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Robert Parker shares his soapbox World of wine scores

MEDIA DISH

In a departure from the past, the wine critic deploys a team of writers for his latest 'Buyer's Guide.'

October 15, 2008|Patrick Comiskey | Special to The Times

Fortunately, the writing of Schildknecht makes up for Miller's stylistic shortcomings. Schildknecht has been a passionate writer, critic and importer of old-world wines for the better part of three decades, and he brings experience to bear on the regions -- the Loire and Burgundy in particular -- that fall outside the paradigms of the Parker palate. The regions whose wines are characterized by finesse and subtlety are entrusted to the "Buyer's Guide's" most nuanced writer. Schildknecht's thoughtful, balanced commentary elevates the entire endeavor.

Appreciating 'mystery'

Here, for example, is his limpid general description of Burgundy: "Most vintners and observers can agree on certain ideals for Burgundy wine, both red and white: clarity of flavor; striking perfume; a balance of caressing textural richness with vivacity and refreshment (even in reds); the capacity to express the distinctiveness of a particular site; and along with all of these traits, a measure of genuine mystery."

It's worth noting that "mystery" is not the sort of word a consumer advocate such as Parker would be inclined to use, but it is precisely what makes Burgundy endlessly appealing -- and it's vital to have a critic who gets that. It seems odd at times to have such divergent approaches in the same volume, but give Parker credit for going against type with regions he has never seemed entirely comfortable with.

So, wherever you find yourself on the Parker barometer, this year's "Buyer's Guide" is a useful addition to your library. Parker fans will not be disappointed; those who have parted ways with him will value the contributions of the others, particularly Schildknecht, whose book within the book makes this a worthwhile purchase.

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food@latimes.com

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