“Instead of a joy,” writes Eric the Red (Eric Asimov) in his newly released “memoir and manifesto,” How to Love Wine, “for many people wine has become a burden.”
“The United States,” he observes, “has become the largest single consumer of wine on the planet, yet what’s missing in many people’s experience of wine is a simple sense of ease. Instead, choosing a wine becomes an exercise in anxiety. 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.”
(His column last week for The New York Times, also addresses this phenomenon and the misunderstood role of the sommelier.)
As I read Eric’s new book over the weekend, I couldn’t stop thinking about how our generation (he’s my eldest brother’s age) is the first American generation to approach wine in demotic terms.
Like him, I grew up in a Jewish household where wine was considered a luxury (if it was considered at all). He notes his (our) parents were among the first American generation who could afford to travel to Europe. They went made a first trip in 1971: “Perhaps most interesting of all to them, they ate in French restaurants and drank wine.” (Around the same time, my parents went to Russia and drank vodka.)
He talks about drinking “bland and boring” beer and smoking weed in high school and college, not “turn[ing] up my nose at the sort of things that typically found their way to dormitory parties back then.”
And then, in 1982, while a grad student in Austin, Texas, an epiphany is delivered by an $8 bottle of Giacomo Conterno Barbera d’Alba (my epiphany bottle was a literally homegrown Sangiovese in Montalcino in 1989).
The parallels in our lives are uncanny as they are common among our generation. (For our mutual friend Alice Feiring, another one of my favorite wine writers, it was a bottle of Nebbiolo in 1980; the fact that we’re all Slavic Jews and the role that Italian wine has played are also unheimlich.)
As Georgia P played with her toys on the floor and I devoured Eric’s book, I realized that she will grow up in an America that is aware (and self-aware) of its application of wine. And I also thought deeply about how our generation’s “anxiety” in approaching wine is probably what has fueled the enoblogosphere’s explosion, the vitriol that often sullies the discusion of wine, and the joy that so many of us find in the wine blogging community.
I plan to write a proper review of the book for the Houston Press.
In the meantime, I highly recommend it to you.
O, and why is Eric called “Eric the Red” here on my blog, you ask?
He took the name himself inspired by my brush with Dany Le Rouge.