It’s that time of year, and yes, I have to pen some wisdom on Thanksgiving wine pairings for my day job next week, like many another ink-stained wretch. (My advice here: Get a three-liter box of Big House White and tell everybody to quit their bitchin’.)
Anyway, it’s surprising how often wine writers tackle the same topic within a short stretch of time. Sometimes it’s seasonal, sometimes it’s because we get the same samples and use them as a story peg, and often it’s because there simply aren’t that many topics to tackle.
But in many cases it’s because some of us think alike, about wine or life or something that seems interesting at a given time. And even in a wide-web world, we cannot be concerned if someone notices what might appear to be a “stolen” idea.
For example, I write a week out at the paper, and last month I had finished a column on drinking white wines in autumn when I came across something on that exact subject at Palate Press or Zester Daily or some other online mag. The only plausible response, in my view: C’est la guerre. Life is too short to worry about whether someone gets the notion that I’m pilfering story ideas, especially in a newspaper job where I often plan columns a month or more out. Trust me, or don’t.
But I must admit to being very, very pleased when reading the early portions of Eric Asimov’s fabulous new book, “How to Love Wine,” as he enumerates so many thoughts that he and I happen to share. I’ve always admired his work and came to admire the man (fun and funny, insightful and utterly without pretension) during too-brief encounters at a couple of Wine Writers’ Symposiums in Napa.
And certainly my writing and approach to wine have been influenced by his, but I was surprised at the confluence of our views in thie book. Before I encountered Eric’s work, I started hammering home a point he makes here: “The single most important thing one can do if one wants good bottles with dinner is to make friends with a smart salesperson at a good wine shop.”
On the rare occasions when I am asked to give talks about wine, the first words out of my mouth are “Wine asks nothing of us. We can delve into it to whatever degree we choose.” Eric, not surprisingly, says it much more eloquently:
“Wine still causes a sense of dread and suspicion. Nowadays it is often directed inward … More than anything else, the single thought many people confess is that they don’t have what it takes to enjoy wine … This sense of obligation and anxiety is the single biggest obstacle to deriving pleasure from wine. … Nobody is obliged to know anything about wine.”
And again, even more forcefully: “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. By overemphasizing the knowledge required to appreciate wine, our culture neglects the emotion necessary to love it. … Our culture tends to lecture instead of letting the wine in the glass do the talking.
“Pleasure is, after all, the primary purpose of wine … those added elements of wonder, of history and culture, of complexity and conviviality, are most available when wine can be enjoyed with ease.”
Forget about writing like that. I’m just happy that I think like that.