THE EMPEROR OF WINE by Elin McCoy

THE EMPEROR OF WINE

The Rise of Robert M. Parker, Jr., and the Reign of American Taste
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KIRKUS REVIEW

How the wine industry came to cater to a very particular Nosy Parker.

Who has not favored a bottle of wine because of its numerical score? Chances are, wine and spirits writer McCoy reminds us, that the grade was set by Parker, Le Pape du Vin, reputed to be gifted with the best nose in the business. A wine critic autodidact, Parker started his life in oenology at home in a Washington, D.C., suburb with the mimeographed Wine Advocate, a break from his day job as a corporate attorney. Soon his sharp advocacy spread beyond the beltway. He hired a printer, quit practicing law, added a tasting room to his home and sampled 10,000 wines each year. As the affluent boomer lads of Wall Street became hooked, Parker matured as autocrat of fermented juices. He authored bestselling texts on varietals. Naturally, as his influence increased, he faced critics and competitors, lawsuits and even death threats. As Parker grew stout, vintners learned to produce the kind of drink he liked. Robust French reds designed to secure his 90 nod filled the barrels, as well as the spit receptacles at ubiquitous blind tastings. The producers grumbled, but they liked the francs the Americans provided. Parker, now entitled to wear the rosette of the Legion of Honor, remains the recognized grandee of wine criticism, offering, he insists, truth in beverage. Some see him as the bully of the vineyard. McCoy knows Parker and she knows the tetchy wine business as well. She’s familiar with the arcane, often fey language and the nasty hostilities of oenology. She is, finally, ambivalent about Parker’s certitude and influence. To some readers, it may seem a lot about a little hedonism; maybe a whiff of the otiose with the oak. But for wine enthusiasts and grape groupies, her text offers something quite juicy.

A straightforward bio of Le Grand Bob, and a glimpse into the world of cool cellars and fretful sellers.

Pub Date: July 1st, 2005
ISBN: 0-06-009368-4
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: Ecco/HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1st, 2005