Farewell Robert Parker, and this is the real farewell. He has retired in stages, relinquishing regions to different members of his wine tasting team. When he sold his controlling stake in Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate in 2012, it was clear it would only be a matter of time. Then, when he gave up covering Bordeaux in 2015, it was a major step towards having less personal involvement. Now the announcement is made. Robert Parker has retired from the newsletter he started 41 years ago. and is officially no longer part of the wine website that carries his name.
Like him or not, he has certainly been the most dominant critic of his generation, probably ever, and it is doubtful with the rise of the blogger, that any figure will carry such influence in the future.
In the past, it always annoyed and frustrated Israeli wineries that Parker did not write up tasting notes of Israeli wines for many years. Sometimes a disparaging note of a wine would appear, but despite the best efforts of some wineries to send him their best wines, he appeared to ignore them.
Then, in 2007 he instructed Mark Squires to arrange a comprehensive tasting of Israeli wines for the first time. Mark Squires had run the Bulletin Board forum on behalf of Parker for many years. The wineries duly dispatched wines and waited excitedly.
The results were tastings of nearly 100 wines and Yatir Forest 2003 scored 93 points, then the highest score for an Israeli, Eastern Mediterranean or Kosher wine. The results were duly published in Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate. Soon after, Squires visited Israel.
When Robert Parker published the seventh edition of ’The Wine Buyer’s Guide’ in 2008, Israel appeared in a serious way for the first time. In fact, Israel received no less than 9 pages, which was the same as New Zealand, and more than South Africa. It was an important statement from the world’s most famous critic and was well received in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Israel was truly on the map.
Since then, Squires has continued tasting Israeli wines annually and has become one of the main international experts of Israeli wines. Only Domaine du Castel and Clos de Gat have reached the glass ceiling of 94 points, but no Israeli winery has yet scored more. Though Castel (3 times), Flam, Margalit, Recanati and Yatir have each succeeded in achieving scores of 93 points.
As far as kosher wines are concerned, the best scores have been achieved by Capcanes Peraj Ha Abib Flor de Primavera, Covenant Cabernet Sauvignon Solomon Lot 70, Valandraud Cuvee Kasher and Castel Grand Vin for Spain, California, France and Israel respectively. However, the 95 points for the Capcanes wine and the 94 points scored by Castel were not tasted by Robert Parker himself, but by Jay Miller and Mark Squires.
This brings two regular abuses of Robert Parker’s name. The first is wineries claiming that Robert Parker has scored the wines when he didn’t taste them. This is not strictly being truthful as Mark Squires tastes Israeli wines, not Robert Parker. Of course, if wineries attribute the scores to ‘Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate’, instead of the man himself, then it is a good way of using his name and being by the book.
The second abuse concerns interested parties that use a high score achieved for a non-kosher wine, for their kosher cuvee of the same vintage. For instance, the regular Chateau Lascombes and Chateau Leoville-Poyferre of a certain vintage, is not the same wine as the kosher cuvee of the same vintage. It can’t be. Also, if Chateau Smith Haut-Lafitte was scored 100 points by Robert Parker, it does not automatically follow that the kosher cuvee of Smith Haut-Lafitte from the same vintage received the same score. The point is worth making because this canard was recently repeated in a major Israeli newspaper.
The question is whether wineries will continue to use Robert Parker’s name in vain, now he is no loner part of the Wine Advocate. Robert Parker has been so powerful a figure, that some wineries even changed the way they make wines to catch the great man’s attention. His tenure heralded a period when the great wine writers and critics, almost became more well-known than the wineries they were writing about. However, as of now, he is no longer part of the Wine Advocate. When Daniel Rogov passed away, Rogov’s Israeli Wine Guide grounded to a halt. What credibility will the Wine Advocate have now and how will Robert Parker’s name be used in future? Time will tell.