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Parker ‘dictator’: Johnson

Robert Parker is a ‘dictator of taste’ and an absolutist, wine guru Hugh Johnson writes in his latest book.

Johnson weighs into the debate over the different styles of British and American criticism in his autobiographical Wine: A Life Uncorked, which is published later this year.

He makes an explicit comparison between the ‘imperial’ style of the current US government and the style of Parker – who is considered the world’s most influential wine critic – suggesting that both tend towards the dominant.

‘Imperial hegemony lives in Washington and the dictator of taste in Baltimore…Taste in the past was largely a matter of harmless fashion. In American hands it feels more like a moral crusade.’

Along with that whiff of evangelism in the Parker style, Johnson says, comes the need to convert.

‘Robert Parker deals in absolutes, and castigates those he sees as backsliders.’

It is this crusading attitude, Johnson tells journalist Andrew Jefford in an article to be published in Decanter in October, that is the ‘fundamental’ difference between him and Parker.

Jefford suggests, ‘Parker’s life’s work has been predicated on the fact that there is “better” and “worse” in wine, where’s Johnson’s own life’s work is chiefly concerned with the word “different”.’

‘That is so fundamental,’ Johnson says. ‘And also fundamental is the fact that Parker feels he has the right to tick off people who don’t do “Better”, whereas I don’t feel any such right.’

Robert Parker declined to comment on the issue.

Wine: A Life Uncorked is published in the UK on 13 October by Weidenfeld and Nicholson Illustrated

To read Andrew Jefford’s full interview with Hugh Johnson, see Decanter’s October Issue, on sale 7 September.

Written by Adam Lechmere

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