Take Two for December 10, 2012

New York Times writer Eric Asimov on 'How To Love Wine'

An employee serves Italian red wine at a

ALBERTO PIZZOLI/AFP/Getty Images

An employee serves Italian red wine at a counter of the Eataly food emporium on June 12, 2012 in Rome. The huge 17000 square meter Italian food and wine market, which is part of the international 'slow food' movement with branches in Japan and new York, will open its doors on June 21.

Eric Asimov's book "How To Love Wine: A Memoir And Manifesto"

William Morrow

Cover of Eric Asimov's book "How To Love Wine: A Memoir And Manifesto."


There are few jobs more enviable than being chief wine writer for the New York Times. Eric Asimov is the lucky guy who holds that position, and he shares his musings on the wine life in a new book, "How to Love Wine: A Memoir and a Manifesto." He joins the show to discuss the book and offer some insight into picking holiday wines.

Eric Asimov believes that there is a misconception about the glamorous image of wine drinkers. As wine writer for the New York Times, Asimov finds that culture predetermines that you be either a snob or a drunk if you are concerned about wine and its successive culture. According to Asimov, most people assume that he should be, “an older, plumper, more red-faced person, and they’re surprised when I don’t fit their image.”

Wine tasters and drinkers seeking out Asimov’s advice began expressing their ineptitude when faced with the challenge of interpreting wine as wine critics and connoisseurs often do. Asimov claims that it was a hindrance for people to choose wine, to drink, and essentially to enjoy it.

“It really began to bother me, because wine is, at its base, its just meant to offer pleasure,” said Asimov. “It can do a lot more than that, but it should do no less.”

He explained that people often spend a lot of money on wine, and therefore feel that they have to be able to describe the wine like a true expert. But trying to nail down a particular set of aromas and flavors in one singular score as a sort of rating system is actually misinterpreting the intention of wine.

“It is a disservice to consumers to reduce good wines to a set of esoteric aromas and flavors, which really tell you nothing about the wine but tell you about the creativity and the personal references of the critic,” said Asimov. The experience of wine is shaped not only by one’s own personal sensory experience, but additionally the context; by the glass shape, the people one is with, the  food accompaniment, the weather, and even the mood of the environment.

However, there is a reason we have and need scores for wine. “[It’s] a way of making sense of this, you know, great, mysterious wall of wines and brands that we’ve never heard of and of languages that we don’t speak,” said Asimov. He mentions that a wine store clerks and sommeliers at restaurants can be great sources that are at everyone’s disposal and are eager to help people discover good wines.

Asimov cites Sicily, Santorini, and California as the most exciting wine producers currently in the market, adding that “This is the greatest time in history to be a wine lover, because there is a greater diversity of wines, in more styles, from more places than ever before.”

How To Love Wine, Chapter 1.


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