« Robert M. Parker, Jr. is a leading influential wine critic. His 100 point ratings and florid tasting notes define modern American wine criticism, and are a major contributor to the prices for newly-released Bordeaux wine »
Parker was born in Baltimore, Maryland. He is an honors graduate of the University of Maryland, College Park, with a major in History, and a minor in Art History. He continued his education at University of Maryland, Baltimore, graduating in 1973 with a Juris Doctor degree. For over ten years he was an attorney for the Farm Credit Banks of Baltimore; he resigned in March 1984 to devote full attention to writing about wine.
By 1975, he began writing a consumer's guide to wine. Parker wanted to be a consumer advocate, unencumbered by the need to sell wine.
In 1978, Parker started a mail newsletter called The Baltimore-Washington Wine Advocate, soon shortened to The Wine Advocate. The first issue was complimentary, sent to those on mailing lists acquired from a few local wine retailers. The magazine had 600 charter subscribers in August 1978.
Parker received worldwide attention when he "called" the 1982 vintage in Bordeaux as superb, contrary to the opinions of many other critics who felt it was too low-acid and ripe. The debate about whether 1982 is a vintage for the ages continues through the early 2000s, but the wine market appears to have spoken, elevating prices for 1982 Bordeaux above other vintages from the period, although price is not always a fair indicator of a wine's quality.
Now, over twenty years later, The Wine Advocate has over 40,000 subscribers, primarily in the United States, but with significant readership in over 37 other countries. Today, many knowledgeable observers agree that The Wine Advocate exerts the most significant influence on wine consumers' buying habits, particularly in America. New York Times wine critic Frank Prial asserts that "Robert M. Parker Jr. is the most influential wine critic in the world."
In addition to doing the writing and tasting for The Wine Advocate, which is published bi-monthly in Parkton, Maryland, Mr. Parker has been a contributing editor for Food and Wine Magazine. He has also written periodically for the English magazine The Field and has been the wine critic for France's L'Express magazine, the first time a non-Frenchman has held this position.
His critics such as Golo Weber claim that he likes less-acidic, riper wines with significant amounts of oak, alcohol, and extract. This has led to changes in viticulture and wine making practices, such as reducing yields by green harvesting, harvesting as late as possible for maximum ripeness, not filtering the wine, and the use of new techniques such as microoxygenation to soften tannins. This "Parkerization" has led to fears that his influence is leading to a homogenization of wine styles around the world. This point of view is presented in the 2004 documentary, Mondovino, he is "a man whose tastes are irrevocably changing the way some French wines are made" . Indeed, certain low-producing "boutique" wineries, among many others, have received high scores from Parker for wines made in this style.
On the other hand, Parker himself is highly critical of "industrial wines with little flavor and no authenticity." He believes that there are still undiscovered regions and wines that can successfully challenge the wine establishment.
Parker has written eleven 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 and Russia.
• 1985 - Bordeaux (revised and expanded, 1991) Received the Glenfiddich Award as England's top wine book of 1986. The 1991 revised and expanded edition was the winner of the IACP Award (International Association of Cooking Professionals) as the top wine book of the year in 1992. The 1994 French language edition spent three months on France's "Best Seller" list. The German language edition won that country's top prize for books on wine and gastronomy, the "Goldene Feder."
• 1987 - Parker's Wine Buyer's Guide (New editions were published in 1989, 1993, 1995, 1999 and 2002) In 1997/1998, Le Guide Parker (the French language edition) spent 27 weeks on France's "Best Seller" list.
• 1987 - The Wines of the Rhône Valley and Provence Received the Tastemaker's Award in 1989 as the top wine book of the year published in the U.S. and The Wine Guild's Wine Book of the Year Award in The United Kingdom.
• 1990 - Burgundy
• 1997 - The Wines of the Rhone Valley
• 2005 - The World's Greatest Wine Estates
Awards and recognition
1993 - Chevalier de l'Ordre National du Mérite
1993 - Wine and Vine Communication Award from Moet-Hennessey
1995 - Declared Honorary Citizen of Chateauneuf du Pape
1997 - James Beard Foundation Wine and Spirits Professional of
1999 - Chevalier de l'Ordre de la Légion d'honneur.
Robert Parker is one of only a handful of foreigners to have received France's two highest Presidential honors.
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