Wine Talk

Snooth User: dmcker

Robert Parker helps the Bordelaise expand their marketing in Asia past the First Growths

Posted by dmcker, Sep 5, 2011.

OK, expect several other Bordeaux chateaux  to experience price rises in the near future. We saw it happen when the Chinese went gaga over first growths, as well as DRC. Now RP is helping the Bordelaise spread the net a bit further.

He's helped Hong Kong auctioneers ("Wine Future Hong Kong" on Nov. 8)  with a category he apparently calls the 'Magical 20' labels in Bordeaux.  Even though they may not be classified as 'first growths' in France, he states they are of similar quality, and better (for now, anyway) QPR.

A couple of quotes from an article on this in The Drinks Business:

“I have chosen estates that produce wines of first growth quality, although technically not first growths. Consequently, they are under-valued and very smart acquisitions”, Parker said.

“Parker has chosen 20 wines he deems to have first growth potential. This could really shift the way that Bordeaux is traded in Asia,” Campo said.

Here are the 'Magical 20', and don't expect prices for them to go down anytime soon. We'll have yet another opportunity to see how the RP brand can move markets.


1. Ch. Cos D’Estournel,

2. Ch. Pontet Canet,

3. Ch. Pichon Lalande,

4. Ch. Léoville Poyferré,

5. Ch. Léoville Las Cases,

6. Ch. Palmer,

7. Ch. Malescot St. Exupéry,

8. Ch. Pape Clement,

9. Ch. Haut Bailly,

10. Ch. Angelus,

11.Ch. Trotanoy,

12. Ch. La Conseillante,

13. Ch. Pichon Baron,

14. Ch. Lynch-Bages,

15. Ch. Smith Haut Lafitte,

16. Ch. La Fleur-Petrus,

17. Ch. Clos Fourtet,

18.Ch. Rauzan-Ségla,

19.Ch. Brane-Cantenac,

20. Ch. Le Gay


Reply by EMark, Sep 5, 2011.

Your theory about impending price inflation is reasonable, dmcker.

Oh well, more examples of wines I cannot afford.  I guess it's really no big deal.  That list, while countable, just gets longer.

Actually, I'm sure I'll get along just fine.  In the above list, the only examples that I currently have in my cellar are a few Lunch-Bags.  There is still a whole world to explore.  Let's hope that my wine buying days end before RP gets around to telling the Chinese about Spanish wines.

Reply by JonDerry, Sep 5, 2011.

Major bummer, Pontet-Canet, and La Conseillante are a couple of my favorites in bordeaux, albeit wines i'd have to splurge on a bit to afford, but hopefully Parker wont be pricing me out.  The price of 2010 Pontet-Canet has already been increasing.

Reply by GregT, Sep 6, 2011.
Edited Sep 6, 2011

D - that's hilarious.  I assume you know that Pancho Campo is a former tennis player who became a promoter and flim flam man.  He attended a convention or lecture where Al Gore spoke and he said he was " Personally trained by Vice-president Al Gore" Wow. As if they were best buds. Got Jancis to support him getting a Masters of Wine cert which nobody understands as it's not clear that he knows all that much.  Founded the Spanish Wine Academy which is basically him and I think some of his family. 

He was ready when there was a bit of an oucry over the fact that the WA was giving 100 points to wines from Spain but nobody there knew anything about Spanish wine.  Parker had no knowledge of Spanish wine and had never visited the country once he started writing about wine, he selected one guy to write about it because the guy spoke Spanish and when he left, he selected another who knew even less.  People complained that he sat at home, tasted 500 wines or so with the importer pouring and telling him what he was tasting, and then rated the wines based partly on his relationship with the importer. That and the fact that he'd take trips where he'd be feted by wineries, which was never an issue as long as he wasn't scoring their wines after dinner. 

The complaints finally got articles in the blogosphere and even in the WSJ and Bob got upset about the noise, closed his bulletin board to non-paying members, banned trips supported by trade groups, admitted he hasn't tasted blind since the 1970s, and told Jay he better get somewhat familiar with the wines of Spain, since that was his beat.  They then engaged Pancho to teach Jay about Spanish wine and organize trips for him to visit different regions - he's now discovered Galicia.  They're pretty good about it, for his first-ever trip to Navarra a few weeks ago, Jay gave a lecture on the wine market to the producers of wines in Navarra.  His suggestion was that they stick to the "Navarra blend". What's that you ask?  If you go by the wines he liked, turns out that's usually a blend with Cab, Merlot, or Syrah. 

Pancho has been pretty slick - he's used the WA connection to get into wineries he's never been able to get into before, as he's essentially a non-entity in Spain. He helped set up a tasting in Rioja for Parker and knowing pretty much nothing about Rioja, Bob mistakenly set up a Garnacha tasting.  That of course caused an outcry in Rioja, since they were footing the bill and Garnacha had nothing to do with them.  At the last minute, Pancho stepped down from heading the event because Interpol was trying to arrest him and Bob belatedly asked Riscal to offer up some older Rioja so he could opine on them and offer an expert opinion. People actually paid money to attend.

That article you linked is less about Parker than it is about Pancho - it's a press release for his event.  He's the guy promoting the event who stands to make some decent money from it and offering the "story" as a news article quoting himself, rather than a press release for himself and his organization is a great move, since people are reading it as news, rather than self-promotion.  I don't know how many people are in the Wine Academy, but my understanding is that it's a kitchen-table organization. Still, give the guy credit.  He's figured out how to make money from the wine business. He's also trying to make money from climate change and he was on to something good until Al Gore kind of faded from the scene.

As far as the point of the "article", i.e. the wines that are just as good - my hunch is that's not going to matter in China at all.  The top wines sell because of the brands, not because some critic in the US said they were good or bad. Anyone who buys the cheaper-but-just-as-good wines will simply identify himself as someone who couldn't afford the top shelf stuff.  There's no prestige in owning any of those "lesser" wines.  Think about it.  You go out with your friends and everyone oohs and ahs because you brought out the very famous Lafite.  You're dropping $100,000 on dinner and everyone knows it, which is the entire point.  If you bring out some unknown wine that you heard was pretty good, nobody oohs and ahs.  It's a faux pas at your $100,000 dinner to show up with a bargain!  My 2 cts anyway.


Reply by dmcker, Sep 6, 2011.

Greg, great story about Sancho Panza, errr... Pancho Campo, and Don Quijote, errr.... Robert Parker. No I didn't know that background. Obviously did recognize that was a press release masquerading as a news story, but from medieval days in Spain or elsewhere the better PR flacks have always written their releases as news stories, so lazy editors can just plug them straight in.

Am more a grey-area guy when it comes to your prognostications about the utility of Parker's 'Magical 20' (not one of the better naming efforts by that PR flack).  I'm thinking, based on how I've seen other markets mature (including Japan) that there will be a place for such a second tier. Certainly the billionaires will stick to the first growths, but when you drop down from the low nine figures into the eight figures, it's quite likely people will start selecting more carefully. Perhaps some of them may actually be learning about the wine they drink, rather than just waving the yuan wand at whatever catches their fancy, since they have to try harder than the fat cats at the very top.

Reply by JonDerry, Sep 6, 2011.

Will second that.  Great story Greg, the oft-neglected spanish wine region and its story never ceases to amaze me. 

I also believe the asian market is bound to evolve and that the "waving of the yuan wand" is bound to fall on less expensive but almost equally delicious bordeaux labels.

Reply by GregT, Sep 6, 2011.

Well, if you want to read some more, here's a fun article. You'll have to do a translation.

And here's a note that was sent out by another guy who writes on Spain and Spanish wine - Gerry Dawes. Someone forwarded this to me. Funny because I hadn't seen it before I posted. Anyhow, I have problems with this guy too, mostly because he's an amazingly pompous guy who doesn't hold his alcohol all that well. However, at least knows the wines and has visited Spain many dozens of times over the last 30 years, several times yearly. So while his opining grates, his knowledge is genuine and you have to credit him for it.

I redacted a lot that wasn't particularly relevant, but since this was apparently sent out to a wide circle, I'm not sure he'd mind the plug or the additional audience. It's his opinion on the piece I linked to.

" Parker (Jay Miller) just gave a high rating to an ordinary table wine from a coop in Galiciamade partly with palomino grapes, "a modest white like those usedfor cooking," astop Spanish wine writer, Carlos Delgado puts it. The winery was besieged with orders. Sounds like a misfiled tasting note or a man with no palate.

The wine, Rua 2010,sold for 1.49 Euros in Spanish supermarkets and The Wine Advocate rateditat 90 pts . . .

Like other wines from Spain (and elsewhere) without merits that we have seenhighly rated by The Advocate,they have more to dowith the personal influence of the importers on Parker's favored list than they have to do with actual quality.

Luís Padín, author ofa guide to Galician wines and President of the Association of Galician wine tasters said about the review, "it is hard to believe that Parker would give such a score to a wine with defects."

. . .

Now Pancho Campo, Miller's perpetual guide (since WineFuturesRioja, when he paid Parker a giant wad of money for "speaking" at the conference), a man been the subject of an Interpol warrant andwho has been paid by many wineries over the course of the years, istrumpeting in interviews what a great effect Parker's Bordeaux reviews are going to have on the Chinese market.

When is someone going to call out big-timethis situation with Robert Parker, Jay Miller, Pancho Campoand their cadre of wine writers (David Schildknecht excluded) who are perpetratingreally disingenuous information to the public, information that is highly suspect? . . ."

I don't have anything against Bob et. al. Find the Pancho link a bit less than credible though.

It may well be that eventually the Chinese will look past the big name wines and look for something that offers better value. If they do that, I'm thinking they're not going to select Bordeaux though!

More to the point, the idea that the Chinese are going to look for an American to tell them which wines are good from France is a bit of a stretch. When the Americans began to take an interest in wine, we didn't look for a South African to tell us which European wines were great. I'd imagine that if anything, the Chinese will find a home-grown critic. Moreover, some of the wines on the list are already priced more highly than they're worth IMO. Rauzan Segla for example, made a deliberate decision to increase their price because they could, not because the wine was any better or because costs had gone up. They were pretty clear about riding the gravy train. And some of those wines already do pretty well in scores and ratings. So I don't know that the Asian market is likely to go crazy for those wines based on his recommendation.

But who knows. At the end of the day, he's a guy who likes wine and started "blogging" about it to friends before the word existed. Now he has people discussing his likes and dislikes. So while I don't see the same level of influence going forward, on a completely different market, I guess we'll have to see


Reply by JonDerry, Sep 6, 2011.

The question might be, who's best positioned to be an influential on the asian market?

Robert Parker is assumed to be one of the few to make an impact, but in that specific market i'm not sure.  Maybe Wine Spectator is more of a force? 

Common sense predicts that their interest has to stretch beyond Lafite and the 1st growths, but exactly how and when will require some time.

Reply by GregT, Sep 6, 2011.

I think Parker is miles ahead of WS.  He's an individual, they're a brand. The individuals may be talented, but they're not as powerful as a single person.  Note that in the blurb I posted, they refer to him and not to the WA, even tho he didn't review the wine. His reviewer, who is based in Asia, is Lisa Perotti-Brown.  Have you ever heard of her?  Neither has anyone else.  For now, there's one single reviewer who makes a difference in the market for Bordeaux. For everything else, it's up in the air. 

But that market is a little weird. If I want something only because you also want it, that's not quite the same as wanting it for any intrinsic value it has. That's why I'm not so sure his helpful suggestions for equal quality wine will really matter all that much.

Reply by Mark Angelillo, Sep 7, 2011.

Two massive wine powers colliding. I almost would have preferred if Parker had taken a shine to some little known wine region and put its great wines on the map.


Reply by dmcker, Sep 7, 2011.

As far as I'm concerned, Mark, he can keep the focus of his spotlight away from the wines I like, so that pricing on them can still remain relatively rational... ;-)

Reply by EMark, Sep 7, 2011.

There have been some interesting revelations (at least I thought they were revelations) in this thread.  Thank you to the various posters who did the research and capsulized it.

Reply by VegasOenophile, Sep 7, 2011.

It's an interesting notion all around as I rarely drop the coin on these classified Bordeaux and I especially tend to steer clear o highly rated wines by Parker, because in most cases, if he loves it, I won't.  A more "good but not great" score from RP usually means a much higher score from me, as I like balance in my wines. :-)

As for elevating many of these, I believe the classified system of Bordeaux hasn't been altogether accurate since its inception, as quality certainly has changed since 1855.  There are a great many Bordeaux wines within the tiers I'd consider "first growths" as far as quality to price ratio, ageability, structure, etc.

Reply by CageyT, Sep 7, 2011.

Yes. I agree EMark.  GregT and D certainly are great for killing the naiveté and elucidating the vino for plebes!!  Great thread, and eye-opening. The knowledge and experience here are a treasure. Thanks to all.


Reply by JonDerry, Sep 8, 2011.

Vegas, it's a point worth discussing about the 1855 classification.  As you're probably aware, the right bank of Bordeaux is completely different. St. Emilion came out with their 1st formal classification in 1955 (ironically 100 years after 1855), and it is revised regularly.  Recently there was some speculation Pavie would join the Premier Grand Cru Classe A ranks with Cheval Blanc and Ausone.

On the other hand, Pomerol refuses to classify, but they don't really seem to need to with everyone assuming Petrus the leader and the collection of others that are close.

It's certainly be interesting to revisit the 1855 classification, and maybe we could do it here?  The thing about it is though, that not many dispute that the 1st growths then, and the 1st growths now are the class of the left bank.  There's quite a few that have carved out their own niche, but maybe it's a good thing they don't reclassify and just keep mum as Dm points out, any extra attention and there's a huge market out there that would be ready to throw their disposable income at some other labels, if only they were given more esteem from a formal classification.

Reply by JonDerry, Sep 9, 2011.

Yeah, so if anyone wants to discuss the french classification system....please have at it.

Reply by zufrieden, Sep 10, 2011.

Gievn the mind-numbing diversity of wine regions with quality product, it should have come as no surprise that Parker would blush from time to time as a result of latterly-revealed ignorance of certain up-and-coming areas of interest (like Spain par example).

One final comment (or perhaps editorial remark): some of you may be greatly underestimating the power of 4,000 years of Chinese materialism.  While it is likely that a home-grown expert will arise to set things straight with the Chinese reagrding quality (as opposed to caché), the potlatch mentality will soldier on - much like it did with the nouveau riche of Europe and America.  The post-modern world makes this eventuality  a near certainty.

And the 1855 Classification?  Virtually irrelevant.  Who can believe in such a stock-ticker after Rothschild manage to manipulate the system in 1973 - largely on the basis of money?

So spend wisely, my friends... to turn a phase from Jonathan Goldsmith's famous beer commercial in support of a most pedestrian product.


Reply by dmcker, Sep 13, 2011.

OK, case in point from another thread in the Snooth Forum started by panoskakaviatos:


 And before I get to which wines seemed particularly delicious, let me say - yet again - that it is too bad about the pricing...C'est le marché indeed. Just back from China, with the 50% tax rate on the mainland, and the margins to be made, it is not unheard of to see a Haut Medoc for some 2,000 Yuan, over $200 easy. OK, at luxury locations, like the Roosevelt, which boasts the biggest cellar, I saw a decent Pomerol, Chateau Bonalgue, for about $300 a bottle. Insane, eh? But if it sells, it sells, right? Grab those underrated Burgs before the Chinese discover them, I say...

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