How to Love Wine- A book review

 I met Eric Assimov at a wine shop in Durham several weeks ago. 

How to Love Wine by Eric Assimov
He is the Chief Wine Critic for the New York Times and was signing copies of his new book How to Love Wine.
Having joined the wine industry about four years ago, I am always interested in a literate and intelligent explanation of wine that is connected to the true joy and pleasure of tasting. Coming from a food background, the language of wine and all of its eccentricities can be as tainted as an old cork. Eric tells a beautiful story about falling in love with wine one variety at a time.

Toasting a wonderful memoir 
I read his book on my return trip from The Unified Wine and Grape Symposium that is held in Sacramento each year. It is the leading North American wine trade show. 

Eric and I share a lot in common so it makes the words even tastier as he serves them up in his memoir. Both he and I are Jewish and roughly the same age. We both were raised in loving homes as he describes in his book. He talks about summer camp in New England although not the same Camp Winadu I attended. He matriculated at Wesleyan college which was my first choice although I was rejected in 1972. (I went to The University of Pennsyvania) He writes about many of the landmark cultural icons that I admire from Charlie Mingus to Calvin Trillin. Best of all, he learned to cook from his mom which is similar to my own culinary education.

He talks about wine in such an unassuming way that it really makes me even more excited to taste and explore my own preferences. One quote from the book asserts,

“Wine is for drinking, not for tasting”.

He rails against the urge to use obscure tasting notes that dissect a wine in a clinical way that forgets it is something to enjoy. In comparing three tasting notes of different experts drinking the same wine, he illustrates how absurd things have gotten when experts argue over an essence of fig paste versus a fig preserve. His discussion on the Parkerization of wine- where critics, following in the style of Robert Parker ascribe a number to a wine as if anyone can distinguish a 92 from a 93.  

He talks about Gary Vaynerchuk and others who have helped bring some new vitality into the industry by knocking down wine from its pedestal and bringing it down to earth. I know Gary as he spoke at a conference I organized for the wine marketing industry about two years ago and Gary's store Wine Library is in my hometown of Springfield, New Jersey. Where Gary is over the top in pure New Jersey style- Eric is a calm and steady advocate for the joy of wine and simple pleasure of tasting.  

Throughout the book, he urges you to taste and enjoy a wine with food like you enjoy a painting. Don't worry about the technical details embedded in the canvas; instead drink it all in as a pleasurable experience. Eric's direct writing style isn't layered and complex like a first growth grand cru- instead it is clear and crisp like the wines I love to enjoy.

Wine should be a discovery
I appreciate someone with a very developed sensory ability but Eric’s key idea is to buy wine, drink it and learn through exploration what you like. Don’t look to the experts to give you clues since they are more likely drinking wines that you will rarely taste.  So many great wines can be enjoyed between $10 and $20 that he suggests getting help from a good local wine store to fill a case and over time, enjoy the wine with food. 

Take notes on what you like and don’t like. Then go back to the shop and explore some more as if you are on the hunt for new treasures. Maybe you find you love Bordeaux from France or Albarinos from Spain; get a case to try and start looking at your own taste buds for a guide through the wine universe. What a great journey. If you are passionate about food, wine and discovery, I urge you to read How to Love Wine by Eric Assimov.

Drink in the wonderful language describing a vintage journey. 

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