Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

For Tipplers

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

For Tipplers

Article excerpt

Byline: Andrew Neather

FOR SOME years it has been an axiom of much wine writing that it should strip away wine "snobbery". Which is fine -- yet great wine, especially, is complicated. It's hard to write about it in an intelligent way that's accessible to someone who knows almost nothing.

The New York Times' wine critic Eric Asimov makes a good fist of it in How to Love Wine: A Memoir and Manifesto (William Morrow, [pounds sterling]16.99). Asimov aims his writing at the "21st-century connoisseur" -- keen on wine yet not a wine geek or, heaven forfend, a wine snob.

Many of his criticisms of the industry are on target. He slams huge press tastings (of course no one can taste properly after 100-plus wines). He cheerfully admits to getting blind tastings totally wrong (I've seen extremely senior wine folk do the same). And he pokes fun at ludicrous food matching, such as the Californian pinot grigio that one critic advised pairing with "barely seared albacore with green zebra tomato salsa". But in the end I liked Asimov's book most because of his honesty, gently self-deprecating humour and fascinating journalistic autobiography: he is a journalist first and a critic second.

US critic Jay McInerney is a very different writer. His latest collection of wine pieces, The Juice: Vinous Veritas (Bloomsbury, [pounds sterling]14.99), is culled from the Wall Street Journal and elsewhere over the past few years (annoyingly, it doesn't say when they were first published). But while he sometimes assumes more knowledge than Asimov, his writing is most notable for its self-consciously hip tone: this is the author of Bright Lights, Big City, the zeitgeisty New York-set 1984 novel.

Thus of one iconic champagne he writes: "If Dom Perignon is the Porsche 911 Carrera of the wine world, then DP rose is the 911 Turbo." He's better on wine personalities but his ageing-hipster take on the wine itself grates again and again.

I'd rather critics wrote about wine in plainer terms, even if it bores the wine geeks. …

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