Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The New York Times Book Of Wine

For 40 years, The New York Times has been running a weekly wine column and the current Chief Wine Critic is Eric Asimov. During those 40 years, the newspaper has accumulated quite a voluminous collection of wine writing, ranging across an incredibly broad section of topics. For example, in July 2010, Asimov even wrote a column on Sake. You now have the opportunity to read a collection of some of these NY Times wine articles in a new book which is likely to be a popular gift choice for wine lovers during the upcoming holiday season.

I recently received a review copy of The New York Times Book of Wine: More Than 30 Years of Vintage Writing, edited by Howard G. Goldberg (Sterling Epicure, August 2012, $24.95). It is a 574 page, hardcover book with a selection of over 125 articles, written by about 28 different authors. Eric Asimov and Frank J. Prial have contributed the most amount of articles to the book. Quite a hefty tome at a very reasonable price.

Howard Goldberg was an editor at the New York Times from 1970-2004, and also wrote about wine for them starting in the mid-1980s. He currently writes the Long Island Vines column, which discusses and reviews the wines of Long Island, New York. He has four articles of his own in this book.

The book is organized into 15 chapters, by subject matter, though the content of each chapter varies from a single article to as many as 27. The two largest chapters include Chapter 8-You're Feeling Continental? This Is For You (European wines) and Chapter 4-What You Drink With What You Eat (food/wine pairing advice with recipes). Articles about French wines occupy about half of Chapter 8, but you will also find coverage of Italy, Spain, Germany, Hungary and more. I was especially pleased to see so much coverage given to food and wine pairings, which I think can help show people that food and wine should be considered a natural accompaniment.

Chapter 7-Made In the USA is about half the size of Chapter 8 and nearly every article deals with California. Fortunately, you will find information on other US wines, such as Washington and Oregon, in different chapters. There is plenty of diversity in general within the book, with chapters on wine writing, sweet wines, sparkling wine, restaurants and much more. It is not a collection of boring tasting notes but rather many thoughtful pieces on a great range of wine topics such as Spanish Sherry, the Japanese Koshu grape, serving alcohol to your children, Txakolina, Madeira, and natural winemaking. A plethora of compelling articles.

This is a book to slowly savor, to sample in any order you please. You can start by reading the articles about the topics which most interest you. There is a good index which will help you determine which articles pertain to the subjects you prefer. Over time though, I recommend you branch out, to try new topics and see what you think. You might find a new favorite. Wine lovers should be adventurous and that is how to approach this book, with an open mind, willing to explore new territory.

You will find plenty of opinions in these articles, but you won't find much pretension. These are articles that everyone can enjoy, from those new to wine to the knowledgeable wine geeks. These articles will educate and entertain, and may even getting you thinking about wine in different ways. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys wine.


1winedude said...

I appreciate your view on this book, but I actually found it... this is hard to express... almost like a money-grabbing ploy.

The writing is excellent, no doubt. But nothing has been edited for context; for example, some articles refer to what were then current events, and refer to them in relative timeframes, without any editor's notes to put it into perspective, and all that context is just lost.

So in some ways I got the impression that this book was a collection thrown together. A collection of great writing, no doubt, but to be a truly great collection I think it needs better curation.

Richard Auffrey said...

Hi Joe:
Thanks for your thoughts. At the end of each article, there is the date when it was published so a reader can gain some understanding of the context.

Did you want something like footnotes, where the editor explains those past events? I am not sure how helpful that would be as how many really really read footnotes?

Can you give me an example of an article that suffers because of those current events references?

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