No question about it, Robert Parker has set the wine world on its ear. With his 100-point scoring system, and his taste for dark, tannic, amply oaked California cabernet, Bordeaux, Rhone and Italian red wine, Mr. Parker has set the standard everyone now attempts to follow in wine making, marketing and buying.
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 It is hopelessly outdated, in large part because Mr.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.