Eric Asimov on Wine

06/02/2015 03:52 pm ET | Updated Jun 02, 2016

I inadvertently stumbled upon How to Love Wine by Eric Asimov and am very glad that I did. Quite appropriately, the book's subtitle says it's "a memoir and manifesto." Asimov is the chief wine critic of the New York Times. (He has also written on food.)

This is a refreshing and unpretentious book. As Asimov notes early on:

It bears repeating: The primary purpose of wine is to provide pleasure and refreshment.

Asimov goes into some detail about the anxiety surrounding wine in the book's first chapter, something he empathizes with.

My purpose in writing this book is to try to reorder this equation, to reorient our thinking about wine so that pleasure comes first - that is, first the pleasure of enjoying the wine, then, if you are so inclined, the pleasure of learning about it. Over time I've developed a response for the many people who tell me with embarrassment that they aren't equipped to understand wine, or who feel as if they are unable to penetrate what they imagine to be an exclusive wine culture. I say to them: Nobody is obliged to like wine.

Asimov is from New York and originally thought he wanted to be an academic. He did graduate work at the University of Texas at Austin and then went to work for The Chicago Sun-Times. He later landed at The New York Times, although initially he had no plans to be penning columns on wine for the paper.

Readers won't gain deep knowledge about the nuances of wine in this book, but that's not Asimov's intention. The book succeeds largely because it's so accessible; it's educational and engaging, though never ostentatious.

I wish I had discovered this book in 2012, the year it was published. I had heard of Asimov, but don't remember ever reading his work. I enjoy wine and am interested in learning more, although I rarely read articles on the subject. On occasion, I'll read one of Jancis Robinson's pieces in The Financial Times. Or I might find something of interest in the weekend edition of The Wall Street Journal.

From now on, I'll be keeping an eye out for future pieces on wine by Asimov and others. And who knows? I may even start scribbling a few notes of my own.