Before my wife commented on it being an ‘adult’ wine (see previous Bristol Wine Blog), I was already thinking about a blog based on the same Argentinian Malbec but from a completely different point of view. I was looking at the big figure ‘90’ on the capsule with the words ‘Robert Parker Wine Advocate’ underneath.
The significance, as many reading this will already know, is that, for more than 30 years, Parker and his publication, The Wine Advocate, have been just about the most influential wine critics on the planet. A favourable review and, in particular a score of 90 or more (out of 100) almost always guarantees a wine’s commercial success. No wonder that a number of major producers across the world have said that they have deliberately changed the style of their wines to attract a high score and so more customers.
Sadly, high scores often mean high prices, too, but that’s not the only reason you might think twice about buying one of Parker’s recommendations. How often has a friend or a newspaper critic recommended a movie or a restaurant that they’ve loved but, for you, proved a disappointment? Well, it’s just the same with wine. Although most of the recent reviews have been carried out by a group of tasters rather than by the man himself, (which should minimise the effect of an individual’s preferences), there is still no guarantee that you will like the same style of wine as the reviewer. And, when was the review written? Several weeks (or even months) may have passed during which the wine itself will have changed – either improving or, perhaps, going past its best.
Finding a wine you will like is more than simply following numbers. As Parker himself has often said, the scores should only be used to enhance and complement his detailed tasting notes – but how many read those? And how many just look at a big figure and follow it?