How to Decipher the Robert Parker Vintage Chart

Robert Parker’s name ranks topmost among the world’s leading wine critics. His word is supposed to sell wines; so influential is he in the wine industry. His palate and nose have been insured for one million US dollars.

What Led to The Development of The Robert Parker Vintage Chart?

Robert Parker Vintage Chart
Photo: Robert Parker

Prior to the Robert Parker vintage chart devised by Robert Parker, the ratings of wines were not very scientific or systematic. In fact, they were most often than not influenced by the vested interests of the wine writers. Most of the wine writers had a financial stake in the wines which they rated and this led to inflation of ratings or very unclear ratings. The very existence of corruption, obscurity and other problems of the prevailing labeling system led Parker to devise a consumer-oriented system. This made way for a new system devised by Robert Parker with his friend Victor Morgenroth, which came to be known as the Robert Parker Vintage Chart.

Decoding the Robert Parker Vintage Chart

Based on climates, the quality of the wine differs, even within the same region. Many critics used to rate wine on a scale of 20 and some still do. But Robert Parker, a world renounced wine critic, invented the Robert Parker vintage chart and started to rate the vintage extent of famous wine regions on a 100-point scale.

Robert Parker Vintage Chart

In Parker’s system, a scale from 50 to 100 points is used to rate the wine. Several factors go into deciding the rating such as appearance and the color of the wine, its odor and bouquet, taste and finish and in general the potential or existing quality level. All in all 51 ratings are obtained in this score card.

Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate has given wine vintage ratings since 1970 in a color coded version. About 25 regions are considered in the chart, with a greater focus on France, followed by California, Italy, Germany, Spain and parts of the Southern hemisphere. The unique color coding system summarizes at a glance the good wine vintage years for each region. A numeric rating for each vintage and each region is given and also the current drinking status as indicated by the letter codes alongside the numeric rating.

Numeric Scores Are Not Ultimate Deciding Factors

Robert Parker has also elaborated that the score is not the ultimate deciding factor. What is more important is the accompanying written commentary which reveals a great deal about the wine’s personality, style, its quality compared to that of its competitors, the value and the wine’s aging potential. He further states that nothing can be a better judge of the wine than an individual’s palate and knowledge gained by tasting the wine. He stressed on the need for the consumer to go through the tasting notes before deciding on their choice of wine.

However, there are some critics who argue that wine tasting, being highly subjective cannot be bound by a numerical rating system. They further argue that difference in scores can be caused by the series of events surrounding the moment of tasting as well as the wine’s age. Yet, the 100 point scoring system is very popular among the American reviewers too.

According to filtygoodvino, vintage wine charts often fail to recognise the differences between regions or even sub-regions in a country, let alone individual sites. Such charts do not take into account external conditions that you can pick up if you visit the locations yourself. For instance, one location may be prone to frost, flooding, or have a higher rainfall or one vineyard may have more crops that it can handle. Although the Parker’s chart does breaks down, for instance, a region into a few sub-regions, it is still tricky to totally rely on such charts to purchase your wines.

The Robert Parker vintage chart is to be treated as a general wine guide on the world’s best vintages for the previous thirty years. Exceptions to the rule could have occurred in the charts; there are surprisingly good wines from skillful wine-growers in thin or mediocre vintages or diluted wines from unskilled producers in good years. In any case, the knowledge of good wine with vintage years definitely makes the task of choosing wines from a restaurant’s wine list easier for the consumer.

So the rule is, always try the wine first by tasting it before you buy it. Make your own judgement, and even if you can’t get to taste it, get someone trustworthy such as an industry wine professional or a fellow wine lover to give you their opinions but of course, there is an element of risk because everyone’s preferences are different but in general, industry professionals are able to more consistently give an accurate ratings on wines.

Also try to find wineries that consistently produce good wines even in tough years and conditions and look out for those producers who have a keen dedication to producing good products with a passion, though those are not easy to spot.

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About Staci Kersh

Vintage furniture lover, especially loves to piece together antique beauties such as gas pumps or sewing machines and blend them seamlessly into your home. Loves to talk, walk the dog and hang around garage sales all the time. Drop her a mail at hello@vxotic.com if you want to connect.

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