Huge news resonates around the wine world today, particularly Bordeaux, as Robert Parker reveals that he will be handing over the responsibility of tasting Bordeaux En Primeur to one of his leading Wine Advocates, Essex-born critic Neal Martin.
Parker has indicated that this is not an end to his career and will still re-taste the 2012s as well as giving the eagerly anticipated detailed review of the entire 2005 vintage, one that he considers as ‘one of the most singular years of the past five decades’. However, this follows several other moves that clearly show he is gradually passing on responsibilities to his talented team in a carefully measured changing of the guard. In his post on the website, Parker states that ‘after 37 years of covering virtually every Bordeaux vintage since 1978, change is inevitable’. In 2012 he handed over the position of Chief Editor to Lisa Perotti-Brown and as the years have gone by other favourite regions of Bob’s have been filtered out to the rest of his team, notably the Rhone, where Jeb Dunnuck has taken the lead role.
Neal Martin worked as an English teacher in Tokyo amongst stints as a DJ until he fell in love with wine, which he almost singularly attributes to a glass of Chateau Montrose 1982. He started up his own very successful blog, The Wine Journal, in which he writes about everything from the World’s leading wines through to his deep and meaningful love of Kentucky Fried Chicken. These musings, presumably those focusing attention on the wines over fast food, got him noticed by Parker back in 2006, who subsequently asked him to contribute to The Wine Advocate. From here Parker has really taken him under his wing, he says of the new appointment ‘This was actually the ultimate plan way back when Neal was first hired. Neal is a natural and, coincidentally, the best prepared for the job.’
Neal has been given the unenviable task of following in the footsteps of a man labelled with the ‘million dollar nose’. It is no secret the Robert Parker is the most influential man in wine, not afraid to speak his mind and causing plenty of controversy on the way. But it was he who defied all the other critics in immediately declaring the 1982 vintage as remarkable, shooting him to fame and giving him the power to make or break a Chateau’s vintage, both revered and dreaded from winemakers throughout the world.
It will be interesting to see how the market will react to this huge change. Some winemakers will be blowing a huge sigh of relief, others devastated by the news, however only one thing is for sure – Neal Martin has his work cut out.