20 October 2012

Weekend Cooking: How to Love Wine by Eric Asimov

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It's no secret that I love wine and that Mr. BFR and I drink a glass almost every night. Am I a wine expert? Not even close. Do I know something about wine? Maybe a little bit. So what do I know? I know what I like.

I imagine that at this point you're probably recalling that old art joke. Fortunately, Eric Asimov, wine writer for the New York Times, just might back me up. In his memoir, How to Love Wine, Asimov reassures us that, when it comes to wine, the most important thing is personal taste.

Asimov laments:
Many people have come to believe that they cannot enjoy wine unless they are already knowledgeable, and so deny themselves the pleasurable experiences that would allow them to gain confidence. Instead of a joy, for many people wine has become a burden. (p. 3).
How to Love Wine is not a buying guide, nor does it contain a checklist of the top ten wines to have in your cellar. Instead, Eric Asimov talks about how he went from beer-drinking teen to chief wine critic for the New York Times. (By the way, he is quick to point out that not only is he the chief wine critic but he's the only wine critic and has no staff.)

In this enjoyable and personal story, Asimov shares his opinion on a variety of wine-related topics, such as wine regions, wine vocabulary, blind tastings, growers, writers, and reviewers. His style is casual, easy to read, and never snooty.

In a nutshell, Asimov asserts that learning to love wine is a matter of experience and individual preferences. He suggests that we try a variety of wines, write down which ones we like and why, and go forth and try some more. If you're lucky enough not to live in my state of Pennsylvania, Asimov recommends another terrific avenue. Find a good wine store where the staff is respectful and knowledgeable. Ask them to make up a mixed case within your budget, and go home and drink. Create, as Asimov calls it, your own home wine school.

Of course, Asimov has plenty of other advice and is free with his opinions about the current wine culture. He also talks about his education, his travels, and his early days as a journalist. Two of my favorite parts of the memoir were his thoughts about wine tastings and ratings and his discussion of what he calls the "arc of discovery" along the path to wine appreciation.

If you're like most people, you've been intimidated by wine at least at some point. Thank goodness for chief wine critic Eric Asimov. In How to Love Wine, he reminds us that
no special physical characteristics or equipment are required to love wine. . . . You simply require an open mind, a sense of curiosity, and an awareness that learning about wine is an act of volition, not of obligation. The aim is pleasure and joy, not status, not connoisseurship, and certainly not wealth. (p. 11)

The truth is that wine can be one of the simplest pleasures available to anybody: Pour beverage into glass, drink, enjoy. That's 90 percent of it right there! Anybody can do that, right? (p. 127)
Pick up a bottle--red or white, sweet or dry--pour a glass, and settle in with Asimov's "memoir and manifesto." You'll quickly become a fan of Asimov's while gaining a newfound wine confidence.

Buy How to Love Wine at an Indie or at bookstore near you. This link leads to an affiliate program.
Published by HarperCollins / William Morrow, 2012
ISBN-13: 9780061802522
Rating: B+
Source: Review (see review policy)
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)


bermudaonion 10/20/12, 6:16 AM  

My mom's a wine drinker but I'm trying to learn about beer. I do love memoirs, though, and this sounds really good. It sounds like Asimov is an interesting fellow.

jama 10/20/12, 6:35 AM  

This book sounds very accessible and as you say, not "snooty." I'd like to learn more about wine and this might just be the ticket. :)

Uniflame 10/20/12, 7:08 AM  

I tasted different wines but I never much liked it. I even avoid it in dishes, because even if they say the alcohol evaporates, I always taste it.

I do like some type of meads though. I absolutely love cherry mead.

Sandy Nawrot 10/20/12, 7:20 AM  

I think a lot of people find wine intimidating because they don't know anything about it and the industry has made it into this huge thing. This guy gives great advice...drink what you like. I found that after our first trip to Napa, our opinions and knowledge about wine just exploded. Going to tastings at local wine shops is a great experience too, if you like and trust them.

Lisa (Southern Girl Reads) 10/20/12, 7:31 AM  

Several years ago I began learning about wine and discovered how interesting it wine can be. This book sounds terrific and would make a great gift for wine lovers!

Carol @ Always Thyme to Cook 10/20/12, 7:45 AM  

I know nothing about wine, but like you I know what I like. And I have no problem tasting :) I'd enjoy learning a bit more.

Cecelia 10/20/12, 8:44 AM  

I enjoy a good glass of wine, but I don't think I'll ever become a wine lover. That sort of passion and study and effort is (in my case) reserved for beers. The book sounds interesting regardless, and I know that it would make a perfect gift for a couple of my relatives.

Amanda 10/20/12, 8:53 AM  

I've never really been able to get into wine. There was one, once, that I enjoyed, that a guest of ours from Hungary brought with him, but even when I say "enjoyed," that means I could drink a few sips.

Christine 10/20/12, 9:25 AM  

I love to experiment with different wines to find out what I like. I'm very spoiled to have a Trader Joe's in my neighborhood, so I like to buy cheap wines (under $10) with eye-catching labels and let me tell you... I have found a lot of hits in that price range! It's nice being the chief wine critic of my kitchen.. but I admit I do get a tad bit nervous bringing wine to dinner with friends, especially if they are more experienced with wine.

JoAnn 10/20/12, 9:33 AM  

We love wine, too, and have it every night with dinner. Although far from experts, we know what we like. This book would be a great Christmas gift for my husband!

Too Fond 10/20/12, 9:37 AM  

I love a good glass of wine, and I've become much more confident of my choices as I've gotten older. I definitely know what I like, although I don't think I necessarily have an "appreciation" for wine, because many of the more expensive wines are not necessarily to my taste. I'm the same way with beer, though--I want one that is pleasurable to drink more than just to taste.

Anonymous,  10/20/12, 9:47 AM  

I enjoy wine quite a bit but don't have very expensive taste. I can easily enjoy a $10 bottle and can't really tell much of a difference between that and a more expensive one. I like what I like! I think I'd enjoy this memoir quite a bit.

Esme 10/20/12, 10:13 AM  

I am not a huge fan of alcohol period-I wish I enjoyed wine more as I do think it would be fun to do pairings with food.

Have you ever read The Billionaire's Vinegar?

Patty 10/20/12, 11:41 AM  

sorry, teetotaler here, I have to admit I buy wine looking at their labels...

caite 10/20/12, 11:47 AM  

I am not a great wine lover, honestly liking beer more.
But I think you have to remember it is all about what you like, what tastes good to you and not take it too seriously.

Joanna Hennon 10/20/12, 11:54 AM  

I absolutely love wine, especially red, but know nothing about it... I know what I like and that's enough for me. I've been to a few snooty tastings and they annoy me. Especially when people spit the wine out!! :-) Sounds like a fun book, a normal one in a world of wine snobs. Will get it!

Linda 10/20/12, 12:12 PM  

I know very little about wine and just buy what looks good. Sometimes that's it works out, sometimes not. I'll have to keep an eye out for this one.

Tina 10/20/12, 12:22 PM  

I love wine.........should have married it :-) I actually have a tab of mini weekend wine reviews on my blog I love wine so much!
Sounds like a great book.

Heidenkind 10/20/12, 3:32 PM  

I can't drink much wine anymore because it bothers my stomach, but I totally agree that figuring out what you like is just a matter of trying different wines. A lot people also think wine has to be expensive, but you can get a decent bottle of wine for $10 or less. One of the best wines I've ever tried was a bottle of French table wine that was on sale for $4.

That being said, paying $70 for a bottle of Veuve Clicquot is totally worth it. :)

Fay 10/20/12, 3:34 PM  

Knowing more about wine would make me a better cook. No doubt. Some of my recipes are just as good as the wine they contain.

Carole 10/20/12, 6:46 PM  

Thanks - I am going to look out for this book. I have linked in a pizza today. thanks for hosting yet another great party.

Peaceful Reader 10/20/12, 6:51 PM  

I'm laughing cuz my first thought is I don't need a book to inspire a love of wine for me! The book does sound interesting and I agree with the notion that medium priced wines can be delightful.

Heather S-G 10/20/12, 7:18 PM  

I'm putting this on my wishlist, sounds like a something I'd enjoy. I used to try to get to know the wine terms, etc...but in the end, I just wound up enjoying instead of studying. I am still very interested in wine and its specifics, but yes...I likes what I likes. (Did that make any sense?)

Joy Weese Moll 10/21/12, 12:00 AM  

My nephew's in the wine business. Now I know what to get for his birthday next month -- thanks!

Chinoiseries 10/21/12, 9:20 AM  

I like how the author aims to spread the joy of wine, without a high-brow attitude. We're not big wine drinkers here, but whenever we do buy wine, it's at a local specialty store, not at the supermarket. I prefer a specialist to give me advice on beer and wine alike :)

Les 10/21/12, 9:37 AM  

I used to only drink beer, but over the past decade or so, I've grown to love a good Cabernet or Zin (not pink!) and have one or two glasses every night. I agree with the author. You just have to try a variety to learn what you like. Sounds like a good book for anyone who enjoys wine.

Julie P. 10/21/12, 1:18 PM  

I really don't know much about wine except what I like and don't like. That might be enough! LOL!

Sue Jackson 10/21/12, 4:47 PM  

Sounds like a fun and reasonable approach to wine that everyone can appreciate! I like wine, too, but alas, can no longer drink alcohol because of my illness. I enjoy little sips of whatever my husband is having, though! Sounds like a greta book.


Book By Book

Robin M 10/24/12, 12:53 AM  

Sounds like a book I need to read!

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