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Parker's Wine Buyer's Guide, 5th Edition: Complete, Easy-to-Use Reference on Recent Vintages, Prices, and Ratings for More Than 8,000 Wines from All the Major Wine Regions Hardcover – December 21, 1999

3.6 out of 5 stars 48 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Just who is Robert McDowell Parker Jr.? Readers--and there are lots of them--for whom the name Parker stands for consumer-friendly, no-nonsense, professional wine criticism can find out in the 1,703-page Parker's Wine Buyer's Guide, the fifth updated edition by the prolific publisher of The Wine Advocate consumer newsletter; author of classic books on Bordeaux, Burgundy, and the Rhone Valley; and inductee into France's Legion of Honor. Not bad for a guy who was sending out free copies of his wine reviews to the Baltimore area in 1978. Robert Parker is now arguably the world's most respected wine critic--just try to find a retail wine shelf without at least one of his ratings proudly displayed. And now readers can see 8,000 of them between the covers of this ambitious volume.

Parker and his assistant use his 100-point system to rate Old and New World vintages and producers with single-palate objectivity and the aplomb of one of his early influences, Ralph Nader. It's no mystery why his periodical contains the term advocate: readers of the Guide will learn why the author never participates in wine judgings and doesn't accept freebies. Parker also weighs in on monster vertical wine tastings, nondrinking wine collectors, ego-driven "collector-spitters," wine producers' greed, wine writers' ethics and competence, and restaurant wine-pricing policy. And that's just in the guide's 40-page introduction! The chapter on Bordeaux beautifully dismisses the moldy 1855 Classification as "out of date" due to "negligence, incompetence, and just plain greed" and being "of only academic interest to the consumer." His judicious use of an exclamation point may also unearth a relative bargain: the wines of St. Julien "are frequently indistinguishable from" their higher-priced Pauillac neighbors, "so consumers take note!" But calling the tune doesn't preclude a couple of flat notes: the Guide is chock full of nonspecific cellaring recommendations. When do we drink, for example, our 1996 Sierra Vista Zinfandel? Parker suggests "over the next 1-2 years," but when to start counting? The wine's vintage? The Guide's date of publication? The year we read the entry? Parker also uses an unusual lettering guide to wine prices, and chapters aren't delineated well. So maybe it's not a Buyer's Guide at all--it's too heavy to tote to your local wine shop, and the vagaries of publishing prevent the inclusion of the latest available vintages. But what a read! Meticulously researched and brimming with thoughtful vinous commentary, this Guide demonstrates why the five words to send a wine lover gulping in breathless anticipation are "Parker gave it a 92." --Tony Mason --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Parker, a well known wine expert and an excellent writer, reviews the wines of France, Italy, Germany, Portugal, Spain, California, and Oregon in depth. After a particularly well written beginning chapter that includes lots of helpful facts, he lapses into 600 pages of tasting notes and chatty commentary. For each region, he gives accurate, concise information and a summary of recent vintages. In addition to naming the best growers, he rates them and offers a buying strategy for investors. Parker also includes the retail price and his numerical rating for each wine. Tiny chapters on the "best of the rest" conclude the book. Offering much valuable information, the book has only minor flaws and is an excellent buy. Recommended for libraries with serious wine readers. Carolyn I. Alexander, USACDEC Technical Information Ctr., Fort Ord, Cal.
Copyright 1987 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Series: Parker's Wine Buyer's Guide
  • Hardcover: 1704 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; 5th edition (December 21, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0684841843
  • ISBN-13: 978-0684841847
  • Product Dimensions: 9.6 x 6.5 x 2.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (48 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #6,974,334 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
This sixth edition of Parker's wine-buying guide is the result of Robert Parker and his accomplice, Pierre Rovani, tasting their way through more than 8,000 wines. Parker introduces the book as a "consumer's guide to wine." Although Parker and Rovani both write very well, this book is not an effort at creative writing. My review focuses on the utilitarian aspects of the book -- look to others for analysis of character development, plot devices, etc.
My paperback copy of the book has 1635 numbered pages (not 1696 as the Amazon web blurb indicates). About 40 pages (2.5% of the book) are devoted to introductory material ranging from tasting glasses to notions of terroir. The index takes up another 2.3%. The rest (over 95%) is about the wines; these are covered by geographic region. Each region is briefly introduced (several with maps) with a summary of the kinds of wine produced (and grape varietals employed), recent vintages are characterized, and wine producers of the region are ranked from 5 stars (outstanding) to 2 stars (average).
Breaking the geographic coverage down in terms of page volume, Europe takes up 69.5% of the book, North America 19.8%, and the rest of the world the remaining 5.9%. France alone takes up 53% of the book. Six major wine regions consume over 75% of the pages: Bordeaux, 16%; the Rhone, Provence & Languedoc 16%; Burgundy (& Beaujolais) 14.5%; Italy 12.5%; and California 16.7%. Australia and New Zealand weigh in together at 5.6%. South Africa and South America get 2 and 3 pages, respectively. Previous editions of the book have been criticized for this seemingly "undemocratic" coverage.
The vast bulk of the book is tasting notes and numeric ratings for individual wines, organized by producer and vintage year.
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Format: Paperback
As has been alluded to in other reviews, the usefulness of this book varies with Parker's commitment to any given wine region. For Bordeaux, Rhone and Languedoc I believe he is excellent. For California and NW United States wines, the book is helpful but also frustrating because so many of the entries are "cult" wines with 500 or so case production. I noticed that some of the more widely available California producers that were included in the fifth edition are left off of this one. While many of the French wines are available in a good wineshop--good luck finding any of the Calfornia ones he raves about. If you start now, you may be able to get on some of the winery mailing lists in five or ten years. In many cases the amount of wine produced is not mentioned, which can be a cause for frustration.
I think this book is an invaluable resource used in connection with other guidebooks and a trustworthy retailer. It's a truism that Parker is the most influential wine critic in the world. Many would argue that wineries are crafting their wines to win his high ratings. That being said, it's helpful to read his views as they give a clear snapshot of the state of winemaking in our era.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
You can make up your mind whether you agree with Parker's tastes or not, but he is thorough, accepts no ads, ranks high in the integrity column, and is consistent. If you are looking for a guide, you should not just examine Parker's book. There are many wine viewpoints that are helpful in the world. But it is also hard to think of anyone that does such a comprehensive job with such talent and integrity. You don't have to agree with every opinion or every review to appreciate this unique resource.
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Format: Paperback
I find myself very much in agreement with other reviewers, and I am relieved to discover that I was not alone in this. On the one hand, when one reads Parker's chapters (on Bordeaux and the Rhone Valley in particular), one recognizes the invaluable nature of the guide.
On the other hand, one then turns to the incomprehensible gobbledygook that is the chapter on Burgundy. Proceeding on, one encounters the appalling 11-page chapter on Germany, written by someone who evidently despises most german wines on principle, and which includes absolutely no tasting notes whatsoever. One also gets to enjoy complete howlers like the Loire chapter, which starts with the question "Why are the Loire's wines so little known?" Gee, maybe it is because of 12-page chapters that offer no useful information. All of this is thanks to the rather inept contributions of Pierre-Antoine Rovani.
The result is a wildly uneven guide that should be used with some caution. Parker's chapters for the most part are quite informative. For the reviewer that complained that most of these wines are long since off the market, one only has to read the Bordeaux chapter in regards to the 2000 vintage, which is still available in abundance. If one is looking for good sleeper wines among the 2000 Bordeaux, this guide is worth the price. However, reading Rovani should be regarded as complete waste of time. Like someone else said, he is just deadweight.
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Format: Paperback
The reason the "sheep" (word used in negative rating postings) follow Parker's guidance, and the reason Robert Parker's are the only reviews that influence price fluctuations for Bordeaux, is that Robert Parker combines impeccable taste with a relentless dedication to objectivity. Parker's 100-point Wine rating system has been near-universally adopted. Parker was the first Wine critic to seriously denounce Filtration practices that destroy Wines for merchant/commercial utility (ability to ship without regard to horridly high temperatures) -- Many other tasters (shills?) throughout the 1970's and 1980's insisted that filtering had no impact, or even influence, on taste. This pre or non-Parker view is now universally rejected, to the great benefit of Red Wine consumers.

Criticisms that Parker spends too much time focusing on French wines (esp. Bordeaux) are true but largely miss-the-point. If you want a comprehensive guide to California Wineries, you should definitely look elsewhere. Specialty books abound on California Wines, especially here in the States, and to fault a Wine book containing 1,596 pages of Text for lack of comprehensiveness is near absurdity. Parker includes some "cult" California producers for, I think, obvious reasons: The "cult" offerings are far superior to overcropped, overpriced-even-at-$10-$12 California Wines that have saturated the US Market (does this really need to be stated?!). Parker ignores cheap, insipid California offerings just as he largely ignores cheap, insipid Italian Whites (again, note that I agree). You might just as well question why he doesn't rate jugs of Carlo Rossi. There's no conspiracy there.

It is certainly true that Parker prefers full, tannic, flavorful Red Bordeaux (and Bordeaux-like) Wines.
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