Robert Parker’s all-powerful publication, the Wine Advocate, and the associated website are having something of a shift of personnel, which could be of benefit to South African wine. Parker has a long history of virtually ignoring this country, and things did not change radically when David Schildknecht was given responsibility for South African wine half a decade ago.
Schildknecht, a fine taster and brilliant writer, did issue a few reports on Cape wine, but never managed to make even a brief visit here. In his defence, he did have an absurdly large brief, which has been somewhat reduced in the current redistribution.
The new Wine Advocate taster with responsibility for South Africa is Neal Martin, a British wine writer, whose charmingly self-deprecatory and not immensely informative self-characterisation on the WA website is publicly available, should you wish to see it (and the photo alongside is stolen from there).
Interestingly, in what is a very good bit of timing all round, Neal Martin is scheduled to be a judge at this year’s Trophy Wine Show (in April, I think that is). Let’s hope he’s a more frequent presence here than his predecessor.
Of course there has been a good deal of discussion on the internet about the elements of regime change at the Wine Advocate – Parker himself remains the world’s most important wine critic – but most of the debate centres around Parker renouncing his own responsibility for Californian wine. Including, of course, the question as to whether this is another significant stage in the unravelling of his extraordinary power. Interestingly, this question was raised at some length in the current issue of World of Fine Wine, where Parker’s biographer, Elin McCoy, discusses whether that power has already decined significantly, in an article entitled “Twilight of the Emperor”.
The new list of responsibilities at the Wine Advocate, as outlined in an announcement last Saturday, is:
Robert Parker – Bordeaux, the Rhône Valley, older vintages of Bordeaux, Rhône and California wines
Antonio Galloni – Italy, Champagne, Chablis, Côte d’Or, California
David Schildknecht – Germany, Loire, Beaujolais and Mâconnais, Eastern US, Austria, Eastern Europe, Languedoc-Roussillon, Jura
Jay Miller – Oregon, Washington, South America, Spain
Lisa Perrotti-Brown MW – Australia, New Zealand
Neal Martin – Critic-at-large overlapping all areas, plus specific reviewer of South Africa
Mark Squires – Bulletin board supervision and occasional articles on Israel, Portugal, and Greece