Parker or Jancis – who’s the best?

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who’s the best, Robert Parker or Jancis Robinson?

We make no secret of the fact that we love our wine critics here at 12×… but our regular followers will know that there is nothing we love better than gossiping about them!  An obvious question sprung to mind recently – which one do we love the most?

We decided to pit two of our favourites against each other and rate them on various criteria, each one more important than the last.  The following categories were agreed upon, in order to judge them.  So… Robert Parker vs Jancis Robinson – who do you prefer?  Well, don’t decide now – wait until you’ve seen how they both fared in our various challenges.

Who has the best website?

  1.  is a great site for wine lovers, there’s no denying it.  You do have to become a subscriber to get to the more in-depth stuff, but there is plenty of information available for free as well.  It is educational, and the ‘wines of the week’ are a real treat.
  2. Parker’s site is somehow less personal than Jancis’s site – you can actually imagine Jancis sitting down to write her tasting notes and posting them to the web whereas it is less obvious whether Parker writes a lot of the content himself.  Mind you, he makes up for this with his recent discovery of Twitter and endless brilliant tweets about the various delicacies he enjoys as he travels round the world.  Again, you have to pay to get to the good stuff, there is less available for cheapskates like me (Sorry Rob, I’m only a humble writer).  Nonetheless, the vintage charts are great if you just want to find out what Parker thought of a vintage in a hurry with no extra information.  Conclusion:  Jancis’s site is more appealing, but Parker’s has more for the true wine geek.  Definitely a tie

Attachment to publications

  1. Parker is truly independent and aligns himself only with the publication that he founded, The Wine Advocate.  Jancis writes for the Financial Times.  Tough contest – we like Parker’s independence but there is something very pleasing about hiding behind the FT during a long train journey – which is cooler?  We weren’t sure.  Another tie.

Scoring of wines

  1. Parker’s 50-100 score always attracts negative comments, but how many of us have inadvertently adopted it for our own use?  Jancis provides a poignant explanation as to why she hates scoring wines here – but reluctantly accepts that a score out of 20 in points and half points is a useful tool.  What I love about Parker though is his resilience – he has never broken away from the system that clearly works for him; his scores might not be popular but they have been so influential, that it is only fair to award this round to the big man himself.


  1. Without having decided whether controversy was a good or a bad thing, we decided to rate our two superstar critics on this topics.  Let’s face it, Parker is controversial.  His influence, some think, is excessive.  He drives wine prices up.  He offends Burgundy producers.  But honestly, does he mean to?  I don’t think so.  Someone in Parker’s position can’t get it right all the time, and his critics just can’t wait to point out his inadequacies.  Jancis, on the other hand, has largely avoided controversy.  Although she was one of the critics who were mesmerised by the controversial Jefferson bottles (Why not read our interview with Benjamin Wallace here?)  we don’t know whether the greatest palates in the world were fooled or not – and she certainly wasn’t alone in believing the wine to be excellent.  Parker wins this round, for his complete inability to stay away from controversy.  And we love it.

Is it possible to get a reply from them?
A few years ago, I was looking for a well-known wine writer to contribute to a publication.  I went straight to Parker, knowing that he was probably off on some adventure to the far east, and sensing I would not get a reply, but at least I would have tried.  At the very least, I thought someone from his team would contact me, if only to tell me to go away.  But I never got a reply.  Jancis, on the other hand, replied immediately.  To be fair, her email simply said ‘Steph, I’m too busy’, but a reply is a reply.  A win for Jancis.

Street cred

  1. Those who are new to the fine wine trade think it is terribly fashionable to hate Robert Parker, but many of them are led by common criticisms of him found in the wine press.  And we know better. In fact, it is this loveable villain reputation that kind of makes him cool.  But does he have more street cred than Jancis, one of the most powerful women in the wine trade?  Let’s face it, probably not.  Another win for Jancis.


  1. Parker’s magical 20 tasting was one of the highlights of 2011, and made China and the world sit up and listen.  His influence was such that the wines he featured have become the new superstars of Bordeaux, and the wine industry has ceased to hold its breath to find out the fate of the first growths.  Nice work, Robert.  But Jancis has a crusade of her own – the wonderful Riesling grape.  Falling out of favour for decades, and being associated with very bad grapes with similar names that taste horrible, made Riesling very unpopular for a long time, but somehow Jancis made us all stop and taste one of the most versatile white grapes on the planet.  And it tasted good.  And it made food taste even better.  Winemakers in Germany, Alsace and the New World must be silently thanking Jancis every day that they tend this difficult grape.  This round is a tie.


  1. In terms of their wine knowledge we have no reason to distrust either… so for our final challenge we decided to take things in a more personal direction.  Imagine the scenario – you are out for dinner with either Jancis or Parker, and you suddenly receive a call from your broker, telling you the 2009 Lafite you ordered is being shipped to the bonded warehouse tonight.  Your reception is shaky, you need to go outside… which one could you leave alone with your food and wine, knowing that all the delicacies on your plate and in your glass would still be present when you got back to the table?
  2. Sorry Robert, Jancis wins this round hands down, making her the overall winner of our rather stupid challenge.  But that doesn’t mean we love you any less.