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Parker's Wine Buyer's Guide, 7th Edition
Parker's Wine Buyer's Guide, 7th Edition
by Robert M. Parker
Edition: Hardcover
36 used & new from $2.54

15 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An astonishing compendium that reinvents the wine buyer guide, September 28, 2008
Parker's Wine Buyer's Guide Nº 7 is an astonishing compendium on wine written by the world's foremost wine critic in concert with his entire new Wine Advocate team. The Guide covers every wine region of any consequence on the planet, and includes a bit of history, a comprehensive survey of the wines of each area, discussion and ratings of all the relevant producers in each region, and poignant essays that cut to the heart of all the major contemporary issues of all of these regions. There is no other comparable work with the comprehensive coverage, the insightful commentary, and the ratings of thousands of wines from recent vintages that this seventh edition of Parker's popular guide provides.

By leaving out the detailed individual tasting notes of previous editions, probably to keep it at a slim 1513 pages, this book has reinvented the consumer wine guide yet again. It now begs to be read cover to cover (it really does, and I did), rather than be used simply to look up a favored wine or a favorite region, though it still works perfectly for the quick pre-purchase look-up: all the scores for wines of recent vintages are there. The detailed tasting notes can readily be found on Parker's website, though it requires a subscription (which is well worth it for everything else going on there nowadays), but curiously, they aren't even missed. The unencumbered flow of text and lists has completely re-energized the Guide. It facilitates the enthusiast's quest for quick answers about a wine or region, as well as quenching even the most insatiable thirst for all details vinous, including insider information about winemakers and their winemaking approaches, and a thorough, candid, and unbiased read of what's good, what's great, and what's not.

Parker's essays on all matters of wine in his forty page introduction, and David Schildknecht's extensive essays on Alsace, Austria, Burgundy, and Germany are worth the book's tariff alone. Then add the insights and critical assessments by the new members of his team that includes Dr. Jay Miller on Spain, Australia, South America, Washington, and Oregon; Antonio Galloni on Italy; Mark Squires on Portugal and the wines of Israel; the indefatigable and completely British Neal Martin on New Zealand and South Africa; and of course, the master himself on Bordeaux, the Rhone, and California wine, and the benchmark for wine writing has been raised to new heights. And I've left out many other regions covered. This wine buyer's guide not only meets the need for every wine buyer from the occasional purchaser to the obsessed enthusiast, it exceeds all previous expectations of the genre. And Parker invented the genre.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 8, 2009 6:02 PM PDT

Judgment of Paris: California vs. France & the Historic 1976 Paris Tasting That Revolutionized Wine
Judgment of Paris: California vs. France & the Historic 1976 Paris Tasting That Revolutionized Wine
by George M. Taber
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $21.34
130 used & new from $0.01

62 of 66 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Non-Judgemental Treatise, September 23, 2005
Centered on a small, poorly attended (only one journalist present) wine tasting event in 1976-the famous Paris tasting organized by the English bon vivant and Paris wine retailer/writer Steven Spurrier-George Taber tells the whole story first-hand (he was the journalist present!). In the process of giving all the details of the wines, the jurors, and the scores, the book actually covers the universe of contemporary wine issues, from the winemakers, both French and Californian, to the issues of wine economics and globalization.

Taber begins the story with fascinating mini-biographies of the winemakers and winery owners (such as Mike Grgich, Warren Winiarski, and Jim Barrett), discusses the trials and tribulations of making their first wines, outlines each of the competition wines (California and French) in interesting detail and context, then, after describing the competition itself, follows the discussion with the chronology of the press and public reaction from the U.S. and abroad (mostly French-they were pissed).

Positing the shattering of French wine hegemony by this `momentous' wine event, he then points the reader to the subsequent enabling of the `Globalisation of Wine', and in the remainder of the book, takes a number of diversions that relate to this hotly discussed topic, including a chapter on six recent International Wine Stars, and others that give a (relatively) non-judgemental perspective on contemporary wine trends, wine economics, wine styles, and more wine personalities.

Very enjoyable and well written, it's a must read for the wine enthusiast, and for anyone interested in a succinct summary of many (non-technical) contemporary wine issues.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 26, 2012 7:54 PM PST

The Emperor of Wine: The Rise of Robert M. Parker, Jr. and the Reign of American Taste
The Emperor of Wine: The Rise of Robert M. Parker, Jr. and the Reign of American Taste
by Elin McCoy
Edition: Hardcover
66 used & new from $0.01

24 of 29 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars McCoy's New Clothes, August 7, 2005
One of the common consequences of being the best at what one does is becoming famous. One of the consequences of being famous is ending up in the cross-hairs of `colleagues' and others who find the opportunity to ride on one's coat-tails by writing (a usually negative) expose about them. Unfortunately it too often leads to a tiring diatribe designed to knock the famous one down a notch or two. Does Elin McCoy's book, "The Emperor of wine-The Rise of Robert M. Parker Jr. and the Reign of American Taste" fall into this mantra? Or does McCoy offer a "fair and balanced" view of the World's most powerful Critic?

I first discovered Robert Parker and his Wine Advocate in the early 80's, when first putting together my wine cellar. I am a wine drinker, not a wine collector (meaning my interest was in finding and storing wines to accompany food). At that time, young (meaning those available in the stores) California Cabs and most Bordeaux were austere, tannic, and difficult to decide if they would eventually become (pleasurably) drinkable. As a wine neophyte, it was a laborious (if not fun) task to buy dozens of new wines to `taste through' and decide which ones warranted purchase in quantity to lay down for future (hopefully enjoyable) drinking. RP and his WA allowed me to effectively narrow the choices considerably, and, in fact, his (prescient) advice about purchasing futures of 1982 Bordeaux resulted in my laying down enough wine to enjoy over the ensuing 20 years that I have only recently needed to aggressively re-stock my cellar.

With that "disclosure" about Parker's successful influence on my personal wine buying, let me talk about McCoy's book about the "Emperor".

McCoy states the theme of her monograph in the prologue. Is Parker to be blamed "for reshaping the taste of wine to his own personal preference for dark, high-alcohol wines with lots of power and intensity, and in the process killing tradition and reducing great wines to mere numbers", or is he to be "revered" for being "largely responsible for the vastly improved quality of wines made across the globe and [being] the wine consumer's best friend?"

The first part of the book is an interesting discussion of the wine world of Parker's formative years of the 60's and 70's, as well as Parker's early life before and at the start of his wine career. His decision to offer the first truly independent and consumer-favored (rather than industry-favored) wine reviews is presented in detail. His `breakthrough' (and lonely) assessment of the 82 Bordeaux, its significance to his career and to the wine buying public is well documented here.

The title of the book reveals the tone for the latter portion of McCoy's essay, where overuse of `emperor' and related pejorative terms ("his imperial sway", "his reign", "visiting royalty"," the great man's sense of smell") clearly suggests a sophomoric attempt to set a specific bias of Parker in the reader's mind.

Let's look at three important criticisms of Parker that McCoy posits.

The first is that RP's "concept of wine greatness" is "firmly on the side of fruit, concentration, overall sensory impact, and sensuous texture." Is this bad? (Am I missing something here?). She asks the same question, but clearly argues that it is, and that he is "killing tradition" by scoring "high alcohol wines with power and intensity" so highly. McCoy considers this a very important negative of Parker's "reign", so much so that she decided to `prove' the point when given the opportunity to mentor a tasting entitled "Parker's Favorites" at this June's Aspen Food and Wine event, which I attended (and for which was the premier early-release event for this book). She offered six wines at the well-attended tasting designed to show (she told us) that Parker's preferences were for big, alcoholic wines, that are powerful, concentrated, and that show well by themselves (without food). Included was a Bordeaux (2000 Ch. d'Issan) which she noted was not her first choice, but was included because the proprietor of her first choice declined to have his wine included because (she stated), he didn't want to be known for producing a "Parkerized" wine. (I suspect the wine may have been Ch. Pavie, but when I asked McCoy at the tasting, she declined "to go there"). Parker indeed rates this wine highly ( a "93", therefore a valid wine to be included in his `favorites'), but a read of Parker's tasting notes on Ch. d'Issan appears to invalidate McCoy's own point: "A suave, aristocratic, classic built on delicacy and finesse as opposed to power and blockbuster fruit...graceful...refined effort...". By the way, the other wines chosen were spectacular (and powerful, concentrated, and sensuous), and were a revelation. It was the best tasting at the whole event!

A second area of negative criticism that McCoy proffers is that Parker's tasting feats are too incredible to be possible (reporting some physiological `research' about palate fatigue, poor `taste memory' in the population, `limits' of even `super tasters', etc). The problem with this conclusion of McCoy's lies first in Parker's own work product. He DOES taste 10,000 wines a year, he IS consistent (she even provides reports of his uncanny taste memory and consistency), and tens of thousands (those who pay good money for his subscriptions) of wine drinkers find his evaluations useful. His tasting abilities ARE incredible. As a neurologist, I have come to the conclusion (at least theory) that Parker has a unique tasting "genius", perhaps related to a (well described in the medical literature) tasting synesthesia. Synesthesia (in its various forms) has been found to be associated with special savants and genius (not the place to develop this further, but I refer to the well documented genius and synesthesia of physicist Richard Feynman, writer Vladimir Nabokov, composer Scriabin, and I'm just scratching the surface). McCoy's account of Parker's description of his tasting impressions is a classic account of synesthesia: "As a wine went into his mouth, the first impression that popped into Parker's head was textural, then a picture, a photograph of the wine, almost in three dimensions...He knew it sounded like b.s. but he SAW the wine in layers and textures..."[emphasis mine]. However, one doesn't necessarily have to invoke such special abilities in Parker to account for all of this; his work process, grueling schedule, extraordinary dedication (all well documented in McCoy) and just a touch of some `regular' genius, is enough to account for his extraordinary work product.

Finally, is McCoy's statement, "I find scoring wine with numbers a joke in scientific terms..." My, and I am sure countless other's, cellar of 20 years would argue against her charge. The numbers are useful for their stated purpose-sorting through the thousands of wines to try. Parker has never claimed that the score number is the `wine experience'. Quite the contrary, his scores facilitate the consumer's search for a pleasurable wine experience.

So, is McCoy's depiction of Robert Parker fair? I think not, and would suggest that a more objective monograph about this most remarkable man has now been called for. Is her book worth the read, anyway? I think it is, and I think both the wine drinking public with no knowledge of Parker beyond the wine store tags sporting his scores, as well as those who have followed the Wine Advocate for years will find it an interesting, if perhaps flawed, read.

The Sound of Painting: Music in Modern Art (Pegasus Library)
The Sound of Painting: Music in Modern Art (Pegasus Library)
by Laurence Anholt
Edition: Hardcover
32 used & new from $14.48

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Synesthesia and the origin of abstract art, December 30, 2001
In a brief but satisfying small volume, the author describes the fascinating relationship between early modern music and the origin of nonobjective painting. From Claude Debussy's "juxtaposed fields of contrasting tone color", to Schoenberg's concepts of dissonance and polyphonal compositions, the essence of the synesthetic experience became incorporated into a new vision of art, championed best by Kandinsky : "colors and forms could have an intrinsic effect, independent of objects, and that like the tones in music they were capable of engendering reverberations in the mind and soul of the viewer". Well researched and supported by beautiful reproductions, The Sound of Painting compellingly relates an aspect of Modern Art History that is neglected in the "standard" art history tomes. The only weakness of the book is that the author tries (?for completeness) to discuss other aspects of music in painting of the late twentieth century, but it has little of the significance and intrigue of the early twentieth century story told in the first two thirds of the book. A great companion book with a focus on synesthesia, is Kevin Dann's, Bright Colors Falsely Seen.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 31, 2011 11:32 PM PDT

Painter's Painting: The New York Art Scene, 1940-1970 [VHS]
Painter's Painting: The New York Art Scene, 1940-1970 [VHS]
11 used & new from $4.95

98 of 101 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Better than digging up a timecapsule, January 20, 2001
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
The Abstract Expressionists have been cannonized and mythologized to such an extent by popular culture, that the reality of the most important American Art Movement is difficult to experience from the recent books and treatises on the subject. Painters Painting, itself an important art work by film-maker Emile de Antonio, propels us back into that existentialist time in such a complete and satisfying way, that we finish feeling like we just had dinner ourselves with all the suspects of the time at the Cedar Tavern . We discover even the notorious critic Hilton Kramer has a face. From deKooning to Warhol, the musings of the artists include Frankenthaler, Hoffman, Motherwell, Barnett Newman (my personal favorite in this film: "I believe that art theory is to me as an artist what ornithology must be for the birds"), Johns, Rauschenberg, Noland, Olitsky, Pavia, Poons, and Frank Stella. Interviews include the controversial Clement Greenberg at his best. As you can tell from the artist list, the film begins with Abstract Expressionism, winds its way through Hard-Edge and Color Field painting, before it finishes with the Grande Dame of the New York Art Scene of the 60's, Andy Warhol. This is a documentary not to be missed.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 24, 2012 8:16 PM PST

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