The expression “It’s a matter of taste” usually means “This issue is subjective and there is room for different opinions”.
This is not always so in the world of wine. Matters of taste often provide the basis for long running bitter feuds, particularly when the taste being questioned happens to be that of The Wine Advocate’s Robert Parker.
In 2005 matters came to a head between Parker and the redoubtable James Halliday, a well regarded winemaker himself, but more importantly the doyen of Australian wine writers. His Australian Wine Companion, published annually, is regarded by many of his countrymen, and by wine lovers overseas, as the most authoritative guide to the wines of the country.
Addressing the Wine Press Club of New South Wales, Halliday compared the findings of Australia’s wine show judges with the scores awarded by Parker to what he described as “monstrous red wines”, meaning vintages high in alcohol.
The gist of his argument was that Australia should be moving towards wines with what he considered a higher degree of finesse.
Parker, not surprisingly, disagreed, accusing Halliday and those who shared his opinions of turning “their backs and palates on the true glories of Australia,” and the winemakers Halliday champions of making “vapid, innocuous and no better than very minor wines”.
The wines of the southern hemisphere have always tended to pack more of a punch than those of the north but many “New World” winemakers are now working to reduce their alcoholic content.
Parker, however, remains unrepentant. He likes big powerful reds, with, as he elegantly puts it, “gobs of fruit”, and so long as he continues to award points to them in the 95 to 100 range, they will continue to command hefty prices – particularly if they come from estates able to make only a small number of cases per year.
Parker has a number of consistent favourites, and three of them are from the Barossa Valley – Torbreck, Chris Ringland and Greenock Creek.