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Wine Books: Elin McCoy

Elin McCoy has a writing track record spanning 30 years in the US, with articles published in Food & Wine, The New York Times and Bloomberg Markets, to name just a few. Her major work in the field of wine writing concerns The Emperor of Wine.

Elin McCoyThe Emperor of Wine (2005)
Elin McCoy
Harper Perennial
Available from Amazon (UK) and Amazon (USA)
ISBN-13: 978-0060093693

It's pretty rare that someone writes a biography of a critic, but I suppose it is inevitable that someone would get around to Parker eventually. Elin McCoy is a wine writer for US publications Bloomberg Markets and Food & Wine, and she has crossed paths with Parker many times during her career. Who better to take on this task?

Any comment on Parker, never mind a full-blown life story, has the ability to stir up emotions in certain quarters, where he is accorded the status of demi-god by those who follow his opinions and, most importantly, his scores. Much of this book relates to that unhealthy, in the eyes of some, influence. McCoy does devote a few introductory pages to Parker's origins, an upbringing devoid of vinous influences, but rightly uses most of her ink exploring Parker's rise to fame and the controversies that he has weathered along the way. There is no breathtaking exposé here - after all, this is only wine writing - but nevertheless what McCoy details would hold the interest of anyone with a passing interest in the man that has shaped the wine world into what it is today. The approach is balanced, with McCoy making efforts to put across both sides of the story when memories of past events, be they comments, failure at a blind tasting challenge or similar, differ between involved parties. Controversial issues, such as the existence of Parker barrels, aren't teased out in any detail, but Parker's reactions to such issues are documented. And there are superficialities elsewhere; McCoy doesn't delve into the private side of Parker any further than his appetite for dim sum and his weight, something she mentions regularly, when the man's life and mind must be stuffed full of private events and opinions which could be the real meat and drink of such a book. Nevertheless, it's an easy read - probably because in truth we know so much of it already - and for those that aren't familiar with some of Parker's characteristics and history, such as his reactions to criticism or praise, or the humiliation of one his most vociferous early critics at the Prodigy/Callahan tasting, it's certainly worth an eye-opening read.