It was inevitable that Robert Parker, the world's most influential wine critic and a man with a very fine nose and palate, would bow out of reviewing the new bordeaux vintage. Last month's announcement in London that he was passing the spittoon to Neal Martin, a younger British member of his team at The Wine Advocate, had the Bordelais chewing their fingernails. After three average-quality vintages, this is a crunch year for bordeaux.
Ever since he earnt his stripes assessing the great 1982 vintage, Parker's 100-point ratings have been hugely, sometimes disproportionately, influential. Some château owners have even adapted wines, often making them richer and more powerful, just for him. While his ratings have had investors clamouring for the tiny number of wines that achieve a 100 point, or close, score.
The fresh breeze blowing through bordeaux is likely to mitigate Parker's influence on price setting. It should give more affordable, approachable bordeaux styles, from countries such as Australia and Chile a fairer crack of the whip. On the secondary market, Parker's withdrawal is likely to put bordeaux under greater pressure from burgundy.
This is all the more significant in the light of the 2014 bordeaux vintage review soon to take place. With so much stock piled high, the Bordelais are desperate to see the 2014 move out of the cellars quickly. It looks to be a very good vintage and they have a major opportunity to win back the friends they lost after the sky-high pricing of previous vintages. Most observers believe they need to revert to more reasonable pricing structures, but whether or not they take that opportunity remains to be seen.
Bordeaux is still producing deliciously drinkable reds. I suggest avoiding the plethora of humdrum supermarket clarets and paying a little extra for higher-quality red, even if that makes it more of a special occasion treat.
At the relatively affordable end of the spectrum, the 2009 Petit Manou, £10.95, Wine Society, shows bright, modern, blackcurranty fruit, while Corney & Barrow's youthful 2010 Réserve Claret, £11.95, displays the cedary aromatics, fine texture and fruit purity of a great vintage. From the fine 2009 vintage, Château Castera, £22, Borough Wines, is a delicious mouthful of cedary oak and seductively ripe cassis fruitiness.
Splash out a bit and the 2008 Château Labégorce, Margaux, £27, Sainsbury's, displays succulence of cassis fruit with subtle, supporting oak and savoury freshness, the 2008 Château Cambon la Pelouse, £20, Oddbins, cedary, stylish and long on berry fruit juiciness, while the 2008 La Parde de Haut-Bailly, Pessac-Léognan, £28.95, Lea & Sandeman, is a humdinger of ripe dark fruit, smooth texture and stylish balance.Reuse content