As one of my acquaintances, a Latvian expert, said: “Wine is not mathematics, where we can say for sure that multiplying two by two, we get four …” It is impossible to disagree, because this is really so. Every reader of this site has attended a wine tasting at least once, during which the sommelier used clever words to describe the aromas of berries and raw asphalt in any wine or talk about its minerality. Some of the tasting participants nodded their heads, some listened skeptically, but remained silent, and some actively participated in the discussion, trying to prove the presence of other aromas or tastes. Wine is a subjective topic of conversation, but there are people in the world whose subjective opinion can raise the volume of sales of any wine to unprecedented heights or, conversely, if not completely ruin, then certainly give a headache to a winery. They are wine appraisers and critics. There are many of them in the world: Jancis Robinson, Stephen Spurier, Michael Broadbent, Tim Atkins and others, but Robert Parker has been the most influential critic of wine for several decades.
Robert Parker was born on July 23, 1947 in Maryland, USA. His parents were farmers and were involved in the production and sale of milk and cheese. An interesting fact is that Parker’s father, despite his good perception of aromas and tastes, not only did not drink wine, but never in his life did he drink alcohol. The first time Robert tasted wine was on the birthday of his friend Patricia. The wine, unlike the girl, did not make an impression on him. He had been in love with Patricia since childhood. When Patricia went to college in Virginia, Robert followed her. As often happens, the girl’s parents were not thrilled that their daughter became friends with this skinny guy, and, wanting to interfere with their friendship, they sent their daughter to study in Strasbourg, unaware that in this way they unwittingly influenced the future of the most influential critic of wine. modernity. Robert didn’t give up. He followed the girl to France and after a couple of months in Alsace realized that even cheap house wine, which was usually an integral part of student parties, is different. It was less liquid than beer, but also not as strong and hoppy as bourbon at home.
Returning to America, Robert entered the University of Maryland, where he studied history and art, and then law. In 1973 he embarked on a career as a lawyer and became an Assistant General Counsel for a bank. Patricia’s parents liked this development of events, and the young couple was able to get married with the blessing of their parents.
But Robert never ceased to be interested in wine and even read several books on this topic. His perception of wine was different from that of the traditional wine critics of the day. In wine, he did not look for aphorisms, noble words or definitions. He was worried about only one question: is it worth buying? Robert became convinced of the correct choice of his hobby after his next visit to France, and already in 1975 he had the idea to create his own guide to wines. The career of a lawyer gradually faded into the background, and over time, to the chagrin of his friends, he completely abandoned this occupation.
In 1978, Parker’s first issue of The Wine Advocate was released, which he sent out to wine companies and their clients. Readers liked his direct and simple approach, but the most praised were Robert’s wine grading scale. They were evaluated on a 100-point system, and this was the first such rating scale, which was very simple and understandable for the average consumer. Even the most important critics of wine in England at that time switched to a similar point system. A star is born …
Robert’s popularity was strengthened by the 1982 Bordeaux harvest. Critics did not consider the peculiarities of the crop, and only Parker, after another trip to France, published his opinion about this crop, advising him to invest as much as possible. Parker was right, and those who believed him got rich.
Competitors have more than once reproached him for not observing traditions and not appreciating wine. How can he disrespectfully speak out about the outstanding wine of the Bordeaux wineries, which, according to critics, is simply amazing in itself and cannot be anything else. Parker’s answer was always simple and straightforward: “I don’t care a hundred times that this or any other wine is made by aristocrats who received their titles from the hands of Louis XIV. If your wine is bad, I am ready to tell you about it! ” This is exactly what he did – he exposed such winemakers and told the buyers about it. He talked about what they had previously tried not to talk about: the main thing is not that the wine was made in an excellent economy with deep aristocratic roots. The main thing is high-quality grapes and careful work, then you can create an excellent wine even … in the garage. It was in the 80s that the so-called “garagemen” gained popularity – small farms that create fine wines.
This is not to say that Parker was never wrong. He praised the Burgundian wines of the 1989 and 1990 vintages, but added that they taste good only on the spot, in Burgundy, hinting that winemakers give some wines for tasting, and others go on sale. A loud scandal ensued, as a result of which all the winemakers of Burgundy closed their doors in front of Parker. This scandal forced Robert to revise his notes, and henceforth he began to select softer characteristics for bad wines.
He remains incorruptible. Robert always pays for his trips and buys wine for tasting, does not accept gifts and does not advertise in his The Wine Advocate. He never publicly evaluates the wines produced by the Oregon winery Beaux Frères due to the fact that he himself is involved in their production.
For many years of work, it has only increased. Parker made the important decision to create a team of tasters for his magazine, and this team continues to this day. Parker himself tastes only Californian wines, as well as from the Bordeaux region and the Rhone Valley. All the rest are a team of tasters. Parker still lives in Maryland with his wife Patricia and daughter Maya, and not every neighbor knows what Robert is up to. Robert tastes about 10,000 wines a year, which cost at least $ 20 per bottle. Parker believes that it is a wine of this price range that the average American can afford. In his assessments, he is stingy. Only 76 wines out of about 250 thousand have received 100 out of 100 points in thirty years. Robert’s nose is insured for one million dollars. From the hands of former French President Jacques Chirac, Parker received the Order of the Legion of Honor. Everything remains the same as before, as one of the journalists of The New York Times said: “When he tastes wine, winemakers shudder …”