Chasing Robert Parker

This fall the Wine in Provence tours team took a research trip to the Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Gigondas, and Vacqueyras regions of France. We set off to have a marathon wine tasting day and experience some of the places that we had not yet been to in these areas. Our mission; to expand our winery contact list and find some new places to take our clients. Our first stop was “Ogier” in Chateauneuf-du-Pape where we had a fun tour and tasting with our host, Guy. While sipping on Ogier’s Estate wine, we learned that Robert Parker was doing the same thing right across the street from us! If you don’t know who this man is, Robert Parker is kind of like the Oprah of the wine industry, even deemed as having the same “effect” as followers of his wine reviews will trust his word without question.

Instead of Robert Parker traveling from tasting room to tasting room in each region (like we were doing on this day), naturally, the wines are brought to him at “La Maison du Vin”. This is an event/conference room named “The House of Wine”- they have one in each village. And, of course, each winery presents him with their best bottles. Of the three wine regions we visited that day, each person who received us mentioned in hushed tones that Robert Parker had just been in their area doing blind tastings. They had just dropped off their highest end wines to the local event room for him to try. We had no idea when we got into the car that morning that we’d literally be chasing Robert Parker all over the Southern Rhone!

Mr. Parker travels all over and gets served a portion of some of the world’s most amazing wines. Just imagine a man in a room full of bottles…he alone will decide for the rest of us which are the best, all depending on which bottles his palette approves of the most. You can understand why some people disregard his notes-after all, he is just a human with a little more refined palette and a very well known name. But the people of Châteauneauf-du-Pape, Gigondas, and Vacqueyras all seem to respect and admire him, and they have reason to as he is HUGELY responsible for bringing about the hype to these tiny villages in Southern France. For example, we sometimes visit places that can barely be called “tasting rooms”- they’re more like garages; no tree lined driveways, no candlelit caves. Just a garage attached to the winemaker’s house with cars parked next to the barrels. These hard to find tasting rooms belong to families that have been producing wines for generations and Hilary and Brian would never have found these places without the high ratings from Robert Parker. In fact, he gave one bottle of red wine from “Domaine du Pegau” a high rating a couple years back and now it’s selling for 150 euros a bottle!