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Who Is Responsible For Hedonistic Fruit Bombs?

Thanks to Tom over at Fermentations for the tip on a wonderfully written article in the London Review of Books that in the process of reviewing a few books and a documentary film manages to adrioitly discuss Robert M. Parker's influence on the world of wine, and in particular on the "global palate." Check it out.

Comments (9)

caveman wrote:
02.04.05 at 5:27 AM

Thanks for the link to that fabulous article.
One tends to like the style of wine that is made locally, wether loved by Parker or not. The American palette has been trained more by the climate and the winemaking style than by a conscious decision to make a particular type of wine. Parker, himself a product of his own countries style, is simply reminding the world that this is the key to success in wooing the biggest potential client that presently exists.
With consumption steady or falling in much of Europe (in many instances they were already drinking enough), the untapped potential is the United States, so it makes sense that those producers who need to export a large portion of their annual production will have to make it in a style which is congruant with the tastes of that target market..
I hate to think what will happen when the chinese are the target market... hedonistic rice bombs?
Let us hope that there are enough producers who don't feel the need to stray away from either their traditional cépages or style. For those of us who tend not to like the oaky fruit bomb, us anti-Parkerists, hey man, we still need to drink.

Noah wrote:
02.04.05 at 7:55 AM

I think it is simplifying things quite a bit to say that Parker is reflecting his country's palate. If anything his a product of the wines of France. An unabashed francophile. Regardless of what anybody says, the man has an amazing palate. His tasting notes are not just a reflection of his preferences. If people would take the time to read the Wine Advocate consistently, really read the words, you find someone quite different than if you just read the 97 point Australian Shiraz reviews. He has given very favorable reviews to some "pretty wines". I think he generally gives bonus points for wines that will improve with age.

I also think that the term fruit bomb is a bit misleading. There are wines that are fruit bombs and nothing else. No balance, no nuance and there wines with massive fruit and big tannins that are harmonious. Someone once said Americans want a wine that will age for 30 years that they can drink tonight. Well what do you think a wine that will improve for 30+ years tastes like when it is young. I think history will probably find Parker an astute indentifer of great wines.

Trust me my #1 wine hero is Kermit Lynch. I just think it is a bit facile to put Parker in the other corner.

Alder wrote:
02.04.05 at 10:06 AM


Glad you liked the article. I'm not sure I completely agree with you about Parker being a product of the American market or mentality. He (along with most other critics) was giving 95+ point scores to balanced, excellent Bordeaux wines in the late 80s that most American consumers would have hated at the time. Who knows what really creates someone's palate, but Parker had his "awakened" in France and French wines were his reference point at first. I tend to agree with the author of the article when he says that Parker more than anyone else got Americans to appreciate French wines in large numbers for the first time. Of course you can't get away from the fact that over time he has tended to favor more extracted, fruitier wines with large dollops of oak, but I guess my point is that I'm much more willing to say this is just his own personal thing, and not really peg it to being a product of anything more than, say, genetics.

I too that people continue to make great wine in the ways they have always done and try not to pay too much attention to the scores of anyone, especially Parker.

As for the Chinese, I wouldn't be so flippant (I know you were joking) -- Look at the Japanese market. They're now the second largest export consumer of Bordeaux in the world and what with weakness of the dollar right now against the Euro, it wouldn't surprise me if they beat out the US in terms of consumption of Bordeaux. I don't believe they are having much influence on the style of Bordeaux despite their huge consumption of it.

Fatemeh wrote:
02.04.05 at 12:45 PM

Tant Pis, indeed.

As you know, I'm still very much in the mid-early learning stage.

That said, while I don't care for many of Parker's high-scoring wines, I fully appreciate his (more) straightforward tasting notes.

Some of the poesy I've read gives me headaches, frankly, and very little sense as to whether I would actually like to sample said wine.

thecaveman wrote:
02.04.05 at 1:40 PM

Hey Alder,
I love discussions like this, long live the net.
Without a doubt, Parker has a fantastic palette and I too appreciate his straightforward approach to critiquing wines. My comments about palettes being trained by what is grown locally is targetted more at the american public, and the worldwide wine consumer as a whole. My partner hails from the south west of France and grew up drinking Madiran and Cahors, the wine that was the most available, at the cheapest price, and naturally drank well with the local food. This is still his reference point, even with access to wines from all over the world.
One can see a tendancy towards the new Parker style .. this modern style tends towards oaky fruit laden wine. I have seen some great reviews of 'Pretty wines' as Noah calls them (my personal favorites), but one can't deny that the balance is slanted towards the powerful over the elegant. And is relatively obvious these days, Parker and Wine Spec points count for alot on the American export market.. and producers who wish to access this market have no option but to shoot for the 90, or wallow in bargain bins, or, and this is what i hope, be content with smaller sales and shoot for niche markets.. yet stay with typicity of their own traditions.. I would hate to see Cote Rotie and Penfolds St. Henri Shiraz become one and the same... both serve their purpose, there should be room for both, and hopefully other writers who appreciate these wines will gain as much influence as Mr. Parker and the Wine Spec.
And with respect to the Chinese, I may be wrong but I believe I heard that the Lurtons and other major wine players were beginning to buy up land in China for wine production... any news on that?

Alder wrote:
02.05.05 at 5:15 PM


The Web is a wonderful place, indeed. Good conversation.

I understand what you are saying about local palates, and I think there are indeed lucky people who have formed such levels of appreciation. Certainly most Californians are exposed primarily to California wines, and likewise most people in Europe where wine styles vary much more in a short geographical area. But what about Wisconsin? New York? Chicago? Austin? Orlando? Mexico? Japan? All of these are places that don't have much (or any) locally grown wines. What do they use to form their sense of appreciation for a style of wine?

Perhaps what you're saying about these people who don't have a local reference point is that they are much more suceptible to dominant trends in the marketplace? But who creates those trends? Parker and WS? I'm not so sure about that, even though I totally agree that the 90 point barrier is very real and has a real impact to the market. But how impactful? Parker didn't give Yellow Tail wine 90 points but that hasn't stopped it from being successful. Likewise Borsao wines from Spain that I see popping up in supermarkets everywhere (who are a much smaller producer than YT). I know that this is the converse of what you are talking about, but my point is that a 90 point score is not the only gateway to success.

Have you seen the movie Mondovino? I haven’t yet but my sense is that it is somewhat of an alarmist film that implies that your cherished Cote Rotie and Penfolds Shiraz are migrating towards each other at fast pace. I'm personally not worried about that myself. I think there is enough diversity of taste in the world outside of the people who even pay attention to scores and such that we have nothing to worry about.

I know very little about China and anyone's plans to grow grapes there. A fellow blogger Bertrand Celce spent some time there recently though, and dug a little into the Chinese wine scene. See: http://www.wineterroirs.com/2004/11/shanghai_reds_3.html

Alder wrote:
02.05.05 at 5:19 PM


Oh yeah. There is some really awful description of wine going on out there. I try and keep my tasting notes pretty down to earth, but sometimes I have to throw up my hands in exhasperation at the attempt to capture in words something that is so elusive as taste. It's rough going and so hard to convey taste in a way that resonates with what you're experiencing, let alone hoping to have someone else relate to it.

Roberto wrote:
04.16.05 at 5:56 PM

Assuming that one knows what Ribera Del Duero is, what do youse guys think of this copy (from our Newsletter and POS):

Two opposing views of the potential of the Duero: The Arrocal is like a debutante daughter, all prim and proper and ready for polite company. The Baron del Val is her lecherous uncle, a real meat-sickle on a stick rooting around for an aged skirt steak to corrupt. Try'em both....


Alder wrote:
04.16.05 at 8:39 PM

Heh heh. Fantastic.

You know I always love your wine descriptions Roberto. I walked into your shop blindly one day and when I saw some description of a wine being "like the young al pacino" scrawled in sharpie on a piece of cardboard I was instantly a fan.

Meat-sickle? Mmmmmmm.

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