Consider a recent statement from a regarded critic:
"...the food was as great a bistro fare as one can imagine...the snail ragout, boudin noir, terrine en crout, out-of-this-world beef marrow bones as well as superb stuffed pig's feet with foie gras over a bed of black lentils had me in Rabelaisien Nirvana."
Then consider this:
"...better yet [there was] no precious sommelier trying to sell us some teeth enamel removing wine with acid levels close to toxic, made by some sheep farmer on the north side of his 4,000-foot foot elevation vineyard picked two months before ripeness, and made from a grape better fed to wild boar than the human species....we all know the type-saving the world from drinking good wine in the name of vinofreakism."
Seems kind of hard to believe they were uttered by the same person yet they were, by none other than the wine advocate himself, Robert Parker. Apparently, Parker dined a few nights ago at one of my favorite restaurants in Philadelphia, Bibou. That's him in the photo (above right), arms draped over the couple behind Bibou, Charlotte and Pierre Calmels. You can view the photo and quotes above, along with a laundry list of what Parker drank, in their original context at Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Michael Klein's blog, The Insider.
What really strikes me about the above diatribe is not so much the obvious case of diarrhea of the mouth but rather the fact that Robert Parker found it necessary to turn a simple moment — a photo op and a chance to send some much deserved praise the way of an excellent neighborhood bistro — into a self-serving opportunity to protect his own crumbling hegemony. What he's trying to protect against, lest I've left you scratching your head, is from what he obviously views as the culprit of his seemingly waning influence: the conversely increasing influence, erosive as Parker apparently views it, of independently voiced — and often freely disseminated — current trends in wine thought. Clearly, the emperor is piling on the moth balls in his own defense.
I could easily see someone thinking, "Okay, McDuff, you're just taking this as your own Parker-like opportunity to put a spin on things, to self-promote." But I have no such illusions of grandeur. If Parker was thinking of any one person, it may have been Alice Feiring, true-wine advocate extraordinaire and author of "The Battle for Wine and Love: or How I Saved the World from Parkerization." However, I think what Parker was actually having a meltdown over is, again, the ever increasing influence of an ever increasing number of voices being publicly expressed in the wine world. Bloggers, writers, sommeliers, retailers, bulletin board subscribers, distributors and importers, heck, maybe even collectors....
It's not really about what Parker called "vinofreakism." Rather, there is an undeniable backlash, though it's hardly universal, against what another wine critic, Eric Asimov, has coined "the tyranny of the tasting note." In this context, perhaps it's even more appropriate to think of as the tyranny of the wine rating system. Parker, like many of his peers at other major wine publications, has built his empire upon it and he is now clearly feeling the pinch.
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On a more grassroots, more down-to-earth level, what I'm just as galled by is the possibility that Parker's diatribe might actually turn-off some true wine and food lovers to the idea of dining at Bibou. What a nasty case of guilt-by-association that would be.
Parker was right about at least a few of the things he was quoted as saying in Klein's article. The food at Bibou is indeed top-notch, an example of French country/bistro cuisine at its finest. And, as I pointed out in my original review of Bibou, everything about the BYOB, from the ease of its food to the quality of stemware and service, makes it a great place to take a broad variety of wines, be they classic or adventurous, heavy-hitters or simple pleasures.
The very same dish of foie-gras stuffed pig's trotters over a bed of lentils, mentioned by Parker, was a highlight of my last visit. Rich it was but over-the-top, as it might sound, it was not. All its elements were in harmony.
On that same August trip, the 2007 Chablis of Gilbert Picq showed much better than Nicolas Joly's Savennières "Les Clos Sacrés" 2005.
Likewise, Coudert's 2007 Fleurie "Clos de la Roilette Cuvée Tardive" was in a prettier spot than the 2006 Arbois Poulsard "Vieilles Vignes" from Tissot.
The real star of the lineup, though, was a bottle of 1997 Château Musar, eloquently expressive and a delight with the pig's foot and lentils.
So, I hope my point in this second half of my own little diatribe is even more obvious than that expressed in part one. Go to Bibou. Take good wine. Enjoy the company of good friends. Eat well. And leave the agenda where it belongs.
1009 South 8th Street
(between Carpenter and Washington)
Philadelphia, PA 19147