Wine Books: Robert Parker
Still the world's most influential critic, Parker's influence is nevertheless now on the wane. He now focuses on more mature wines, and leaves much of the reviewing to the Wine Advocate team. With a heavy focus on current recommendations, tasting notes and scores, these books are now looking very dated.
Parker's sixth edition of his buying guide sees no significant change in format, but a big change for UK visitors is price. The sixth edition is almost half the cost of the fifth, which was £32 for the paperback version even after the usual Amazon discount. This makes this huge (1600+ pages) collection of Parker's tasting notes even better value. The sections are updated as follows; Bordeaux mostly up to the 2000 vintage; Burgundy varies depending on producer and status of wines produced, from 1997 to 2000; Rhône Valley (north and south) mostly up to 2000. Outside these three regions there is more variability. There are minor new additions, such as Parker's guide to "wine world lies" and "a tongue-in-cheek guide to the language of the winemaker" - essentially Parker humour, as well as Parker's comments on a few wine websites, not least his own! In summary though, excellent value for this weighty tome.
Parker has made his name where Bordeaux is concerned. This book is, in essence, a 1438 page collection of Parker's tasting notes, covering the main communes of Bordeaux, including Sauternes and Barsac. Each commune has its own chapter, each chapter having an informative introduction to the region in question, a not particularly detailed map, and an overview of the châteaux of the region. Here there is always a summary of Parker's 'Consumer's Classification' for the region, one of the most interesting features of Parker's writing. He rates the châteaux from 'outstanding' to 'good', although when he reviews each châteaux he goes further, giving his opinion on whether it warrants its ranking in the grossly outdated 1855 classification. Most reviews are associated with a series of tasting notes, which are valuable, together with scores, which I personally ignore. Parker also includes an excellent and detailed summary of the Bordeaux vintages, from 1945 to 1997, together with an account of the Bordeaux classifications, a visitor's guide to Bordeaux, and a glossary of wine terms. Parker has penned a useful and authoritative work here.
Here Parker demonstrates his experience concerning the wines of the Rhône. The book follows a familiar format, there being a separate chapter for each of the significant appellations of the valley, with each chapter being introduced by an informative guide, and Parker's rating of the producers. There then follows the usual series of useful tasting notes, on which the book is based, together with Parker's scores. Unlike his Bordeaux book, Parker makes more than passing reference to the lesser wines of the region, which is refreshing. The appellations of Côtes du Rhône-Villages and Côtes du Rhône each merit their own chapter, together with a few pages on Clairette de Die, and other infrequently encountered wines. Parker also gives his visitor's guide to the Rhône, an account of the local food specialities, and a glossary of wine terms.