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Biography of Robert Parker and his World of Wine Criticism

Robert Parker

Biography of Robert Parker and his World of Wine Criticism

Robert Parker is an American wine critic who is often regarded as the single most influential voice in the wine business. His 100-point wine ratings and publication, The Wine Advocate, with its stylistic preferences and notetaking terminology, have grown popular in American wineries. Consequently, his writings play an integral role in pricing newly-released Bordeaux wines. Despite the controversies surrounding his evaluations and scores, he is still considered the world’s most well-known wine critic. Here is his short biography:

Robert M. Parker, Jr. was born in Baltimore, Maryland, on July 23, 1947. He graduated with honors from the University of Maryland with a major in History and a minor in Art History. Subsequently, he was admitted to the University of Maryland Law School, where he graduated in 1973. Later on, he worked for the Farm Credit Banks of Baltimore for ten and a half years, first as an attorney, then as a Senior Attorney, and finally as an Assistant General Counsel. He quit as Assistant General Counsel on March 9, 1984, to devote his entire focus to wine writing.

His passion for wine began in 1967, when he spent a month abroad over his Christmas holiday, visiting a sweetheart at the University of Strasbourg in Alsace, France, who is now his wife of 37 years. Due to the scarcity of accurate information on wine quality in those days, he began to consider writing about wine and starting his own “independent, consumer’s guide” in 1975. However, friends and family advised him to focus on his law career first and that wine writing was a romantic but unprofitable pastime.

Nonetheless, by 1978, the idea for a wine publication had been developed by Robert. The Wine Advocate’s debut issue was sent out as a gratis issue to mailing lists obtained from various prominent wine shops. In August of 1978, less than 600 people signed up for the charter. After 35 years, The Wine Advocate now has more than 50,000 subscribers in every state in the United States and over 37 other countries. Almost every educated observer agrees that The Wine Advocate has the most significant influence on serious wine consumers’ buying patterns and trends – not only in the United States but also in France, England, Switzerland, Japan, Taiwan, Singapore, Russia, Mexico, Brazil, and China.

Furthermore, Mr. Parker was a contributing editor for Food and Wine Magazine and Business Week, in addition to writing and tasting for The Wine Advocate, which is published bimonthly in Parkton, Maryland. He has also written for the English magazine; The Field regularly and served as the wine critic for France’s L’Express magazine, becoming the first non-French person to do so. Moreover, he has published a weekly piece for Business Week and Forbes, two prestigious American publications.

Robert Parker has featured in several major global publications, such as Time, Monthly, People, Money, The Traveler, Smart Money, and The Robb Report, as well as notable newspapers, such as The Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The Baltimore Sun, The London Sunday Times, The Sunday Telegraph, The Independent, and L’Express. Furthermore, Parker has also featured on CBS’s 60 Minutes II and regularly appears on PBS’s Charlie Rose Show. His writing philosophy has remained consistent: to deliver insightful, comprehensive, impartial, accurate, and critical analyses and comments on great wines and excellent wine values.

Parker was named an “Officer” in France’s Legion of Honor on July 14, 2005, an exceptionally unusual honor acknowledging his extraordinary contributions to the quality of wine writing and the education of consumers worldwide about French wines. Similarly, Robert M. Parker, Jr. was named a Chevalier de l’Ordre National du Mérite by the late President François Mitterrand in 1993. In 2002, Parker was made a Commendatore (Commander) in the National Order of Merit of Italy. The Italian Prime Minister Berlusconi and President Ciampi presented Mr. Parker with the country’s highest distinction for his services in recognizing the quality of Italian wine, as well as his educational efforts concerning Italian wines through his journal, The Wine Advocate. He became the first wine writer or critic to attain Italy’s highest prize in history.

In February 1999, Robert M. Parker, Jr. was profiled in a two-part front-page article in the Los Angeles Times by the late David Shaw. The Pulitzer Prize-winning media critic has written fourteen books on wine that have been best sellers not only in the United States but also in their translated versions in France, Japan, Germany, Sweden, Poland, China, Spain, South Korea, and Russia. Furthermore, his name was added to a legacy endowment for wine study scholarships at the Culinary Institute of America in 2004.

Contributions of Thomas Jefferson to Wine

Mr. Parker also received the Distinguished Alumnus Award for 2006 from his alma mater, the University of Maryland. In 2010, he was one of sixty-three University of Maryland graduates honored in the university’s Alumnae Hall of Fame. In 2011, Mr. Parker became the first wine writer/critic to be awarded the Grand Cross of the Order of Civil Merit, the Gran Cruz de la Orden del Mérito Civil, Spain’s highest civilian accolade, by His Majesty King Juan Carlos, and the Spanish government in 2011. This honor was presented to Mr. Parker in May 2011 at a ceremony and reception in Madrid.

In February 2013, Mr. Parker became the first wine reviewer to be admitted into the Culinary Institute of America’s Vintners Hall of Fame in Napa Valley. He currently covers Northern California and Bordeaux wines as well as serves as a critic-at-large, performing vertical and horizontal tastings of older California and international vintages. Currently, Robert Parker and his wife, Patricia, reside in the countryside of northern Maryland with their daughter, Maia, and a slew of basset hounds and English bulldogs.

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References

The Emperor of Wine: The Rise of Robert M. Parker, Jr., and the Reign of American Taste By Elin McCoy.

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