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Whoa. Robert Parker relinquishes reviewing California wine

on 08/02/11 at 10:47 am


Over the weekend came stunning news in the relatively cozy world of wine writing: Robert Parker, founder of the Wine Advocate and arguably the most influential wine critic ever, is going to hand off responsibilities for reviewing California wine.

Parker handed the reins to one of his key lieutenants, Antonio Galloni, who has been responsible for Italian wine for several years.  Galloni also picked up several other duties, including the influential portions of Burgundy — the Cote d’Or and Chablis — following on his recent acquisition of duties for Champagne reviews.

Parker will keep Bordeaux and the Rhone Valley, as well as what he termed “older vintages of Bordeaux, Rhône and California wines.”  Specific to California, he wrote in a note to his subscribers that he would be doing “a series of horizontal and vertical tastings of perfectly stored California wines that will give readers insight into how they are developing.”

There’s so much news in here that let’s first consider what isn’t going to change. Parker will continue to be the market mover for his first wine love — Bordeaux, a region in which he holds unparalleled influence and authority — and his more recent evident wine love, the Rhone. So he’ll keep his two unrivaled loves. Bordeaux, which seems to live or die on Parker scores, will remain a major focus. And ditto for the Rhone, which has gained a new fame because of his interest.

As for California, this news is enormous. Parker is almost entirely responsible for the stratospheric rise of many of the cult wines of the 1990s, including Harlan Estate, Screaming Eagle (the debut 1992 launched with 99 points) and Sine Qua Non. It’s not too much of a stretch to say that his ratings essentially defined the modern California style, which depending on your view is either extraordinarily opulent and, to use his word, hedonistic, or overwhelming and overblown. Either way, Parker’s compass set a direction for California winemakers wanting to excel in the score wars.

{Full story via SF Chronicle}

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