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Parker may hold back Bordeaux 2002 scores

Robert Parker may hold off publication of his 2002 Bordeaux tasting notes until after the chateaux have released their prices in June – but he is waiting to taste the wines before he decides.

This year the highly influential American wine critic will be tasting in Bordeaux at the end of March as usual. Whether he publishes his assessment in the April or June edition of his journal The Wine Advocate depends on the quality of the vintage.

‘If it is very good then I will write something in April. If it is lukewarm I will wait until June,’ he told decanter.com. By June chateaux will have been forced to release prices in time for that month’s Vinexpo, the world’s biggest wine fair, where thousands of futures, for the main part in the top Bordeaux, are sold.

Parker is convinced Bordeaux this year is going to be a ‘difficult sell’ because of the uncertain economy, the possibility of war with Iraq, and fact that the previous vintage of Bordeaux – 2001 – is still very much on sale.

‘It seems certain that America will go to war, and that may have some effect on what I do,’ he said. ‘If the war is short, then the collective economy will pull itself together. But whatever happens Bordeaux is going to be a difficult sell – not least because the market is saturated. The 2001 vintage is still on the shelves.’

Parker – who in the past has threatened to sue merchants who use his scores without tasting notes to sell wines – has never made a secret of his impatience with the cult of celebrity that surrounds his name. Many Bordeaux producers regard their Parker score as a vital indicator of what they can charge for the wine.

‘I think it is foolish to put so much weight and credibility on the word of one man,’ he told decanter.com.

Alain Raynaud, former head of the Union des Grands Crus and proprietor of Chateau Lascombes said, ‘To let the Bordelais fix prices before his influence is felt is a good move. Let the sales begin.’

Hugo Rose of UK merchants Lay & Wheeler said dependence on one critic interfered with the delicate mechanism of the wine market: ‘It takes a while for wine to find its market level, and Parker derails that process.’

He gave the example of Chateau Pavie 2001, which Parker gave a massive 96 points and suggested may be ‘Wine of the Vintage’, and which went on to sell very badly. ‘Parker’s influence hinders market efficiency,’ he said.

Written by Adam Lechmere

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