Robert Parker Vs. Australia?
The international row between Robert Parker, Australia’s James Halliday and others from the land down under is interesting insofar as it touches on the issue of wine styles, heady wines vs more delicate wines, and the ability of an individual to detect the best of a country’s output.
But what’s more interesting is the fact that the "discussion" between these two immensely influential wine writers exists at all.
In Robert Parker’s October-issued rundown of Australian wines he gushes over them in such a happy-faced, exuberant way it’s hard to understand why anyone connected with the Australian wine trade would have anything to say other than..THANK YOU!!
For example, Mr. Parker noted:
"However, the finest Australian wines are fruit-forward, rich, often
singular-styled efforts that can not be produced anywhere else in the
world. Here are some of the current realities and myths surrounding
"I noticed there are more nuances and complexity being built into the
top Australian wines than ever before. Certainly there are vintages
that produce more fiery, potent, and dramatically concentrated wines,
such as 2001 and 2003, but cooler years such as 2002 and 2004 have
produced more streamlined, restrained wines from South Australia that
can even be confused with some of their competition in the cool
micro-climates of Western Europe."
"Perhaps the biggest surprise of Australia is how good the dry Rieslings
are. Another surprise is their unoaked Chardonnays, which are delicious
at the top level. Despite their enthusiastic acceptance by wine
consumers, they have not caught on in other parts of the New World,
which seems unusual to this taster."
"In summary, Australia has as much diversity in wine quality and styles
as anywhere in the world, ranging from full-throttle, flamboyant,
exuberant dry reds, to elegant, finesse-styled efforts with undeniable
James Halliday is surely one of the greatest wine writers to ever sip a fermented beverage. Yet, for some reason I’m unaware of, and which I hope one of our readers more familiar with Australia can answer, he chooses to bash Mr. Parker for 1) recommending wines that were not chosen as the best by the Australian competition judges and for not tasting enough wines from particular regions to get a sense of the whole. To wit, Halliday said:
"Sorry Mr Parker, whichever way you want to look at it, the Australian show judges profoundly disagree with you.’
"I’m sure you will all appreciate our provincial nature and convict
ancestry but it would be nice if Mr Parker would
refrain from judgments based on tasting of no more than 10% of the 120
Yarra Valley wineries."
The Australian wine industry finds itself in a situation where over production of average, industrial wines combined with a well-established reputation for producing cheap plonk (how many millions of cases of Yellow Tale have been exported) has resulted in a "reputation problem" and low prices in general. There are obvious ways to address this issue, and it seems the industry is doing just that. First, mass plantings of vines must slow down. But just as important, Australia must put its best face forward, champion its great and fine wines, and demonstrate the vitality and diversity of that country’s wine industry.
Seems to me that Robert Parker is on their side. Why would you kick one of the best ambassadors for your wines? It makes not sense to me.
I think we are seeing frustration bubbling to the service. Combine the doldrums that the Australian industry is in along with a resentment of Parker’s power and prestige and you get an idea of what’s going on.
If you wish to read the speech that James Halliday gave that seems to have started whole thing, you can find it HERE.