Monday, March 9, 2015
On 11:44 AM by firstname.lastname@example.org in #FTB, Book Review, Daniel, Eric Asimov, How to Love Wine, New York Times No comments
How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love WineSomewhere between the White Zinfandel of our youth and the Margaux that we will only read about there is great wine within reach. This wine is begging to be enjoyed simply. But in a world of thousand-page books, three-figure prices, and overblown tasting notes, can we ever have a moment to enjoy a wine simply? New York Times wine critic and wine writer, Eric Asimov helps us to do so in his regular columns for the Times and in his book, How to Love Wine ($16.99 in paperback). Asimov's career as a wine critic is an intervention into the seriousness that some wine professionals have entrenched wine. Asimov's rejection of airs is encouraging; his frank discussion, liberating.
In How to Love Wine, Eric Asimov compels us all return to the mystery of wine. The end-goal of the book is to help you find wine you like, understand why you like it, and give you permission to share it with friends and family without anxiety. Themes of the book, embodied by his chapter headings, include Discovery, Flirtation, Embrace and Passion Rewarded. While these themes are cherry-picked from the all-encompassing book, they map out how we all come to love wine. We stumble upon something new and become excited by the pleasure of a delicious wine. We want more. We want to try different wines by the same producer or from the same grape. However, each experience of wine is different, and so the pursuit becomes the reward. Even a "bad" wine can be a pleasure when there is some mystery in it.
Mystery and DemystificationAsimov's hopeful approach does plenty to demystify wine--just as his articles do through his Wine School. The demystification of wine is worked out through close-reading the inconsistencies of wine critics tasting the exact same wine and sorting through the nuts and bolts of what makes a wine taste or feel a certain way. But returning mystery into the process of experiencing wine is Eric Asimov's unique contribution. Wine is special. This mystery of wine begins with the author's personal anecdotes about his early days of learning how to cook and selecting wines that went well with whatever food was being prepared. For Asimov, the ten dollar plonk and the '55 La Mission have been equally powerful in different contexts. The La Mission was the first big-ticket wine that the journeyman Asimov bought for his parent's anniversary back in the '80s, and his story of this night is a confirming and familiar one of investment, anxiety, and pay off. For Asimov, the less expensive wine was more utilitarian, but exciting nonetheless. Affordable wines that we pop and pour at dinner are part of a complete meal or a moment with friends. And so, drinking the best wine at any price range becomes the best variation on a treasure hunt.
"The Greatest Time to Love Wine"I must agree with Asimov that now is the greatest time to love wine. So many good wines are available at reasonable prices. And there is a wealth of information available in easily digestible forms. Wine figures, such as Mark Oldman and Gary Vaynerchuk, have done a great service for new generations of wine drinkers. In fact, I would recommend Oldman's Guide to Outsmarting Wine to anyone looking to immerse herself into understanding wine to the point of confidently bandying about French, Italian, German, etc. wine terms while sharpening the palate. Lettie Teague, Asimov's counterpart at The Wall Street Journal, is a pioneer and breath of fresh air we enjoy equally to Asimov. Wine Folly's website puts power into the hand of the consumer by educating her on the basics through enjoyable, whimsical blog posts. And the Vivino app will be the most valuable tool for wine enthusiasts by crowd-sourcing knowledge and ratings that lift us out of the exclusive world of expert bias. However, I can't imagine this new era of American wine drinkers would have so many pleasurable options to learn about wine with out a figure like Eric Asimov and his wine manifesto.
~Daniel, Our New York and Washington Wine Buyer