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Parker and Robinson in war of words

The en primeur debate surrounding the quality of the 2003 Château Pavie has deepened with the highly influential American wine critic Robert M Parker Jnr breaking his silence to attack Master of Wine Jancis Robinson’s Pavie tasting note.

Parker, who traditionally keeps his Bordeaux tasting notes under wraps before they are published in The Wine Advocate, questioned Robinson’s impartiality.

Robinson, one of the UK’s top wine critics, said in her notes that the Pavie was a ‘ridiculous’ wine.

‘Completely unappetising overripe aromas. Why? Porty sweet. Port is best from the Douro not St.Emilion. Ridiculous wine more reminiscent of a late-harvest Zinfandel than a red Bordeaux with its unappetising green notes,’ she said. She gave the wine 12/20.

Responding to Robinson’s comments on her website, purplepages.com, Parker said that the Pavie ‘does not taste at all (for my palate) as described by Jancis’. He later added that her comments, if accurate, ‘are very much in keeping with her nasty swipes at all the Pavies made by [Gérard] Perse and mirror the comments of…reactionaries in Bordeaux’.

Robinson, wanting to quash any suggestions that she had a personal agenda against Pavie owner, Gérard Perse, was keen to stress that the wine was tasted blind. ‘I have witnesses,’ she said.

Parker, writing on the bulletin board of his website, erobertparker.com, refutes this, saying Robinson would, in this particular case, have known what she was tasting.

‘Pavie is the only premier grand cru estate to use an antique form of bottle that…even when covered up, stands out like a black sheep,’ he said.

Many in the wine trade say Parker is likely to rate the Pavie highly.

‘It is widely anticipated that Robert Parker will love it and we predict a massive score,’ said Stephen Browett at UK wine merchants Farr Vintners.

Parker has consistently scored Pavie highly since Perse took over the chateau in 1998.

Decanter’s James Lawther MW rated the 2003 Pavie highly. Giving it 4 stars out of 5, he commented on the almost port-style of the wine. But he does not believe the 12/20 rating for the Pavie is justified.

‘It’s a stylistic question. It’s not a Bordeaux-style wine, it’s very rich. But you can’t justify giving it 12/20, that implies that the wine is unacceptable, that it’s a flawed wine,’ said Lawther.

American magazine and website, Wine Spectator, gave this year’s Pavie 95-100/100. James Suckling, tasting for Wine Spectator finished his tasting note saying, ‘got to like this’.

Thierry Desseauve of French wine magazine La Revue du Vin de France quashed suggestions that there was a continental divide over the wine and hinted that Robinson either tasted a dud sample or has a personal agenda.

‘Frankly, the Pavie 2003 is superb. We [himself and top French wine writer, Michel Bettane] tasted it several times. Some of the samples at the Union des Grands Crus tasting were very bad. I find it hard to believe that one cannot like this wine. Perse has many enemies in Bordeaux and elsewhere. I think some tasters get carried along by this. I think he [Perse] is judged by who he is, not by the wines he produces,’ said Desseauve.

Read Jancis Robinson’s response in full at www.jancisrobinson.com

Written by Oliver Styles

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