30 January 2015
It’s easy to make fun of the wine-critic word salad Robert Parker invented, all layers & ripeness & things leaping from glasses–easy, too, to talk about ‘Parkerized’ wines, the style of winemaking that he is said to represent. Did he do a service, when he began to write about wine for Americans stressed out over buying $40 birthday presents for their bosses in more or less the same way that Consumer Reports reviews washing machines? In a very specific, very real way: yes. Has the idea of rating an idiosyncratic, living agricultural product in the same way as a washing machine done measurable harm? Well, yes.
And in the decades that have followed, and with all of the objections to for example the point system pretty much canon now, the wines that he got most enthusiastic over and the way he wrote about that enthusiasm have been caricatured so thoroughly that sometimes instead of attempting to parrot received wisdom it really truly is instructive to just survey & report. To put in another way: I could not write a better parody of Robert Parker’s prose, or describe the kinds of wines I’m told he liked, better than presenting his own writing with as little commentary as possible.
I came across this particular collection of text while looking for something more or less unrelated. (How a particular vintage of a modernist Barolo producer was received a decade and a half ago, if you’re curious.) So! Here are some words & phrases used by Robert Parker when he likes something. They appear, all of them, exactly as written, on a single page of his 2002 Buyers Guide. A dozen or so wines, all told. And without me saying anything more, maybe you can decide for yourself what he values in a bottle of wine, and what kind of things he likes to drink, and how he likes to write about drinking them:
a provocative bouqueta luxurious bouqueta hedonistic, explosive nosebig sweet perfumevoluptuousblockbuster
supple and velvetyvelvety and forward
ripe, and attractivearomas jump from the glassflavors cascade over the palatePowerfully, unctuously textured
awesomely layered texturewith additional levels of glycerin and flavorlayers of glycerinstunningly concentratedfabulously concentrateddecadent level of richnessPomerol-like lushnessFull-bodied, ripe
Full-bodied-and lushopulent, lush, fleshy
fleshy and flamboyantsexy, hedonistic, seamless
Rich, full, fat, opulent, and decadentcopious spice, glycerin, and alcoholfleshy, and flamboyant, with huge glycerin levelsthis textured, full-bodied, fat, lush wine.