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Do Critics Still Determine Wine Styles?

Do Critics Still Determine Wine Styles?

by Tim Elliott on March 14, 2009

Josh's T-shirtBy way of Josh Hermsmeyer, I found Tina Caputo’s fantastic self-produced short film, “Robert Parker’s Bitch.” The basic premise is that wines today are big, bold, and over-oaked designed, ‘…to taste and spit,” and not savored with food. The question on the table is if Robert Parker and Jim Laube largely determine today’s wine styles or are winemakers trying to reflect the terroir of their region?

While both sides are presented via interviews with winemakers, industry commentators and winery owners, it’s clear what side of the argument the filmmaker is on. But it’s great to see such a controversial issue presented with such transparency.

Bravo, Tina!

  • Karen MacNeil is a class act. Balanced, Elegant, Complex, Intoxicating. Power and Finesse together. 100 points.

    This video is Alice Feiring-esque. Simplistic, imbalanced, and made in an attention- grabbing style with over-oxygenated ideas. No rating.

    To quote Jon Stewart: "Partisan hackery". For ratings, or hits…

    The excellent winemakers featured deserve much better than this…

    Let pay a bit of respect to those who work hard for a long time, do good, and talk about what they love. In Japan, these folk would be national treasures. Worthy of respect.

    This piece would not have even be made were it not for Robert Parker, or the Wine Spectator.

    Imitate that work ethic, that enthusiasm and see where that ends up.

    Tim, check out most everything that you do. Give you a 94-96. Let's face it, you can't be blamed for the odd over-warm vintage or stuck fermentation.

    • Hi Rob,

      Sorry you feel that the film isn't balanced, but I disagree (of course I would: I'm the filmmaker). Both Karen and Josh did a great job of presenting the other side of the pandering-for-points controversy, so the film wasn't only winemakers bashing the critics. I've gone on record more than once as saying that I don't think Parker and Spectator are to blame for over-oaked/high-alcohol wines. But I do think it's sad that some winemakers are pressured (by their bosses, or other forces) into making wines they don't like in order to earn high scores from certain influential critics. The purpose of the film was to get people within the industry to talk openly about winemakers' stylistic motivations–and to have a bit of fun in the process.
      cheers, Tina

  • Tobias

    Hermsmeyer does a good figure in this brief piece, but MacNeil (by way of her statements and possibly the editing treatment) leaves an impression of holding some rather naive views. Dunn makes some very good statements. For a short docu this is quite all right.

    The utterly unreasonable notion of awarding a number score to a wine is at the core of the problem. Who can see to abolishing it?

  • Matt

    This is a complete copy of Mondovino, which I thought was a poor presentation of this debate. This newest piece of journalism I think is an even worse interpretation of this argument.

  • @Rob: Thanks for your support but I think Tina has presented a pretty fair video on an important subject. What I most liked is she set it up and then let the winemakers tell the story from their perspective.

    @Tobias: I think we will see scores fade and in 5-10 years they will be a footnote in history. We just have to develop a new language for the wine review that will be the tricky part.

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