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Robert Parker on Wine Trends: The Rise of the Winemaking Consultant

The first famous winemaking consultant was the late professor Émile Peynaud, who reigned over Bordeaux throughout the 1940s, ’50s, ’60s and ’70s. Peynaud was a man truly ahead of his time, advocating many of the practices now considered commonplace among quality growers, such as smaller crop yields, later harvests and various labor-intensive viticultural techniques. Peynaud’s most influential successor was one of his students, Michel Rolland, who has had an equally profound effect on today’s global wine quality. Rolland, based in Pomerol, is currently the world’s leading consultant, and virtually every estate he has touched in his travels—from India, China and South America to California, Washington state and Europe, of course—has produced finer wines than it ever did before.

There are other great winemaking consultants, of course, including fellow Bordelais Stéphane Derenoncourt and Denis Dubourdieu. A number of brilliant winemaking consultants have emerged from California as well. The first, and still one of the greatest, is Helen Turley, who put cult wines on the map at wineries such as Pahlmeyer, Bryant Family Vineyard, Colgin and Blankiet. Turley has also fostered other talented consultants, including Mark Aubert, Paul Hobbs, Bob Foley, Andy Erickson, Martha McClellan, Mark Herold, Heidi Barrett, Thomas Brown and Philippe Melka—to name just a few.

Although some critics have declared that these globe-trotting consultants produce wines that all taste essentially the same, nothing could be further from the truth. Each one has a different philosophy and different means to an end, although they all share a healthy respect for the vineyard, a minimalist approach in the winery and the belief that the contents of the bottle should reflect the uncompromised, unmanipulated purity of the harvested fruit.


Robert Parker: 30 Years of Wine Trends

Published September 2008
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