Thursday, February 20, 2014
Robert Parker on The Road to Shanghai
World-renowned wine critic Robert M. Parker Jr will kick off his "Grand World Tour", hosting a series of interactive wine events, in Beijing on Feb 26. He will then head to Shanghai on March 1 and 2 and Hong Kong from March 4 to 6. According to Parker, the events have been designed to engage wine lovers at multiple levels. --from a press release 2-12-2014
Good Evening, Ladies and Gentlemen. It’s great to be here in Shanghai, or as they call it in Bordeaux, “Our 2013 Warehouse.” My name is Robert Parker, and I’ve come to educate you about wine. I’m the most famous wine critic in the world. People say I am the most powerful tongue since Mao Tse. Tonight we’re going to learn a little bit about wine, how to evaluate wine, and how to recognize fake wines. The Chinese market is full of fake Bordeaux, just like the wine world is full of fake experts. How can you tell the difference between genuine and fake? Easy. The smell. Have you even met James Suckling? Oh, but I kid…
Now, listen, everybody and his goddam assistant winemaker is making their way to China to try and get in good with you people. Man, there’s a lot of you, and you know what those guys are seeing? Dollar bills. Moolah. Yen. They got a yen for your yen. They’re dreaming of yenburgers and yengasms. They want yen lining in their designer pants pockets. They’ll put their sticky fingers in your sticky buns. Translate that, weird guy making hand signals behind me. Don’t I know you from the Mandela funeral service? They’re all going to tell you their wines are the most prestigious, most desirable, most famous wines in the world. Don’t believe them. It’s my job to tell you what the most prestigious, desirable and famous wines are. Listen, I do it for white people, I can do it for you.
I started my publication, The Wine Advocate, back before Bordeaux was important. Just to give you a little background on the history of Bordeaux, there was a Great Classification of Bordeaux Vineyards done in 1855. Then nothing much happened until I declared 1982 the greatest vintage ever. You know, really, you don’t want to drink the wines from before that. They may have been good, but who was there to really notice? Sure, a bunch of British guys, but, well, these were primitive wine critics who were unable to use the 100 Point Scale. It’s hard to believe, but most of the Bordeaux produced between 1855 and 1982 were never evaluated using the 100 Point Scale. So buying those wines would be like having sex with a porn star who hasn’t recently had a blood test.. Think of the 100 Point Scale as your Guaranteed Condom of Wine Pleasure.
I can see that a few of you are unfamiliar with the 100 Point Scale. It’s the accepted measure of wine’s quality. It’s an easy concept to grasp. Think of it terms of Human Rights. Now, we start at 50 Points. Those are points awarded for simply being human. The Rights part isn’t something we take for granted. Add points for freedom of speech, for strict child labor laws, for freedom to worship any other wine critic or God, and so on. The highest points wins. So China would get 34 on the Human Rights 100 Point Scale whereas the United States gets a solid 93. OK, sure, we depend on your 34 for our iPhones and electronics and cheap clothes, but that’s a different story.
Wine works about the same way. It gets 50 points for being wine. Well, it makes sense. When we taste wines for ratings, we don’t spend much time with them. In a sense, we taste them halfway. So by starting at the halfway point, 50, we’re making it fair. Then we add points for color and aroma and texture and intensity. Just random points, it’s not really very precise. It’s a little bit like judging at the Summer Olympics. That gymnast from the USA gets 9.9, while the gymnast from China gets 9.2. Why? Well, it’s the same reason Cabernet Sauvignon can get a 99, but a damn Beaujolais is never going to go over 92. One is just naturally better than the other. So, great vintage in Bordeaux? 19 perfect scores. Great vintage in Chile? Yeah, right, Chile. So it’s pretty simple.
Once you’ve grasped the idea of the 100 Point Scale, you’re almost a wine connoisseur. In front of you are six wines. All of them have scores, but they aren’t listed on your programs. Now, if you want to cheat, you can sign up for my eRobertParker website and look them up. I’d encourage you to do that. For only what it costs you to employ 300 young girls for piecemeal labor for an entire year, you can utilize my wine insight year round! That’s a remarkable bargain. And, you’ll also have exclusive access to the most interesting wine chat room on the Internet. See, there’s one thing I learned from your government—control Internet access! You guys were so far ahead of us on that one.
Now let’s taste the six wines. Start by sticking your nose in them. Put your nose in as deep as you can. Good! You’re just like the guys on my chat room! Notice the color, take some notes on what aromas you’re getting from the wine, now taste it. Hold it in your mouth for a while, let the wine bloom in your mouth, then spit it out. What did it taste like, how would you characterize the texture, how long was the finish? OK, now that you’ve asked yourself those questions, fuck it. Give it a number. That’s what matters. The rest is just like the plot in a video game—window dressing. It’s all about scoring.
How many said 92 for the first wine, raise your hands? Wow, a lot of hands. Looks like a North Korean rally. And you got it right. Can you tell me what grape it’s made from? Of course not! And who cares? What is this, Chinese Jeopardy? Actually, I tricked you all a little bit. All six of the wines are 92 point wines! Yup. I know, amazing. 92 is a pretty rare number. I tell my contributors to think about a 92 point wine like you think about ballet—hell, you’re just pretending to like it. See, every score has its own personality. You’ll learn. Just taste these six wines. Yeah, I can see, most of you are pretending to like them. There you go. 92 points. I’m making it seem easy, but it’s really not. Imagine having to taste 150 wines in one day, AND give them scores. It’s not like these are imaginary numbers either. These are the real scores. See, really hard to do.
Now that you’ve learned how to taste wine, let’s talk a little about how to spot a fake wine. You can’t. Hard to spot a fake when you don’t even know what a real one looks or tastes like. But it doesn’t matter! Your Chinese friends don’t know either. And, really, what matters about wine isn’t its reputation, or its history, or its rarity. What matters is how much you paid for it. The same is true for subscriptions to wine publications. Or sex workers. If there’s a difference.
Wine is about ceremony and privilege. Don’t let anybody tell you otherwise. Don’t believe idiotic statements like, “Just drink what you like.” That’s mealy-mouthed, Western society, democratic, Year of the Horseshit. The people who say that don’t know anything about wine. They’re just cheap bastards. Or worse—bloggers. Those morons.
I predict that one day, very soon, China will become the world’s largest consumer of the world’s greatest wines. Even if most of them are fake, so what? We’re just paying you bastards back for all the fake Chanel we buy.
Thank you and good night.