American wine critic Robert Parker has applauded as ‘hilarious’ a French comic book which mercilessly lampoons him and the wine styles he champions.
In Robert Parker: The Seven Heady Sins (Les sept péchés capiteux) – subtitled ‘L’Anti-Guide Parker – the renowned wine writer commits ‘seven heady sins’ against French wine.
The title puns capiteux meaning heady or intoxicating, with capitaux, meaning deadly.
The book mocks well-known winemakers and proprietors who are associated with Parker: Michel Rolland and garagiste Jean-Luc Thunevin, to winemaker Alain Raynaud and Bordeaux-based American wine merchant Jeffrey Davies.
The cartoons pull no punches – Parker is lampooned mercilessly for promulgating an ultra-ripe style, while Davies and Rolland are portrayed as arch-manipulators of the 100-point scoring system.
The story begins in 2017, when a retired 70-year-old Parker receives a personal invitation to return to Bordeaux. But upon arrival, he is blindfolded and guided into an underground St Emilion cellar where a panel of seven judges, hooded in purple, condemn the critic for having committed sins ‘against our wines.’
The critic tastes three wines blind which he describes as ‘old marmalades’ but which to his horror turn out to be Château Pavie 2000, Château Valandraud 2005 and Château Le Pin 1995, all wines he has championed.
In other chapters Michel Rolland admits to having possibly ‘denatured’ terroir, and tells Jean-Luc Thunevin of Chateau Valandraud to make ultra-low-yield wines, which will ‘defeat the greatest wines
in 10 years’.
Parker – who in the book ends up drinking Riesling rather than ripe red wines – said he loved the book.
He told Decanter.com in an email, ‘I loved it…absolutely hilarious…and to be a member of TOON TOWN a great honour….hope it is a great success and gets translated into English and other languages….all the best…Bob.’
Others were not so amused. Davies said he was ‘disappointed’, and not just because they misspelled his name.
He told Decanter.com, ‘It is not funny,’ he said, ‘and it’s full of inaccuracies and errors.’
Davies said one of the book’s named sources was Hanna Agostini’s Robert Parker: Anatomy of a Myth,
which was written ‘out of spite and vengeance. You get much the same from the comic book.’
Agostini, Parker’s former French translator, spent several years involved in acrimonious dispute with the critic.
Other sources are Elin McCoy’s The Emperor of Wine and Jonathan Nossiter’s Le Goût et le Pouvoir.
While McCoy’s work is broadly positive, Nossiter – especially in his 2004 film Mondovino – is an implacable critic of the perceived Parker style.
Other ‘victims’ of the book have reserved comment until they read it.
Robert Parker: Les sept péchés capiteux, designed by Philippe Bercovici and written by Benoist Simmat is published by 12bis.
Written by Panos Kakaviatos