Robert Parker: The Writer, er, I mean David Schildknecht the Writer

When Robert Parker, Jr. is brought up in a conversation he, for obvious reasons, get nailed for making everyone so concerned with numbers and scores. Without getting into the usefulness of scores, it’s hard to argue with the fact that Parker has done as much as any one else to popularize the practice of turning a wine in to a number.

That said, you don’t here as many people talk about his ability to describe a wine. He’s very good at it. I was reminded just how good when I read a recent review of his for the  2004 Hermann Donnhoff Oberhauser Brucke Riesling Eiswein A P #24. It’s a German dessert wine that is made from Riesling.

Parker, who gave this wine 100 points, describes it this way:

"As soon as I smelled the 2004 Oberhauser Brucke Riesling Eiswein A.P. #24 and tried to wrap my tongue and mind around it, I came to two vivid realizations. First and foremost, it inhabits an entirely different world from the extraordinary #23. Second, if it merely succeeds (and it will) in making a fool of me for trying to describe it let alone give it a rating, I shall count myself lucky that my soul has been spared…What we have here, prosaically put, is the most intense imaginable concentration of fresh, jellied and candied fruits, citrus, and mineral salts. If tasting the #23 was like swallowing an electric eel, this is like getting hooked up to a generator. That is not, however, to suggest that the experience is jarring. “Harmony” and “colloquy” suggest themselves."

Do you get it?  I do.

"fresh, jellied and candied fruit, citrus and mineral salts"

With the exception of "mineral salts", which most people would have trouble understanding, this review is not only understandable, but practically visual in the preciseness of its descriptors. What’s good about the entirety of the review is the context it offers. We learn a heck of a lot more than just what it tastes like and that the reviewer….REALLY liked it.

So, drag Parker into the debate on numbers. He deserves to be there. But don’t doubt his abilities as a reviewer/writer as well as a "scorer".

Mark at Uncorked informs me this is not Parker writing, but rather David Schildknecht, Parker’s new German correspondent. Still, a finely written review. Thanks, Mark

Posted In: Rating Wine


6 Responses

  1. Mithrandir - November 10, 2005

    So he took a paragraph to say that it was really good (which his 100 point score should express adequately), sweet, and fruity, with citrus and some minerality, and well balanced? This is descriptive talent?
    And the thing with the generator? What does that even mean? Does it taste like 9V batteries?
    I haven’t read enough Parker to judge him in the general case, but this specific review is crap as far as communicating useful information is concerned.
    The phrase “Riesling Eiswein”, the perfect score, and the words “citrus” and “mineral” communicate the entire informational content of the review. The rest is embroidery.
    Perhaps he needs to spend a paragraph praising the wine because his numeric scale’s expressive power is limited. If the very top score needs to be emphasized, then perhaps the scale lacks dynamic range.

  2. Mark (Uncorked in Ohio) - November 10, 2005

    Um, Tom, I think if you take a closer look at that issue and the byline attached to the German wine reviews section, you’ll find that the review was written not by Parker, but by David Schildknecht, who works for Mason, Ohio-based wine importer and distributor Vintner Select and has written for many other wine publications over the years. David is a recent addition to the Wine Advocate. And he does indeed write with precision, clarity and passion, as you point out. I think that was David’s first 100-point-rated wine for Parker, and his description probably merits a 100-point score, too.
    Mark Fisher

  3. Tom Wark - November 10, 2005

    Really! See, that’s what I get for reading it online now a days. Well, I’ll just have to change the title of this post. Thanks Mark.

  4. Steve-o - November 11, 2005

    Nice – I agree, a pretty usefully written review. I hope it is a sign of things to come from Schidkecht.

  5. Derrick Schneider - November 12, 2005

    Ha, that’s funny. I read this prior to reading the correction and thought, “Huh. I wonder why he got David Schildknicht to do Germany since he seems capable of understanding the wines himself.” Then I read the postscript.
    Schildknicht’s a great writer. When he sent me some copies of his Germany write-ups for Tanzer, I read them out loud to my wife and, on that very day, vowed to make better tasting notes.

  6. Adam Mahler - November 12, 2005

    I think you’ve nailed it about Parker, current example not withstanding. Both he, and his other writers do a tremendous job of accurate descriptions. I always tell my friends that his reviews are facts, the numbers are opinions, you can throw them out. First and foremost, they love wine, secondly, they love to write about wine, thirdly, they are tremendous wine writers. No one can ever accuse WA of sucking up to big advertisers.

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