Robert Parker Vs. Australia?

Parkerpic_1HallidayThe 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
Australian wines."


"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."

And, finally:

"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.

Posted In: Wine Media


8 Responses

  1. Dave - November 29, 2005

    Parker has done a great deal for the Australian wine industry….love him or loathe him.
    I went to Hallidays speech on Friday night and found it cringe-worthy….as did a promiment Aussie MW I attended the lecture with…..he wasn’t a happy chappy

  2. Tom Wark - November 29, 2005

    Very interesting. Give us the sense of what it was like in the room. One gets the idea from the articles and comments I’ve seen that there was almost a political ralley kind of atmosphere. What did you see?

  3. Terry Hughes - November 29, 2005

    Best commentary on this brouhaha that I’ve read. Thanks.

  4. Dave - November 29, 2005

    To be honest, these annual events are a bit of an industry love-in, with lots a back slapping and FIGJAM politicing….
    The majority of the crowd are part of the old boys network of the Australian wine industry and gleefully lap up any Parker bashing …the younger crew sit there rolling their eyes..adjourn to the nearest pub afterwards and shake their heads.
    Halliday and Evans have done great things for the Aussie wine industry but this sort of rubbish doesn’t help the cause at all.

  5. Craig Camp - November 29, 2005

    It seems more and more people are getting their backs up against the homogenized character of wines produced in the Parker style. For whatever reason there is an ever growing sense that it is OK to criticize Parker. I think Halliday has good points, particularly in pointing out the narrow experience of the Parker tasting. No one can be an expert of all wine everywhere.

  6. Dave - November 30, 2005

    Very true Craig
    The international dumbing down of wine is upon us to some extent…does anyone think that parkers influence is on the wane?

  7. Craig Camp - November 30, 2005

    I think Parker is on the wane because of dilution. There is a lot of commentary out there these days – both print and electronic. Only the very top top wines get any attention in the WA or WS, while wines with 90 points gets ignored. Information overload?

  8. A. Brown - July 22, 2009

    There are many of us in Australia who appreciate Mr Parker and his amazing palate, and more so the unconscious effort he makes to promote Australian wines with his highly influential ratings. Every year wines stores across the nation have tastings of the wines James Halliday’s raves about in his annual Tome. It’s a very thick book, which only gives information on current release wines from around Australia. These said wine stores plough through his annual edition in an attempt to find the best value for money wines to showcase to their customers, many of these selected wines Halliday has rated 95 or 96 points. In my experience, many of the tasters end up shaking their heads in disbelief and question Halliday’s rational for rating some of the wines so highly. We respect him for what he has done (Halliday), but a lot of us think his palate (now) is shot! It happens with age, as such some of the wines he rates very highly are unfortunately…well rubbish! So this whole argument/stoush is in my opinion the older generation not knowing when to retire, feeling threatened of losing his once influential opinion, to someone more dominate (in the world scene) and essentially in his prime. The same will probably happen for Robert Parker in the near future as well.

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