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A Quick Bio

I'm a lawyer in Philadelphia, class of  '78, although I do not practice full time any more. Don't laugh. Lawyers can be into wine. Remember Robert Parker's background?  :) These days, wine takes up most of my time.  

You'll notice from my travel photos that I have complementary interests in travel, and Wine. I began traveling extensively in France in 1981. At the time, the only wines I drank were things like Bolla Soave and Mouton Cadet, which I thought was the good stuff (as opposed to my favorites like Mateus Rosé), and I didn't drink even those very often. French sommeliers were not satisfied with this state of affairs, needless to say, and insisted that I drink their good wines with their good food. I agreed. It didn't take long. I was hooked on both France and wine. I liked wine with food. I especially liked good wine.

In no time at all, I was berating myself for actually spending $25 on a bottle of wine (some Mondavi vintage from the early 80s), which was one of the first ever premium purchases I made.  I marveled at 1979 Mouton, my first 1st growth, and 1978 Vosne Romanée "Les Suchots" from Robert Arnoux, my first "real" Burgundy. By about 1984, hobby turned to obsession. My eternal thanks to French sommeliers. 

I occasionally published articles  on wine in the print media, but do so principally now here and in The Wine Advocate (or eRobertParker.com).  I have a degree in Journalism (summa cum laude no less) and have published various articles on various things besides wine, too.  However, this is my main non-legal outlet now, and happily the E-Zine on Wine has attracted international attention, both among readers and other media outlets.  See, Site Reviews and   Reader Mail.

I sometimes give and organize seminars for local organizations and I have taught courses on wine appreciation.  I have acted as an expert wine consultant in a variety of matters and circumstances.

My on-line presence previously was on Prodigy, where I was the Wine, Beer and Spirits Board Leader from 1993 until near its death.  In 1995, I formed my own website. With the passage of time, it became increasingly professional, to the point where wineries submitted samples simply for my own reviews, which have been quoted in publications from the New York Times to local periodicals. My Bulletin Board debuted in 1998. A few years later, it merged into eRobertParker.com, where it gets millions of page views every month.

In 2006, I was assigned to cover Portugal's dry wines by Robert Parker for the Wine Advocate, and the volume of wine I taste has certainly increased. In 2007, I was assigned to cover Israel.  It seems like work at times--but it is a very different type of work.  I had the pleasure of spending a night in June, 2006 at the home of Jorge Moreira, the highly regarded Poeira winemaker, in order to faciliate my wine visits in the Douro. The next morning, around 9:15 a.m., he said, "Time to go to work," and brought out several bottles to taste.  I said, "This isn't work. The people who have to harvest wine in the Douro--THAT'S work."  And then I asked Dirk Niepoort if I could retaste the Niepoort 2003 Vintage Port from the previous evening. Work? Yes. But it's good to have fun while you work.

Photography

As for photography, well, my father was a professional photographer. I like travel photography. I like photographing wine sites. I've included a lot of shots on the various pages and a more extensive collection of travel photos (non-wine as well) in the photo index. Call it an extra of this site.  I don't mind, by the way, if you download any for personal use as wallpaper or the like (some were intentionally taken as wallpaper shots, like "Route de Beaune," rather than great photos), but NOT for sale, distribution or representation as the creation of anyone but me.

Wine Philosophy

My wine philosophy? I watch in amazement sometimes as people complain about wines with fruit and flavor, or laud those that are showing evidence of decay and decrepitude. My first rule on wine is that the fruit matters. It's a fruit based product. This would seem to make sense, don't you think? Winemakers expend great effort (or, at least the ones who care do) to get the best, most intense fruit. Then, someone comes along and says "too fruity," and someone else comes along and says (like Baron Philippe de Rothschild, late owner of Mouton) that he likes ancient Sauternes chilled way down with all the sweetness gone. At a certain point, when, for example, the Sauternes is no longer sweet, the Champagne has no bubbles and the wines have decayed so much that you can't tell a Burgundy from a Bordeaux in a blind tasting, we are, personal eccentricities aside, missing something. The wine should retain some semblance of what it was supposed to be, and the first requirement in that regard is fruit. 

No, I am not oblivious to the concept of balance.  Quite to the contrary.  Further, I think the greatest wines in the world are those that have structure--those that are likely to age and develop complexity in the cellar. So, there are certainly other things than fruit.  But wine starts with good fruit and flavor; that's the threshold for a good wine to me. To those who say, "well, I like it 20 years past prime" (although such people rarely put it so bluntly), "and the only important thing is whether I like it," I would say two things. First, by all means; drink what you like. There's no point torturing yourself drinking what others like. Second, merely because someone likes something doesn't mean it is good, certainly not for anyone but them. I sometimes like wine coolers in the summer, but no one sensible would say that the wine in them is of particularly high quality. If you like vanilla better than chocolate, you'll like the cheap vanilla better than prestige chocolate every time, even if you intellectually recognize that the chocolate is better made in an objective sense. But there IS an objective sense, at least up to a point, granting that we all have a subjective slush fund for things that are really important to us.  In reviewing wines, therefore, I try not to praise the eccentric, at least not without pointing out the eccentricities, and I am more likely to favor wines with good fruit and flavor, rather than things others might call subtle and I might call thin. I am not opposed to either elegance or finesse, but not at the expense of fruit, depth and concentration. I can enjoy wines that are not massive bruisers. I can appreciate wines with great finishes and velvety texture even if they are not dense and thick.    "Elegance" can't be a euphemism for a wine that's simply lacking depth, intensity and fruit, however.

Don't like my wine philosophy? Well, at least you know where I stand. A critic, whether in the fields of literature, wine, music or art, should not be neutral. There should be a point of view, a philosophy that holds things together and provides a certain uniform view of the subject. That leads to consistency and predictability. Without a point of view, an individual review might be a good one, but the reviews as a whole lack context, consistency and meaning.

My favorite wine activity?

I have as many wine dinners as possible. Why? "Men," said Thomas Carlyle, "that can have communication in nothing else can sympathetically eat together, can still rise into some glow of brotherhood over food and wine." Many of my wine dinners have been memorable affairs as a result. Even the simplest ones stick in one's mind at times. (See the January, 1996 report, for example, My Dinner with Mario.) So, don't forget that wine, most of all, is a means by which you share memories with friends.

À votre santé. ---Mark


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2008


Photos by Oren Shalev