I think the first introduction I had to Eric Asimov was when I was visiting wineries in the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York. As a native New Yorker and chief wine critic for the New York Times it stands to reason that he would have a vested interest in covering the wines that are produced from this part of the United States. When I was there in November of 2011 he had only recently written about how much quality had improved in the region. Whilst somewhat parochial this came as great endorsement, and I heartily agreed that producers in this very marginal climate were moving in the right direction.
I subsequently followed Eric on Twitter and shared some interactions on the subject of the Finger Lakes. As I continued to travel Eric fell off my radar, but always remained as a kindred spirit. Thus I was thrilled to discover upon my return home that he had written a book.
I can just imagine the scenario; Eric says he wants to write a book about wine, and his publishers ask him to write one about how to learn about wine appreciation (as if there aren’t enough of those out there already). Eric thinks hard about this and agrees, and then goes about writing a book essentially about how NOT to learn about wine appreciation. By this he is saying that to try to teach someone about something that is completely sensory and also totally subjective. Absolute genius.
From what I understand the title of the book is a compromise on his and the publisher’s part. How to Love Wine was for all intents and purposes the book that he was supposed to write. A Memoir and Manifesto is more what the book is. The intent I guess is to allow the reader to discover that they need to follow their own path of enlightenment in wine, and there is no pre-determined path or step-by-step guide. As he says himself, “ [wine is] not the sort of thing that requires book learning, academic training, or special classes, but rather an elemental pleasure that satisfies emotionally and physically.”
Much of the book charts his own personal journey that lead up to his current position. And though it is most certainly personal, I think there are elements within his story that anyone could connect with and share. His passion for wine originated merely in the sensory elements, which he discovered via an interest in food. Until many years later he hadn’t even considered a career in wine (or food), and through circumstance and unadulterated interest that he became first a food then a wine critic.
One of the fascinating and remarkable things is that in spite of his title Eric never considered himself a critic. Whilst he often engages in the practice of tasting wines blind and trying to find characters and descriptors for them, he tries avoid elongated and potentially complicated tasting notes and points. To but to dissect a wine merely serves to discount what wine is for; pleasure.
Reading his memoir was a fascinating experience as it always is to find out someones path through life. The manifesto side of the book wasn’t as interesting. Not that I disagreed with it or that it was poorly written. It’s just that reading his manifesto was pretty much reading my own manifesto. His arguments are cogent, balanced, rational and covered all wines and all countries equally. Simply put, Eric gets ‘it’. But that’s just my opinion…