Posted by: Bill Jones | January 10, 2008

Robert Parker and the Destruction of Californian Ideals

I thought it was just me, but it appears I was wrong. The wines out of California are getting stronger and not like more powerful; more tannic.

The wines produced in California, Chardonnay in particular, have been produced at a fairly low alcohol level for a number of years. Recently, however, whether it be the rise of Robert Parker Jr’s “infallible palate” or Hobos striking it big in the stock market, the wines have some extra ummph to it. Whereas a California Chardonnay in the 80’s or early to mid-90’s would be at 12-13% alcohol, now these same wines produced by the same wineries (sometimes the same winemaker) have reached as high as 16%.

Most Zinfandels and Petite Syrahs, your usual heavy hitters, hover around 14.5%-15% because the varietals demand it. To have Chardonnay reach those levels is insane. There is no way that two people can split a Napa Valley Chard over dinner without the wine overpowering the dish; depending on your marital status or driving record this could be good or bad.

Robert Parker has completely changed the landscape of wine; American in Particular. Because of his own likes and dislikes wineries of all sizes, big to small to Gallo, have drastically charged their own personal mission statements. One guy says he likes a certain wine and gives it a high score. In turn, the public buys it; being told this is what they should like. Wineries, in order to be put on the list of something to buy, must adhere to this dude’s own personal preference.

And what does RP like? Big, ripe, overpowering, tannic California wines.

Now, he isn’t an idiot. There is some validity to his musings. He has been bestowed many honors; European heads of state, Culinary institutes, and Nation Newspapers have all awarded him something or another. With the Imported wines (Bordeaux, Rhone, Italian, Spanish) he is very good indeed. Australian and New Zealand is where we get back into his own personal range. Aussies are typically very tannic. At least I think so. And jammy, big, fruity. Hangover wines-lots of sugar. They taste good-just a little over the top. All are in the 14%-16% range. Bang for your Buck. The “We’ll just open one bottle of wine tonight” wines.

I am sorry to say that is where I believe the Californians are going. They will and will not look back unless someone stands up for themselves.

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