The Hades of Parker

“A tragedy is a representation of an action that is whole, serious and of a certain magnitude. It has a beginning and middle and end. “ – Aristotle

If you are like me and find it interesting to follow the twists and turns of the so-called Murciagate I can assure you, we’re not alone. What I find most interesting, even above the essential question whether the abuse of status has been systematic or just a wrongdoing of a single person (or the evidence shown at Jim’s Loire a forgery) is not what most makes me tick. The incidents are not the most important thing for me, neither the people involved. For some reason it’s the story itself. The way it unfolds. While sipping my coffee this morning I realized that the very moment Parker released this statement Murciagate became not only a scandal but a Greek tragedy in its purest form.

The story of Murciagate has some archaic appeal to it, no doubt. As people we are drawn to stories and myths with such vigor. They work within the structures of culture interwoven in the texture so seamless that we don’t know whether we act in these structures or these structures more in us.

Let’s see what the good old Aristotle has to say about tragedy and read these real life events as a text. A tragedy obviously needs a plot but who’s the protagonist of this story? One might easily be inclined to think it was Mr. Pancho Campo, because he is undeniably in the core of events now unfolding. That, how ever, would be a mistake. Although Mr. Campo’s agency has been most vital for the plot to build up he’s not the protagonist of the story. In fact, the role of the villain falls on Mr. Campo.

Mr. Jay Miller isn’t the character either though it’s claimed Mr. Campo did the accused deeds in his name. In fact in this text, he’s only a vessel for the villain used to for many purposes. At the same time Mr. Miller might be seen as the false hero according to Vladimir Propp and a catalyst for a tragedy potentially of epic-scale.

The protagonist of the story is in fact Robert Parker himself. He was pulled in reluctant without a choice, drawn in from a distant location, just the way the protagonist should be. This is not the only thing that makes Parker a great main character, because as Aristotle put it:

The protagonist should be renowned and prosperous, so his change of fortune can be from good to bad.”

The protagonist’s has to conduct a hamartia, a tragic error of epic scale; a wrong doing which he carries out either by ignorance or mistake. If the protagonist is malign, sinister or evil, the play isn’t a true tragedy like this one. This part of the tragedy becomes self evident when you read Parker’s latest response on the evidence provided at Jim’s Loire.

“The change should come about as the result, not of vice, but of some great error or frailty in a character. That is hamartia.”

needs to be a mistake. Here it’s Parker’s dismissive and evasive attitude towards the evidence that has been laid out for the whole world to be weighted and measured. The unfortunate consequence of the chosen approach (that seems to be some kind of a version of the hedgehog defense) is that all the sudden without a warning the Wine Advocate empire and the honor of Mr. Parker is on the line, no more, no less. A whole legacy. All thanks to the deeds of others. Never the less, the stone has been cast and it has already broken the surface tension of the pond. The splashing sound’s been heard over long distances. By denying the very existence of the rock, you see the Greek tragedy growing to it’s full potential.

According to Aristotle, a tragedy must have a beginning, middle and an end, in order for the play to be complete. “The beginning, called the incentive moment, must start the cause-and-effect chain but not be dependent on anything outside the compass of the play. The middle, or climax, must be caused by earlier incidents and itself cause the incidents that follow it.”

We’ve now witnessed the first two acts of the play. The middle part’s climax was the exhibition of the evidence showing that more than one person has lied during the procedure and is now caught pretty much red handed (if the evidence isn’t fabricated). Like the bow of Artemis ready to go off, we are entering the third and final act. In this part the energy trapped in the climax has to be discharged, in a disastrous way for many characters of the play.

The play displayed in front of our eyes is staying true to Sophocles whom Aristotle had in mind when he wrote Poetics more than two thousand years ago. The story is the same but this time the implementation is done with ubiquitous technology in real time without a rehearsal. It’s something quite likely never seen before in the history of play.

“The end of the tragedy is a catharsis of the tragic emotions of pity and fear. Spectators are purged of their own emotions of pity and fear through their vicarious participation in the drama.”

We, as the audience, go on looking for the catharsis without knowing how the story will end and what will happen to the involuntary protagonist. We know that the divine intervention, the deus ex machina, the enemy of a Greek tragedy, won’t likely happen, and at the same time we understand that tragedy isn’t a tragedy if it ends like a comedy. We need to see how it ends.

We need the catharsis because the plot has tied our emotions as the audience in to the play and the knot has to be opened. And it will be.

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39 thoughts on “The Hades of Parker

  1. Jim Budd says:

    Arto. A fascinating analysis. We will have to see how the third act develops!

  2. Vincent Pousson says:

    Yes, fascinating…

  3. […] SIPPED: tragedy A blogger views the events transpiring in Spain through the lens of Aristotelean tragedy. But how does it end? [koskeloonwine] […]

  4. We’ve read the blog. Now we want to see the movie.

  5. JB N says:

    Brilliant. Well thought out and extremely well written. You’ve captured everything perfectly.

    • Viinipiru says:

      Thanks, means a lot especially since I do feel a bit handicapped trying to express my thought process in English. #learning-learning

  6. Anonymous says:

    Well done Arto.


  7. […] tänään hetken mielenhäiriössä englanninkielisen blogin nimeltä Koskelo On Wines, jonne käänsin Hades-artikkelin. Se oli ilmeisesti hyvä veto, koska Dr. Vino nosti sen äsken […]

  8. […] SIPPED: tragedy A blogger views the events transpiring in Spain through the lens of Aristotelean tragedy. But how does it end? [koskeloonwine] […]

  9. […] tänään hetken mielenhäiriössä englanninkielisen blogin nimeltä Koskelo On Wines, jonne käänsin edellä möllöttävän Hades-artikkelin. Se oli ilmeisesti hyvä temppu, koska […]

  10. Anonymous says:

    Very nicely done Arto.


  11. John Lahart says:

    Wow. This is overwrought hand wringing at its most desperate. Outside a very small universe of little known, unedited, self important bloggers, rabid industry gossip mongerers and a handful of bewildered and angry wine geeks–file this under “who cares?” and “much ado…”

    The ultimate test of any critic’s credibility is not adherence to some code of ethics but rather in the work. As DH Lawrence advised: “trust the tale not the teller.”

    If any critic’s work does not resonate with a substantial number of those following his/her advice then that critic will lose credibility. To cite another adage: “nothing kills a bad product faster than good advertising.”

    If a restaurant critic continues to send followers to bad restaurants for whatever reasons, lack of ethics included, then the followers will turn elsewhere for advice. Interestingly, it is only the most successful entities that are scrutinized by the snarky ethics patrol.

    There are many adages that apply here from the “cast the first stone” admonition to one rather speculative piece of advice I find rather appropriate:

    “those who smelt it (probably) dealt it”

    The stink here is likely a product of those complaining about the smell.

    • JB N says:

      Mr. Lahart is a Parker apologist of the first water and a self-appointed defender and reliable leche-cul for him, as his internet history will vouch. Remember that whenever the subject comes up and he appears, waving his sword.

      • John Lahart says:

        I didn’t see any “apology” in what I posted here. Jay Miller and/or Parker don’t need anyone to carry their water. That’s the problem with a lot of this.

        Just what exactly are we dealing with here? What specifically is Jay Miller being accused of? As best as I can tell: he is being accused of breaking/violating a voluntary code of ethics established by…..Robert Parker! As best as I can tell this is more an issue for RMP and the WA.

        Is he guilty of this?
        I have no idea!

        Most every media outlet has a code of ethics for its employees, especially reviewers/critics. These codes are in place to prevent any quid pro quo that would devalue the critical opinions offered. The issue in play is the avoidance of any APPEARANCE of impropriety!

        Wine critics?
        Well if they work for a major media outlet they are covered by that outlet’s code if there is one. There’s no law that say there should be..this is all voluntary.
        I assume, for example, that Eric Asimov follows the guidelines the NY Times has established. What are those guidelines? I really don’t know.

        I do know that there are critics who actually work for or have financial ties to the wine industry. We know, for example, Gary Vaynerchuk sells wines he touts. That Hugh Johnson and Miichael Broadbent have ties to the wine industry. Are they “ethical” people? Can we trust their opinions? How can we know? Do they share the same code? Does Jancis Robinson buy all the wines she reviews? Do they police themselves? I have no idea. Does any of this matter? The details, I mean?

        What we do know, and this is really my point here, is the work, the writing. Do their opinions make sense to us? Are the wines they recommend accurately described?

        I would ask if anyone knows what the code of ethics if any, is/are for every wine critic. How about for all these wine blogs? How many blogs offer news and present what appear to be facts. How many employ even rudimentary fact checking?

        How could we be expected to know? I chose to use my name. That’s my own personal code of ethics. I could use a clever moniker or initials or really any name. The fact is the truth is in what we say and write. DH Lawrence again–trust the tale not the teller!

        So what we are dealing with here is an accusation that a critic has not followed the code of ethics established voluntarily by his boss. An issue between those two entities.

        I would ask why some appear to be so passionate about exposing this specific issue while seemingly accepting of those who may have far less stringent ethical codes. Where is the exploration of all wine criticism and ethical standards?

        If the work resonates, the critic will thrive. If the work doesn’t then few will subscribe to the critic’s work and he/she will be out of business. (or publishing for free on the net).

  12. Viinipiru says:

    “The stink here is likely a product of those complaining about the smell.” <– John, one has to admit one can never be totally sure about the source of those fishy smells in the fish shop, whether it’s the customer or them dead fish. Strange things happen constantly.

    But you are on to something. I myself can't stand puritanism in any shape or form, lord forbid on ethics.

  13. […] SIPPED: tragedy A blogger views the events transpiring in Spain through the lens of Aristotelean tragedy. But how does it end? [koskeloonwine] […]

  14. Aaron Meeker says:

    Well said. Entertaining, true and extremely well thought out. Bravo!!!

  15. […] SIPPED: tragedy A blogger views the events transpiring in Spain through the lens of Aristotelean tragedy. But how does it end? [koskeloonwine] […]

  16. HM says:

    Laugh out Loud – The End

    • Mark Golodetz says:

      Jay Miller is not the stuff of tragedy, but the bumbling oaf of an Aristophanes comedy, completely out of his depth, and constantly manipulated by people taking advantage of his naivety.

      Ever since Parker has brought him on board, he has stumbled from one mess to another, and as I have said before, if there is shit around, he will find a way to get covered in it.

  17. patrickdh says:

    Wine+Tragedy, I believe you’re on to something here as the wine industry abounds with stories as subject matter

  18. Giorgos Hadjistylianou says:

    parker who? u siad jay?
    parker who? u siad jay?
    parker who? u siad jay?
    parker who? u siad jay?
    parker who? u siad jay?
    parker who? u siad jay?
    parker who? u siad jay?
    parker who? u siad jay?

    jay who?

    • John Lahart says:

      well he (Miller) is gone.
      I am still waiting for someone..anyone? explain what the specific charge against Miller is/was.

      • Viinipiru says:

        Indeed. If he didn’t take money in a way that’s in contradiction with the code his boss has stated, he was not the one to blame. Now he’s nevertheless history. But not because nothing wrong happened. He might just be taking the blame.

  19. John Lahart says:

    This is really between Parker and Miller. It always has been. It is Parker who has set up a code of ethics for his publication and the critics who write for it.

    There is no “code of ethics” in existence for wine writers/critics. There is certainly no universal code for bloggers.

    So what we appear to have here is an instance where a small group of people expended a lot of energy (and bandwidth) to “catch” someone not in compliance with a set of ethical standards set up by a noted wine critic. I would ask what ethical standards these internet Javert’s operate under?

    The irony is many wine writers and critics seem to operate under far less stringent standards than Parker has set up for himself and those who work for him. One notable publication published tasting notes and scores for wines by a panel that included a person who was selling the very same wines and who issued e-mails offering the “surprise” wine of the event at a “nice” price. Several noted wine writers work in the wine trade. Does this mean they are not to be trusted?

    I suggest that this has more to do with a dislike for Miller (and probably Senor Campo) and a desire to see them take a fall than it does enforcing ethical standards.

    This whole thing is really a tempest in a decanter.

    • GP says:

      It is not just “between Parker and Miller”, it is also between Parker and his readers because they are the ones paying his salary.

      Parker likes to make himself different and holier than thou from the other wine critics and publications by its Code of Ethics, but some of its tenets are not true. Tasting blind and buying the wines he tastes are the most abused and also the ones most people identify as what makes him different from the other wine critics and publications. Nobody told Parker to follow them, he was the one who created them to separate him from the rest of the critics. A lot of the criticism towards him would disappear if he changed those tenets and stopped being a hypocrite by hanging to the lofty standards of his own Code of Ethics.

      Regarding Miller and Campo, I will just say that they have an uncanny ability to attract controversy. Riverboat trip in Australia, Sierra Carche, Interpol, Murciagate, etc.

  20. […] SIPPED: tragedy A blogger views the events transpiring in Spain through the lens of Aristotelean tragedy. But how does it end? [koskeloonwine] […]

  21. aesky says:

    John – much of what you say is correct.

    Parker built his reputation as the consumer advocate. He was willing to call them as he sees them and if a wine was a first growth but didn’t taste great, he was going to give it the 82 points it deserved, while bestowing 94 on an unknown upstart that simply tasted great.

    And he wasn’t going to be paid off by anyone, or influenced by anyone, or intimidated by labels or pedigrees.

    That’s why he always tastes blind, in his own environment. It’s important for him to have the wine served at the proper temperature and in the correct glasses. He knows that going to the winery and being feted by the producer, or going to a restaurant and being feted by the distributor, can cloud one’s judgement. As a consumer advocate who stood apart from Hugh Johnson (whose name you mentioned), he had something that the other critics didn’t have.


    See, nobody is accusing Hugh of anything and personally I think he’s a very knowledgeable guy. But the independence that was built into the very genetic code of the Wine Advocate gave the reviews from Parker some sort of “ethical” purity that nobody else could touch.

    At heart, he was a guy who loved wine and figured out how to make a living tasting it and offering his opinions on what he tasted. Frankly, I think he was brilliant to have figured out how to do what he loves and I truly have a world of respect for him.

    Also, he was fundamentally honest. The small-town and straight-talking American was kind of an anomaly in the wine world when he showed up. He did a lot for wine and for nervous customers. Eventually his 90 points became something like the GoodHousekeeping Seal of Approval – i.e. something you could trust.

    At it’s heart, the “Murciagate” issue is a tempest in a teapot. Just a few wine geeks tut-tutting about Mr. Parker’s publication. But imagine if he hired someone to review a region that neither really knew anything about.

    It’s not Parker’s fault that he spent many years developing himself as an expert on the wines of Bordeaux and the Rhone – those were his loves and of course, those were the wines to look at in the 1970s and 1980s. But everyone knows that he spent very little time visiting Spain or learning about its wines. That’s perfectly understandable. Eventually he hired someone to review Spanish wines because that person liked Spanish wine and spoke Spanish.

    There was no problem with that either, and if the reviewer has a sharp palate, notwithstanding the fact that the reviewer has no particular knowledge, his reviews could be of interest. That person left and Parker hired someone who knew even less about Spanish wine.

    Contrast that with what Bob himself had done. Over the years, he had developed a reputation as someone who knew what he was talking about and who published his views in the Wine Advocate. For some reason he hired people who were essentially amateurs and he asked them to record their opinions. Why should anyone respect the “rating” of Dr. Jay over that of any stranger in the street? No reason really. And what could the good Doctor tell anyone about the wine? Well, never having had a wine in its youth and then after it aged, he couldn’t really say much. He could compare it to other wines he may have tasted, but that’s not really the same is it?

    So what did he have to offer that made his opinion worth more than that of a random stranger?

    Simple. He could offer his opinions under the auspices of the Wine Advocate, a publication that had a reputation for integrity and honesty and independence and being an advocate for the consumer.

    Now he’s gone and there’s a new reviewer who has stated that Tempranillo is at best a blending grape and regardless, he doesn’t really care for Spanish wine anyway. He will also offer his opinions under the auspices of the Wine Advocate, a publication that owes its reputation solely to the work that Bob did over the years. Imagine if Bob said that at best, Cabernet Sauvignon was a blending grape and he didn’t really care for French wine anyway. He didn’t know anything about French wine at all, but he’d learn.

    Would anyone care for his opinion? Nope. As I said, at heart Parker was a guy who loved wine and wrote about the wine he loved. It’s clear as day that Spain is an afterthought at the Wine Advocate.

    As far as my opinions go, I don’t have anything bad to say about Pierre, Jay or Neal.

    But let’s say a reviewer says he’s going to taste your wine for the WA on Tuesday and on Wednesday he’s going to do a lecture for which you need to pay $500 but that’s not WA business – it’s separate. Do you really, truly, honestly, in your heart of hearts believe that actually has no effect on the reputation of the WA? The reputation that, as mentioned, was based on independence, blind tasting away from obvious influencers, etc?

    One can dismiss the entire claim of the WA as the publication for the consumer, one can ignore what Parker has written and published for years about how he maintains independence and one can ignore what he says on his website today about blind tasting, glasses, temperature, etc.

    You can actually go further. You can simply say that Parker recommended some wine that you found quite agreeable and that’s why he’s great.

    That’s pretty much what it comes down to right? Parker, some redheaded kid down the street, whoever. Doesn’t much matter if our only criteria is that the reviewer recommended some wine we like.

    Of course we wouldn’t look to that redhead kid for independence, for knowledge based on years of experience, for independence. Hell, he could be paid $40 for every wine he recommended. He has no reputation or credibility that he built over many years.

    So I don’t know if it helps, but that’s what the tragedy is.

    I like the original post more though. The thing about tragedy is that there’s a wistful and melancholy element – you really don’t want the protagonist to fail and to suffer. You want him to wake up and fight back. It’s why Othello is such a great work. But alas, it seems as if a long and fruitful career is going to be covered in shit.

    • GP says:

      FWIW, Parker NEVER went to Spain to review its wines. All the wines from Spain he tasted for his reviews were done in the US with a handful of preferred importers. I also strongly doubt he bought that many Spanish wines for his tastings. The belief that he kept at a arms length from the wine industry to avoid conflicts of interest never applied to his reviews of Spanish wine. Things did not changed that much when Miller took over to taste the wines from Spain.

  22. aesky says:

    BTW, you have a reviewer who gives lectures for pay. That’s OK.

    Lectures in regions he has never visited, about wines he has never tasted?

    Sure. Sign me up for a few tickets. I want to bring my friends.

    • Georgios Hadjistylianou says:

      me too I have friends who wouldn’t mind tasting Spanish wines

      • Suraj says:

        Wow. Thanks so MUCH.There is NO way a cake can hold all the candles for all the smeils he has brought the world.Such great sentiment in the lyrics though.I hope he sees this it is cool.

  23. Bill Klapp says:

    Arto, as a professor of theatre history and dramatic literature and criticism in a former life, which employment included the teaching of Aristotle’s Poetics, I must commend you, not only upon a superior grasp of the Poetics, but also for your most apt analysis of Bob Parker’s present situation in Aristotelian terms.

    Mr. Lahart, so we meet again, and in such an unlikely place! Nice to see you out and about for the holiday season. It must be absolutely stifling to spend all of your days hiding safely behind Mark Squires’ apron, with the certain knowledge that anyone who calls you out for your foolishness will be censored. Other than your rants against bloggers above, and helping them understand that what passes between Parker, Miller and CAMPO is none of their business, did you have any comment on Arto’s work? Are you familiar with Aristotle’s Poetics, or did Arto’s considerable wit blow right over your head?

    Mark Golodetz is wrong above only in one small particular, John: you are not A Parker apologist, John, you are THE Parker apologist, and you troll other wine boards, blogs and websites seeking out opportunities to proselytize for your fearless leader, not by justifying what Parker says and does with facts and logic, but by doing little but shooting intellectual blanks at his many detractors. If you honestly believe that you have much of anything to say that is not a direct or thinly disguised defense of Parker (the same are known as “apologies”, by the way, John…apologies do not always mean having to say you’re sorry (apologies in the traditional sense to Erich Segal!)), or at the very least, a toadying effort to agree with him, you are, alas, delusional.

    Bad form recycling the Javert schtick, John, not meaning to suggest that everything else that you say above is not equally recycled. And you are right: Parker provides so much grist for his critics’ mills these days that he should carry his own water, rather than having his credibility further damaged by having loyal supporters like you posting out here in the real world…

  24. Jack says:

    John Lahart. You state: “There is no “code of ethics” in existence for wine writers/critics. There is certainly no universal code for bloggers.”
    There is a self imposed code of ethics for one wine critic. Robert Parker and the Wine Advocate. If he and his other critics choose to disregard their own stated ethics and the assertion wines will be tasted blind and be purchased by WA, which is now totally untrue, then please delete them from your website or they will remain as a false testament to what you no longer represent and offer as critics. They presently stand there as a testament to deception, and false reporting.

  25. Georgios Hadjistylianou says:

    We have no place on our wine list for wines influenced by Michel Rolland, the worlds most ubiquitous and powerful wine consultant.

    The Rolland “movement” backed by Robert Parker Jr. is to create technically well-made, globaly palatable interchangeable wine products of no perceptible origin or identity……..
    Jonathan Nossiter

    Long live balance & terroir driven wines

    No oak, No fruit bombs, NO Parker-ization

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