How To Love Wine by Eric Asimov
Reviewed by Chris, Community Engagement Librarian at Bridgewater Library
Eric Asimov didn’t set out to be a wine lover. He is the chief wine critic of The New York Times, but he certainly didn’t set out to be that, either. But the former changed in the 1980s when Asimov, already a food lover, discovered (with a simple white Zinfandel) how well food and wine could work together, and then, in 1982, the offhand purchase of a random $8 bottle of Barbera changed how he looked at wine forever.
That “chief wine critic” thing that he didn’t set out to be either? He’s the ‘chief’ of a staff consisting only of himself. He wanted to be a standard beat journalist, and then a food writer. He ended up in the job pretty much by accident while trying to get the top restaurant reviewer position.
But enough about Asimov; you want to know How To Love Wine. It’s pretty simple, and I’ll give it away here: wine is tasty, you drink the wine that tastes good to you, and you try not to drink the stuff that doesn’t. Ignore all the stuff about 100-point scales and notes of fig and persimmon; what you want to know is “does this wine taste like something I want to drink?”
Wine shouldn’t be this snobby, exclusive experience, argues Asimov. It should be a drink that gives pleasure, like it was for thousands of years (although wine is much more delicious now). He talks about the perils of wine tastings, especially blind tastings (dismissed as a party trick), and of trusting critics (including himself) — taste is a subjective thing, after all.
Despite the title, this isn’t a manual. (Heck, I gave away the secret two paragraphs ago.) It’s a combination memoir of Asimov’s life (especially related to wine and the Times) and a few chapters on wine itself, and why the wine culture in the US misses the point. It won’t tell you how to discern the difference between a 1920 Chateauneuf-de-Pape and a 2006 Brother Thelonious (except that the latter is a beer), but he will tell you how to learn about wine in your own home, on your own time, preferably with friends and a good dinner.
A quick read; recommended for those who think they might love wine, but are scared to make a wrong decision.