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Eric Asimov Explains How to Love Wine

Former Austinite says wine is accessible to everyone
Margaret Shugart, 12:35pm, Tue. Dec. 4, 2012
photo by Blake Grey

"Wine is earthy. It’s got blood. It’s got guts. It’s rock and roll.” So says Eric Asimov, University of Texas graduate and now chief wine critic for The New York Times. He was in Austin last week, sharing wine from the Austin Wine Merchant and stories from his new book, How to Love Wine.

The book, part memoir, part cultural exploration and part expert knowledge, delves into the world of American wine, and its associated anxieties. Asimov opened his talk at BookPeople with stories of readers coming to him with wine woes, like they would confide in a therapist. “You know the descriptions in the tasting notes? I try, but I don’t get all of those things when I taste a wine. Something must be wrong with me.” In his gentle, affable style he explained how these repeated encounters started his journey to think and talk about wine differently.

According to Asimov, how a wine tastes, how you experience it, is deeply connected to culture, community, and context. “Whether you’ve had that wine during the course of a very exciting date, or after a horrible break up, will determine your impression of the bottle,” Asimov said. “You have to develop the emotional connections first, as you would with anything in your life.”

Throughout the book, Eric weaves stories of his own life and journey with wine. He read an excerpt about the first great bottle of wine he ever bought – a 1955 La Mission Haut-Brion, to be shared with his parents on their 30th wedding anniversary. He decanted it with a flashlight and they drank out of bistro style glasses, paired with his mother’s homemade lamb chops. The bottle was great because it was a first-growth Bordeaux, but it was also great because of the context, and the way it spurred sentiments of his family’s history and his parents’ lives together. This, Asimov explains, is how we come to love wine, and why it is accessible to everyone, not just professionals or those versed in tasting notes.

He closed the reading with a question and answer period, sharing some about his life here in Austin and his love for the town. When asked what one single activity eases one’s anxiety towards wine most, he responded, “Exposure. Not just tasting wine, but really drinking. You have to get out there and practice.”

Guest blogger Margaret Shugart is enthusiastic about wine and cycling.

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