November 30, 2009

Book Review: Robert Parker’s Great Value Wines

By In Drink Books

Right, here is what you get – a thick little hard-backed book of 500 odd pages. Each of the 13 wine producing country chapters is simply a list of recommended wines each with an indication of price and a tasting note. A two page introduction to the country or region (France and the USA are sub-divided) includes a little run down on the grape varieties, ‘vintage lowdowns and drinking curves’ and a little background.

The idea is to provide a list of “those under-the-radar, superb wine bargains that taste as if they should cost two or three times the price but don’t” All the wines are given an indication of price be it £ (£5-£9), ££ (£10-£13) or £££ (£14-£20).

The guide offers more than 1,500 wine producers and abbreviated tasting notes for more than 3,000 wines.

Not that the vast majority of UK wine drinkers will know who Robert Parker is, the notes are I assumed lifted from the Wine Advocate. Take Marc Kreydenweiss (whose estate I toured this year and thoroughly enjoyed his organic wines) who receives one recommendation for his Pinot Blanc Kritt :

“Organic pioneer Kreydenweiss’s blend of Pinot Blanc and Auxerrois suggests pear cider and honeysuckle. Rich, often strikingly creamy, it finishes lusciously but without a hint of sweetness”

These notes are not vintage specific, which I think diminishes the power of each recommendation. Generalisation may be fine for where vintage conditions give little variation on the contents of each bottle (think New World) but this really doesn’t work for Europe where vintage variations are so often apparent. With a vintage guide on the back pages vintages are obviously important to the authors so I fail to see how notes lacking vintage specifics are useful.

Where can a consumer acquire these wines from? This being an American publication (with the dollar references transposed to sterling) the chapters covering California, Oregon and Washington state list a great many wines that are simply not available in the UK, lowering the guides value considerably. But then where would one go to grab a bottle of Tselepos Moschofilero from Mantinia in Greece or Clos Teddi Patrimonio from Corsica? (The internet obviously and the likes of Snooth and Adegga!)

There is a lack of consistency in the country descriptions too, no doubt down to which of the six contributors penned the piece. New Zealand receives a breakdown by main region listing acres under vine, average annual production, and soil types. All very geeky – and which none of the other country listings provide – but no analysis of how these conditions influence the flavours of the wines. How does a wine buyer looking for a Sunday roast splash-out bottle benefit from knowing that Waipara is principally “chalk loam, rich in limestone”?

Who exactly is this American-penned wine guide aimed at?

Robert Parker’s Great Value Wines: Seriously Good Wine at Remarkably Fair Prices is published by Dorling Kindersley for £13.99. Amazon are currently listing the guide at £7.78.

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Top :: Comments

  1. Sarah Newton December 1, 2009

    Books, Books and more books. Tis the time of the year. Hadn’t seen this one on the market and wont be asking for it for Xmas!
    Just catching up on your blog sir, hope you are keeping well.

  2. Michael December 6, 2009

    I certainly do know of Robert Parker, bought more than one book of his. Can quote from him, have bought wine he recommended, even after buying the wine.
    I now live in Spain and am amazed with the quality and choice.

  3. wine_scribbler December 6, 2009

    I think that those who enjoy wine so much as to read Spittoon and other wine blogs are much more likely to know of Mr Parker; those for who wine is not quite as important probably don’t.
    Thanks for taking the time to comment.


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