Robert Parker finally breaks his silence on New Zealand
For immediate release 19th November 2008
For the first six issues of Robert Parker’s Wine Buyers guide, the world’s best known (and some might say the most
controversial) wine critic declined to comment on New Zealand wine. Finally, with the release of the 7th edition, the
silence has been broken.
Within this guide Parker’s team of writers grade wineries not on individual wines, but on their overall ability to
deliver consistent excellence, bucking vintage ups and downs, in short delivering regardless of circumstance. Only a
very small number of wineries around the world achieve his highest rating of “five stars: Outstanding”. One might liken
this to the select group of restaurants worldwide who achieve three Michelin Stars.
New Zealand has had five wineries achieve this honour: Ata Rangi, Felton Road, Pegasus Bay, Rippon Vineyard and Winery
and Te Mata Estate. A further 21 wineries have achieved the “4 star: Excellent” category.
As the guide says:
“Years of wine tasting have taught me many things, but the more one tastes and assimilates the knowledge of the world’s
regions, the more one begins to isolate the handful of truly world-class growers and producers who seem to rise above
the crowd in great as well as mediocre vintages. I always admonish consumers against blind faith in one grower or
producer, or in one specific vintage. But the producers and growers rated “outstanding” and “excellent” are as close to
a guarantee of high quality as you are likely to find.
“Those few growers/producers who have received five star ratings are those who make the world’s finest wines, and they
have been selected for this rating for two reasons: first, because they make the greatest wine of their particular
viticultural region, and second, because they are remarkably consistent and reliable even in mediocre and poor
The wineries concerned are, naturally flattered to be raised into such a highly regarded international grouping but
cautioned against the result being viewed as elitist:
“This shouldn’t be read as some sort of dictum that there are 5 wineries in New Zealand that stand above all others.
Rather they are being held up as examples of what the guide sees as the right way to progress. Who the five are doesn’t
matter so much as to look at what sort of effort and practice is earning positive comment.” A spokesperson commented.
“Robert Parker’s publications have always been rather neglectful of New Zealand, though they have been following a few
Kiwi producers with enthusiasm for a few years. It’s good to see that the country is finally being given a chance to
show what it can do and that recognition is being given that we can stand shoulder to shoulder with the best in the wine
“The most pleasing part is that there seems to be a focus on small family owned wineries, which put an emphasis not
simply on making good wine, but on making wines of distinctive personality.
“Great wine is a direct mirror of a place, and of the people that grow it and make it. In choosing these wineries the
guide has championed a small group who are devoted to these principles. It is an excellent message to send to the
greater wine producing community: don’t make a product, make a personal statement of yourself and your land.
“We don’t think wine making should be a competitive sport and, like the other wineries chosen, we have a policy of not
becoming involved in wine competitions. But this is a little different. It is the result of their following our work
over dozens of wines for many years, tasting them both blind and sighted. It’s a considered appraisal of wineries, not a
snapshot of a single wine. That makes it far more valid in our opinion.
Robert Parker’s New Zealand correspondent: Neal Martin, will be returning to New Zealand in January to further pursue
his appraisal of the country’s wineries.