On the heels of The New York Times Book of Wine, which includes a collection of his writings since his appointment as chief wine critic for the celebrated newspaper in 2004, Eric Asimov brings us a more personal tale of his relationship to wine. How to Love Wine: A Memoir and Manifesto chronicles the journey of a newspaperman who once authored a beer column for his high school paper, from working a hard news beat in the smoke-filled newsrooms of the 1980s to a full-time career writing about wine. Buttressed by biographic interludes, including escapades at Austin barbecue joints and other memorable meals, the book’s central focus is his grievances regarding the contemporary American approach to wine: the critic-consumer relationship, the rating process and his proclaimed primary offender, the tasting note. Asimov believes that wine should be understood for the experience that it provides— that of pleasure and enjoyment—rather than objectified. Though the author’s day job is, in part, based in the flawed system he disparages, his utopian view of what wine culture could be is well worth a read.His regular-guy approach to wine may mollify many an anxiety about choosing the so-called right bottle, but mostly, it suggests that innate knowledge, skills or extensive coursework are not prerequisites to connoisseurship. It’s simply a matter of pursuing interest through tasting, context and culture.
Reviewed in W&S December 2012.