Robert Parker, editor and publisher of the Wine Advocate, is hands down the most influential critic in the history of wine. A self-taught oenophile with a healthy ego, he launched his publication as a mimeographed newsletter in 1978 and is now a hugely polarizing figure on the international wine scene, beloved by those who credit him with bringing an American, democratic sensibility to a world long dominated by snooty French winemaking dynasties and loathed by those who see his unprecedented market power--a favorable review can send prices through the roof--as a homogenizing influence. Elin McCoy, author of The Emperor of Wine: The Rise of Robert M. Parker, Jr. and the Reign of American Taste (Ecco) and a longtime wine journalist, has known and worked with Parker since 1981, when she was his first magazine editor. Her chronicle covers some of the same terrain as Jonathan Nossiter's 2004 documentary on the globalization of the wine industry, Mondovino, but it far more successfully demystifies both the politics and protocol of the international wine scene and the nature of the grape itself. Fri 7/8, 4 PM, Sam's Wines and Spirits, 1720 N. Marcey, 312-664-4394. Sat 7/9, 2 PM, Schaefer's, 9965 Gross Point Rd., Skokie, 847-673-5711.

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