And that, dear friends, is the first reason why this failed attempt to write a "comprehensive guide" to Burgundy ought to be crossed off your shopping list. Parker's penchant for big, strapping wines is diametrically opposed to what Burgundy is all about, and quite frankly, based on what this book has to say, he plainly does not understand the wines, or at least did not when he wrote the book in the late 1980s. For example, because they are not the dark, tannic, and often low acid cabernet, syrah and nebbiolo based wines to which his palate is attuned, Mr. Parker assumes red burgundies, no matter what their source or appellation, are for relatively short term keeping. Anyone who has cellared and enjoyed even a modest 1er cru Beaune or Savigny from a good producer and good vintage at ten or fifteen years of age knows Parker has missed the mark and missed his calling. Parker himself seemingly has acknowledged that as far as Burgundy goes, he is out of his depth, having essentially abandoned the region over the past few years. That, along with reports that he has said some rude and improvident things about a number of reputable producers and has made far too many enemies in Burgundy, appears to explain why he has handed responsibility for reporting on the region in his "Wine Advocate" to a second chair. And after all, no one should be expected to be an expert about everything.
Which brings us to the second reason not to buy this book. It is hopelessly outdated, in large part because Mr. Parker has spent the past decade turning his attention elsewhere. The book therefore fails to address the revolution in the Burgundian vineyards and cellars that has occurred since its 1990 publication date. Many properties have changed hands, many wines that used to be sold to large negociants and anonymously blended are now domaine bottled, many new and important smaller negociants have arrived on the scene. The quality and style of many wines have changed dramatically. You won't know about any of it if you look to this book as a reference in 2001.
Which now brings us to our third reason to buy a different book if you want to read about Burgundy. There are a number of excellent newer volumes that will give you more information and more insight into what makes Burgundy a joy -- and which will get you closer to being up to date about what is going on in the region. Clive Coates' "Cote d'Or" is an excellent work. So is Remington Norman's "Great Domaines of Burgundy," second edition. So is Anthony Hanson's most recent edition of "Burgundy," although I think his book tends to be a bit quirky and he has some strongly held opinions that may not necessarily be in the mainstream, so I probably would not make Hanson's book my only source of Burgundy information -- it's a nice second or third text to thumb through and compare with others. And then there is Matt Kramer's "Making Sense of Burgundy," also an older book and not necessarily a good primary sourcebook, but fun to read and more in tune with what the region is about.
This is not intended to bash Parker. He has his place for those who seek out the sort of wines to which his palate is attuned and to which he directs his time and attention. But for Burgundy, he simply is not a very good source, and his decade-old "Burgundy" is not a very useful book.
Some feel that wine is like music or art and should not be rated numerically at all (i.e., can one put a numerical rating on Beethoven's Ninth Symphony and compare it to a numerical rating on Pachelbel's Canon in D?). Others argue that young Burgundies cannot be accurately rated until they are given some time to evolve and stabilize.
There is, however, a fatal flaw in this logic. The producers, distributors and retailers rate the wines numerically upon release using a scale of $25 to in excess of $500 per bottle, and if a consumer wants to be assured of securing rare wines in good condition, such wines must be purchased upon release. In other words, the wines are numerically rated early in there lives, the only question is whether the consumer relies solely on dollar ratings established by the wine merchants, or whether the consumer seeks guidance from an independent expert before making a purchase of what are some of the worlds most expensive wines. As useful as qualitative critiques may be, they are difficult to interpret without a corresponding quantitative rating.
The format of the book is typical of books of this type, containing an analysis of the various appellations, the producers and finally specific wines. The write-ups on the appellations are thorough. Additionally, for each appellation Parker gives travel tips (hotel and restaurant recommendations, etc.) that would be useful if the book were more recent. The analysis of the individual producers is the most valuable part of this book, and is the most comprehensive of any book on Burgundy that I have found; the book covers virtually every producer of wines that a consumer is likely to encounter. The section of tasting notes is not very useful since the book is 10 years old, and a consumer is unlikely to be able to find most if not all of the wines critiqued.
The age of this book is its greatest negative. The quality and methods of producers change over time; this book is badly in need of updating.. Notwithstanding this flaw, the thorough analysis of the individual producers makes this book indispensable to any serious purchaser of Burgundy wines.