Robert M. Parker, Jr. was born in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1947. An honours graduate of the University of Maryland, with a major in History, and a minor in Art History, he attended the University of Maryland Law School, graduating in 1973. For ten and a half years he was an Attorney, a Senior Attorney, and later an Assistant General Counsel for the Farm Credit Banks of Baltimore. In 1984 he resigned his position as Assistant General Counsel to devote his full attention to wine writing Imperial Wines Of London. Robert Parker is the only wine writer/critic in history to be given the highest Presidential Honours by two French Presidents and an Italian President. President Jacques Chirac signed a decree authorizing him to be a Chevalier dans l'Ordre de la LĂŠgion d'Honneur. He was decorated by President Jacques Chirac at a ceremony at the ElysĂŠe Palace on June 22, 1999. President Chirac, in bestowing France's highest honour, stated that, "Robert Parker is the most followed and influential critic of French wines in the world, something I (President Chirac) witnessed recently when choosing wine for President Clinton, who automatically referred to Robert Parker as his reference for making a proper wine buying decision." One of the most in influential and controversial features of Parker's wine criticism is his 100point rating system (see right). Parker designed the system to counter what he believed to be confusing or inflated ratings by other wine writers - many of whom he accused of a conflict of interest, as they often had a financial interest in the wines they rated. The system, ranks wine on a scale from 50 to 100 points based upon the wine's colour and appearance, aroma and bouquet, flavour and finish, and overall quality level or potential.