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Parker rebukes top properties over Bordeaux 2005 prices

Robert Parker has released his scores for the first tastings of the just-bottled 2005 Bordeaux – with another broadside at high prices from the ‘museum pieces’ that are the great wines.

In his journal the Wine Advocate, and on erobertparker.com, the influential American critic leaves us in no doubt as to how good he considers the vintage – ‘the greatest…produced during my 30-year career’.

But he makes it clear where his loyalties lie: ‘The real values are not found in the first growths or many of the classified growths’ but in what he calls ‘Bordeaux’s big little wines.’

There are only two 100-point wines – Ausone and L’Eglise Clinet – but it should be remembered that in April 2006 potential 100-pointers ‘weren’t scattered like confetti’, as decanter.com noted at the time.

Then, there were only eight properties with a potential 100 points: Haut-Brion, Margaux and Latour, Pavie, Petrus, Ausone, Pavie Decesse and Pape Clement.

But now none of the first growths gets past 98. That is Margaux’s score (in barrel it was ‘a candidate for 50+ years of evolution’) and the ‘colossal’ Latour – ‘a modern classic’ – gets 96.

Of the rest, Haut Brion, Angelus, Pavie and Pape Clement get 98, while Lafite, Mouton, Petrus and Pavie Decesse get 96.

While the great wines are lavishly praised, the critic offers a general rebuke.

‘The top end offerings from the most renowned appellations and terroirs are likely to become primarily museum pieces given their already astonishing price climbs.’

Parker reserves his highest praise for the ‘unheralded, less prestigious’ terroirs.

‘These are some of the finest wine bargains of the world, and quality for the unheralded, less-prestigious terroirs continues to merit significant consumer support.’

The relative lack of high scores (the difference between 100 points and 98 points, in the Parker universe, can mean hundreds of thousands of pounds in sales) has caused a furore in the wine trade.

Stephen Browett at Farr Vintners said it was ‘a political statement’:

‘Parker moves the market. I’m sure he knows this. So perhaps he feels he has a responsibility and is sending a message to the chateaux.’

Gary Boom at Bordeaux Index said the same. ‘Just two points – ie the difference between 98 and 100 – can double the price of the wine. So he is making a statement by not giving the first growths the most points.’

And at Berry Bros, wine director Simon Staples – who had predicted at least 15 wines with 100 points – said he was ‘flabbergasted’ at a ‘totally political comment’.

In New York, Chris Adams, Sherry-Lehmann’s executive vice president, said, ‘The absence of more than two 100-point wines was surprising, but reading his notes on the other very highly rated wines – like Margaux and Haut-Brion – captures nicely his enthusiasm for this special vintage. As for his focus on the smaller chateaux as great values, we couldn’t agree more.’

In Bordeaux, Laurent Ehrmann of negociants Barrieres Freres said, ‘if this is an attempt to control the market then it’s a bit late: the 05s have been out there for 36 months now and they have an economic life of their own.’

Another senior figure in the industry said, ‘it is obviously to do with prices. Parker is trying to tame the market.’

At the time of going to press it has not been possible to contact the major Bordeaux chateaux.

additional reporting by Howard G Goldberg in New York

Written by Adam Lechmere, and Maggie Rosen

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