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Gloves off as Halliday, Parker trade blows

Australian wine writer James Halliday has launched a blistering attack on American wine critics Robert Parker and Matt Kramer.

Halliday argued Parker’s Australian wine recommendations are at odds with Australia’s wine show results, and that he based his recommendations on tasting ‘no more than 10%’ of the wines of the region.

Parker has responded by accusing Halliday and his peers of being ‘Euro-imitators’ and making wine to a bland formula – ‘add acid, and then add more acid to denude any texture or trace of a wine’s place of origin.’

Halliday made his comments in a speech last week at the annual lecture of the Wine Press Club of New South Wales, entitled Thank you Mr Evans and sorry Mr Parker.

He said the trophy results of the last six Sydney Royal Wine Shows showed that Australian judges clearly preferred wines with finesse, such as Clare Valley Rieslings, to the ‘monstrous red wines so beloved of Robert Parker’, from regions like the Barossa Valley.

‘Sorry Mr Parker,’ he said. ‘Whichever way you want to look at it, the Australian show judges profoundly disagree with you.’

He suggested Parker had not tasted enough wine to make a judgement. ‘I’m sure you will all appreciate our provincial nature and convict ancestry,’ said Halliday, ‘but it would be nice if Mr Parker would refrain from judgements based on tasting of no more than 10% of the 120 Yarra Valley wineries.’

Halliday then turned to Kramer, whom he called ‘even more misguided than Robert Parker.’

He accused Kramer of suggesting that big Australian wine companies set wine show benchmarks. ‘Given that just under half the entire judging complement are completely independent,’ he said, ‘Kramer’s suggestions of big company taste fixing are farcical.’

Halliday finished with a rallying call to marketers, saying that Australia needs to promote its more sophisticated wines and persuade the world to look beyond Yellowtail. At the post-lecture dinner, industry stalwart Len Evans called on Australians to defend their wines, saying ‘We have to stop being complacent. We’ve been too nice.’

To cheers, he added that winemakers should stop criticising Australia, saying such remarks were ‘bullshit.’

Robert Parker said on his website erobertparker.com he could ‘easily refute’ the accusations.

‘[Halliday] and most of his colleagues long ago turned their backs and palates on the true glories of Australia.’

Pulling no punches he continues, ‘so many of these Euro-imitations that Halliday, [Brian] Croser et al have championed are vapid, innocuous and no better than very minor wines.’

Written by Felicity Carter

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