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The Best Bits from Eric Asimov's Visit to Heritage Radio

The most recent episode of the Heritage Radio Network's half-hour radio documentary series Evolutionaries features Eric Asimov candidly talking about his experiences writing about wine for the Times. Here are a few lines from the ever-quotable wine critic himself:

On his first booze-journalism assignments:

I thought, "What can I write about that nobody else is covering?" So the first few pieces I did in the mid-eighties were on beer in New York. And this was just as the craft brewing phenomenon was taking hold?in 1985 it was big news that Samuel Adams, this startup in Boston that had won an award at the Great American Beer Festival, still a new competition, was going to be available in New York. I wrote about that and I wrote about draft beer — people always used to say draft beer was better than bottled beer, and yet it was always so bad. Why was this? That was investigative journalism. Homebrewers and things like that.

On starting the 25-and-Under column:

There was this tremendous buildup of interest in [inexpensive restaurants], and the attitude at the Times was always, "Well, we have a restaurant critic, we cannot dilute the critical voice of the New York Times." Which always seemed ridiculous, because they had three people reviewing books and four people reviewing movies, and Bryan Miller can't be everywhere. So, eventually, I always thought because of the competition from the other newspapers, they agreed, and somehow they picked me to do it.
On his mission for wine writing:
My job is to help people think about wine, and think about it, in a sense, as a cultural expression, the way you might think of art or architecture or movies or books. It's a little bit different because it's a consumable product that's not there tomorrow, but in many ways it still is an expression of people, place, heritage, history, and there's a lot more to understanding wine than simply, "Should I buy this sauvignon blanc or that one with my 12 dollars?"
On just enjoying wine:
One of the things that I believe about wine is that to really get to know it you have to drink it, you can't just taste it.?I see a lot of people who keep track of all the wines they've had and they keep a master list that they check off?and I always wonder: What is the motivation for that? Is it to feel that you understand these many different expressions of wine, or is it just to claim that you've had it? And to claim that you've had it is completely uninteresting to me, and I don't really see why it's interesting to anybody else. It's a collector mentality. It's, "I've opened this bottle, I've tasted it, now let's move on to the next one. I've been to the airport in Detroit, therefore I've been to Michigan, I never have to go back."
· Evolutionaries — Episode 13 - Eric Asimov [Heritage Radio]

— Peter Henry
[Photo: Heritage Radio]

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