outrageous that it makes me wonder about these Pied Piper's palates. Have they become so fatigued over the years and reached such dissatisfaction that their palates can only distinguish wines with overly intense and over saturated characteristics?

And will these points linger and hatch a new generation of Parker Bitches? I don't think so. The new wine crowd seems to have forsaken Parker (or perhaps have never heard of the name) and instead joined the "Vayniac" cult led by Gary Vaynerchuk of Wine Library TV . Vaynerchuk's followers are quite the extreme compared to the old conservative wine industry "norms" and which the same previous "norm" made the wine-world inaccessible to a younger demographic and often to the middle class, as well. As Vaynerchuk's trademark says, "Changing the Wine World."

I also think with the recent economy woes, the larger population of wine consumers will re-think how they purchase wines. I think many wine aficionados, who use to purchase $50 and over bottles, will now look more towards wines that are $25 and under. Also, we have become a nation who is entertaining more at home and spending less money dining out. Even kitchens are being designed around the focus of entertaining and family. We are also looking towards more food friendlier wines. I don't think we have seen so much focus on entertaining at home since the late 1950's when it was fashionable to wear a suit to the neighbor's cocktail party.

Nope, not me. I ain't no Parker Beeyotch.

2 comments:

Oscar Meier said...

I, like you, buy wine based on taste and possible pairing with food I like to eat. Because Parker and Spectator have become the rating system this country uses is irrelevant. I have yet to see a point scale on a restaurant wine list. I have seen the ratings in wineries own marketing and advertising and on the shelves at wine shops. If a winery, distributor or wine shop wants to use a rating to sell the wine, then that is up to them. Have I had wines rated above 90? Yes, and I liked some and not others. Have I had wines that were not rated? Yes and I have liked some and not others as well.
When ever this debate rages on about how unfair, a flavor profile, alcohol content or what ever an author bases a story about driving ratings, it’s interesting that winemakers who receive ratings above 90 are never interviewed. I tend to like Parker style wines more than Spectator style wines. Does that mean I only buy wine rated by Parker? No, but I will look at a high rated Parker wine over a high rated Spectator wine because my palate is more inclined to like it.

Catie said...

Hi Oscar,
Nice to hear from you again and many thanks for your opinions. It's interesting to hear that you tend to lean more towards Parker style wines than Spectators. I salute you for understanding your style of wines!
Cheers,
C~