Robert Parker: I'll never retire, despite giving up Bordeaux en primeur tasting

26 February, 2015

Robert Parker has said that he will never retire, despite handing over duties for scoring and reviewing en primeur Bordeaux to protégé Neal Martin.

Martin has been with the Wine Advocate team since 2006 and covered Bordeaux for 18 years, writing a book on Pomerol in the process.

Parker will continue to taste Bordeaux in bottle and is planning to taste the 2012 vintage next month, before producing a 10-year retrospective on the “incredible” 2005 vintage. He added that he has no plans to give up tasting Napa and Sonoma.

Parker said: “I have no intention of retiring. I will die on the road, or keel over in some winery. Retirement is a formula for death.

“I love tasting. I am going to miss en primeur, the challenge of trying to find out a new vintage – you are always a student, I’ve been doing it for 37 years, Neal for 18 years, but every new vintage throws up something new. Still 2014 will throw surprises, no matter how much experience you have.”

Parker has tasted virtually every Bordeaux en primeur vintage since 1978 and made his name on the 1982 vintage, but said change was inevitable and that Martin was the perfect replacement.

He described Martin as “a natural and, coincidentally, the best prepared for the job”, adding: “I have total confidence in Neal’s independence, work ethic, and abilities.”

Parker was in a wistful mood at a London press conference yesterday evening, reflecting over changes in the wine world in the past 37 years.

“The wine world I entered in 1978 doesn’t look anything like the wine world today,” he said. “Nothing has stayed the same. In the first issue of Wine Advocate I reviewed 300 wines. The one that made my name, tasting the 1982 vintage in the spring of 1983, featured 600 wines. This last year in total the Wine Advocate team has generated 29,000 professional tasting notes.

“There has been a dramatic increase in quality throughout the world. When I started less than 1% of Bordeaux wines were good. Margaux was mediocre, Lafite was just getting its act together. Now across the board it’s getting better.

“People recognise it’s a global business, and there is incredibly intense competition. This has led to intense improvement in vineyards and an increase in organic and biodynamic production.

“The goal of wineries throughout the world now is to translate the [terroir] of the vineyard in the most unadulterated was possible and get it into bottle so that what you taste is a true representation of the soil, vintage and region.”

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