I picked this book up in the pre-Christmas self-gifting spree and, as I mentioned, am glad I did. I have followed Eric Asimov for sometime probably starting with some of his studies of beer styles that, at the time, were hailed as something of a break through for good beer. Not that I always agreed with him but following his writing has helped my appreciation of wine - especially his tackling of specific and perhaps under appreciated sorts of wine like sherry. In the book, a manifesto backed up by autobiography, he extends my appreciation by identifying themes and preferences all of which may be summed up in this brief passage at page 119:
I've become a firm adherent of the notice that wine is for drinking, not tasting. Only by drinking, swallowing, savoring, and returning to a wine, and repeating the process over time, can one really get a full and complete idea of what's in a bottle and what the wine is all about. A taste is fine if you believe that understanding a bottle consists of writing down impressions of aromas and flavors. It's like buying music over the Internet - if a fifteen-second snippet offered everything you needed to know, why pay for the whole song.
When was the last time you read beer writing like that. Focus on the complete idea of what's in the bottle? No reference to being a pal of the wine maker or how it fits into a structure of styles? A fluid first approach to appreciation. What is the proper route to thinking about good beer or any good stuff? Is there such a thing? I'd argue not. So, why limit examinations about approaches to appreciation to just beer? Here is what I am starting to think. If you love beer but don't explore wine, you have failed yourself. You have failed yourself in the same way that you would if you sought to learn about all good beer but didn't want to eat every vegetable in the produce section or turned your nose up at fish or blue cheese. If you don't know any wine writers by name, here is a start. But just a start.
More than that, how about taking on a small project of trying wines or spirits... or maybe nuts and cheeses as an adjunct to your interest in good beer. Or just a sort of wine. Since I have been trying various lower cost dry sparking wines like Spanish cava I have come to a point where I think of them a lot like the drier sorts of saison. I have also come to think of lightly sweeter wine like you find in a German spätlese is a good reference point to appreciate some of the implications of residual malt in a beer world a bit mad with hop acid. It's all the knowledge so why not? Is it any different from knowing about your local cheeses, meats, breads, or garden produce? Not to mention if you are this sort of foodie.
Wine v. beer? Why bother fighting when wine and beer offers a much broader, more interesting range of flavours. Me, I am going to focus on a few things but one will be the fact that I live very near a wine region that is taking off and that offers many more options than an hour and a half's drive for good beer does. See, as I mentioned last summer, my local beverage is in large part actually wine. And there's some pretty good stuff over there in Prince Edward County. Expect a few more posts on local wine in 2013. How about you? What is worth writing about in addition to good beer near you?