A successor to Robert Parker

Robert Parker
Robert Parker

Whether we approve or disapprove of the power Robert Parker wields over the fine wine market, particularly in Bordeaux, we can’t deny that his scores remain highly influential. Parker’s initial scores have historically had an impact on wine futures, and in the last few years our attention has been drawn to the consequences of a favourable Parker re-score.

The power of the re-score

The biggest winner this year was Chateau Montrose, whose 2003 and 2010 vintages were re-tasted by Parker in 2014 and both received an elevated score. It’s clear that Parker is a fan of Montrose, and his evaluation during a vertical tasting pushed the score of the 2003 from 97+ to 99 and the 2010 crept up a single point to achieve a perfect 100/100. Of course, the market jumped on this wine, deemed by Parker to be flawless, and merchants reported an extraordinarily rapid flurry of sales.

Stepping into Parker’s shoes

Montrose wasn’t the only chateau to benefit though, with Angelus and Pavie also faring well in Parker’s tastings this year. It seems that Parker’s influence has not waned over time; he continues to influence the fortunes of the producers whose wines he tastes, and ultimately there is no other taster waiting in the wings to step into his shoes. What a mighty task that would be – few Masters of Wine would want to bear the weight of responsibility that Parker carries. With a palate that is reputedly insured for $1,000,000, it is perhaps not surprising that no one wants to step forward to carry on the Parker tradition.

Bordeaux without wine scores

For many in the wine world there will be much relief when Parker finally retires his mighty palate, but it’s hard to predict what would come next. Most prolific wine experts choose not to adhere to his 100 point score, with critics like Jancis Robinson making it clear that she does not like to score wines. Most of us who taste wine regularly will have our own system, it might be marks out of 5 or 10 or 20 but inevitably we’ll take notes as well, just as Parker does, to comment on what we liked about the wine and how it might develop, and ultimately to remind ourselves how we came to the score we decided upon. Parker’s scores are so influential in Bordeaux that it’s hard to imagine a marketplace that existed without the ‘points out of 100’ system.

Whatever happens, it will be an interesting time when Parker finally retires – it seems plausible that without a single, natural successor, a panel would be formed, and ultimately a decision would have to be made on whether to carry on his scoring legacy in its original form. A Bordeaux fine wine marketplace without scores seems unfathomable, but it would certainly be interesting to see what the impact would be on global pricing for the wines that remain untasted by the great man.

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