Parker: 2005 versus 2000

The dust has settled, the early deals have been done and it is perhaps time to fully digest the Robert Parker scores released late last week.

The wine discussion boards across the internet have been ablaze with mutterings of discontent from wine enthusiasts, disgruntled at some of the scores given to their favourite wines. It certainly appears that the remarks he makes in his introduction – 'this is the greatest vintage produced during my 30-year career' – were not born out by his scores for the very top wines. If we look at the 2005 vintage compared to 2000, the previous benchmark year, it is clear that taken as whole it is certainly the finer vintage. It is only when you reach the very top of the point scale that 2000 surpases it.

  Scores 2000 2005
  90+ 181 245
  95+ 41 66
  98+ 16 17
  100 9 2

The picture is very different, however, if you focus on the first growths and the very top right bank estates. Both groups have done significantly worse in 2005 than in 2000. You can check the prices for any of these wines on

  First Growths 2000 2005
  Margaux 100 98
  Lafite Rothschild 100 96
  Latour 98 96
  Haut Brion 98 98
  Mouton Rothschild 97 96
  Total 493 484

  Right Bank Stars 2000 2005
  Petrus 100 96
  Ausone 100 100
  Lafleur 100 95
  Pavie 100 98
  Cheval Blanc 100 96
  Pin 98 93
  Total 598 578

Clearly, even if we see large scale upgrades – 'most of the ratings that follow are on the conservative side, and I look forward to revisiting many of these 2005s in 5-10 years' – they will need to be spectacular for most of these wines to reach the level of their counterparts from 2000. There have even been suggestions that Parker moved to quell the recent price inflation (particularly of the first growths) by scoring less generously than in the past. This is a suggestion he was quick to dismiss in a post on the Mark Squires Bulletin Board, hosted on his website:

'Nothing has changed folks…certainly not the grade-point system…the words are right there in the introduction to the 2005 report….this is a vintage for many Medocs that needs a good decade to show its true/ultimate potential (and I am filled with optimism on that potential)….hence the very high scores with plenty of + signs at the end…Pavie, Margaux, and a handful of others might deserve a perfect score in 10 years …but if you taste them numerous times…and can't unleash/justify a perfect score….then you can't bestow one… now… ulterior motives whatsoever…no intention to affect the market…if prices drop because a first growth gets a 96+ and an incredible tasting note….I would be shocked …..if anyone is selling their Lafite or Latour within 10% of the opening futures price I am a buyer…'

So the major question the market faces is: are the 2005 first growths overpriced and heading for period of price stagnation? This is question we will deal with at length in our next Market Report, released next week. As a taster of what's to come, here is a comparison of price movement of the first growths from four major vintages. All prices were indexed at 100 in July 2006 following the release of the 2005s.