by Sophie Kevany
Internationally renowned wine critic Robert Parker appeared in a Paris court last week to face defamation charges brought by an former associate. The preliminary criminal charges against Parker, filed on 5 September, are part of an ongoing case filed last year by Hannah Agostini, a former associate who worked with Parker in Bordeaux during the 1990s.
Agostini is accusing Parker of defamation for writing on his website, last November 2007, that she could end up stagnating in prison.
Parker’s claim related to the fact that Agostini has herself been facing forgery charges in Bordeaux, to do with an ongoing investigation into wine fraud by a Belgian company called Geens.
Asked why she brought the charges against Parker, Agostini, who recently published a highly critical book about Parker called ‘Anatomy of a Myth', said it was to defend her innocence in the Geens affair.
"Parker is big, and it was on his website which thousands of people read. It is difficult to fight him. I am nothing and I don’t have a website, said Agostini. "People are more likely to believe him and not me.”
In the same November website posting, Parker claimed Agostini was facing a jail term of five years, and a possible €1m fine for fraud and misrepresentation. Parker described the charges against her as ‘overwhelming’.
Last March, Agostini won a civil case against Parker, who was judged to have violated her right to the presumption of innocence. Parker was then fined €2,000, but is appealing the judgement. At the time Philippe Gumery, Agostini’s lawyer, told French news agency AFP that Agostini was being investigated for forgery and using false documents, but not fraud.
Agostini's other lawyer, Fabrice de la Voye, today said that Parker had launched a diatribe on his website, instead of launching a legal challenge to her book.
Robert Parker had no comment on either case.