Speaking yesterday at a press conference in London, Martin said that he was “looking forward to covering the 14s”, as he takes over the tasting of Bordeaux in barrel from Robert Parker, a development you can read more about here.
“You are only as good as the next thing you write,” said Martin, noting that he was relishing the opportunity to bring subscribers of The Wine Advocate (erobertparker.com) a report on this year’s primeurs.
He then warned those present at yesterday evening’s press conference in London’s Landmark Hotel that his vintage account “may be a bit more funky than in the past… wine writing should always be enjoyable to read as well as informative”.
Parker commented that he had taken on Martin because he wanted a different style of wine writing for The Wine Advocate to attract a more youthful audience.
“I hired Neal because I wanted a younger voice… we are always trying to reach younger demographics, it’s necessary for survival, and Neal was much hipper than me – I knew that his way of writing about wine was very different from my style.”
Parker then stressed that it would “just” be Martin who would be reviewing Bordeaux 2014 for The Wine Advocate this year, and joked, “he is the new Sheriff of Nottingham”.
He also said that he had appointed Martin in 2006 because he believed that the UK-based wine writer had the experience and ability to take on the role of covering en primeur Bordeaux.
“When I hired Neal this was part of the plan, that one day I would back away from en primeurs, and the time is perfect for me to hand over these responsibilities,” he said.
Noting that Martin has 18 years experience tasting en primeur Bordeaux, Parker stressed that his replacement’s experience was far greater than his own when he started reviewing Bordeaux for The Wine Advocate.
“Neal has 18 years’ experience, but I thought I was good enough to do the job with no experience,” he said, referring to his first en primeur report on the 1978 vintage in Bordeaux.
“He is probably the second most experienced guy to do it,” he stated.
Nevertheless, he described the en primeur report as “a huge responsibility”, and said it “was an exhausting job”.
Continuing, he said that “the Bordelais this year have more pressure than ever, with three unsold vintages in their cellars.”
He also recorded that as a result of high prices for recent lesser vintages, Bordeaux has ‘lost a big share of the American market, the wines are disappearing from restaurants, and a lot of that is their [the Bordelais] fault – they have not been realistic with prices on 2011s, 12s or the 13s.”
While Martin will be covering Bordeaux in barrel, Parker will continue to cover the region’s wines in bottle, and Parker will be going to Bordeaux in March to rate the 2012s, while he will be doing a retrospective assessment of 2005 Bordeaux in April.
Martin has been working for The Wine Advocate since 2006 and is based in Guildford. He has been covering Burgundy for the publication, and since last year Oregon too, while he also reports on the wines from South Africa, which he described yesterday as “one of the most exciting New World countries”.
He also said that he does “a bit on Tokaji and Madeira because I love the wines”.
Referring to his seven reporters (listed below), who were all present in London yesterday, Parker said, “The common theme of this group is that they are all very independent minded, very knowledgeable, and very gifted at what they do.”
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Robert Parker: I'll never retire, despite giving up Bordeaux en primeur tasting
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.”