It’s big news this week for the wine community and, more specifically, Bordeaux wine producers – Robert Parker is stepping down from reviewing Bordeaux wines altogether.
Last year he announced that, after a 30+ year career in the Gironde, he would hand over his responsibilities in the annual Bordeaux En Primeur tastings to British critic Neal Martin. This year he has gone even further, revealing plans to focus solely on wines closer to home in California.
Parker’s influence on the fine wine market
To say that Robert Parker has had a massive influence on the market for top Bordeaux wine would be an understatement.
For the last 30 years, his scores have had a direct effect on release prices for En Primeur wines and may even have influenced the style of wines being produced. The Bordelais have learned to cater to his palate for ripe, full, fruity wine such as that of Château Pavie, as opposed to the more traditional, elegant styles of Château Montrose, favouring balance and finesse.
His retrospective scoring of wines has also had a huge influence on sales and trade in Bordeaux fine wine. Here are just a few examples.
Just three days after Parker’s 100-point review of Haut Bailly 2009 was published in the Hedonist’s Gazette in 2014, the wine’s trading price increased by 45.2%. Six months later it saw an additional price hike when the review was added to Wine Advocate’s official archives.
The 2005 Bordeaux vintage
In anticipation of Parker’s 10-year retrospective review of the vintage, a period of increased trading activity and rising prices was seen for the 2005s on Liv-ex. Upgrades in the scores of several wines led to a ripple effect of price gains across the vintage, only for hopes to be dashed (along with prices) when some wines did not reach their predicted three-digit upgrade upon release of the report.
Mission Haut Brion 2005 benefitted from a whopping 47.7% price increase when it was upgraded from 98+ to a perfect 100-point score. “Pure perfection” and a “modern-day legend”, “this is a fabulous wine and a great effort from this hallowed terroir”, wrote Parker.
Haut Brion 1989
Parker’s singular devotion to this Haut Brion vintage above all others is directly reflected in the huge price gap between the 1989 and neighbouring vintages. It’s market price is 139% above the 2005, the highest in value of the last 20 vintages.
Parker published 100-point scores for the wine on six occasions as well as scoring the wine 98-100 points in barrel. He writes – “One of the immortal wines and one of the greatest young Bordeaux wines of the last half-century… a seamless, majestic classic. Life is too short not to drink this wine as many times as possible!”
The future of investment-grade wine
It remains to be seen how Parker’s decision will affect Bordeaux wine production and sales in the long term, but one thing is certain – along with rising levels of competition from other wine regions, a backlog of unsold stock from a few failed En Primeur campaigns, and global warming, the Bordelais have a lot to think about!