“Never assume a damn thing. Especially not the received wisdom about places you have not visited, people you have not met, wines you have not tried.” It’s not every day that we get to interview The New York Times’ chief wine critic, and Eric Asimov was as candid and delightful as ever.
What’s your favourite place in the entire world to enjoy a glass of wine?
Eric Asimov: If not right here in New York City with my wife and dear friends, the Sonoma Coast near Timber Cove is just about my favorite place in the world. But honestly, any place where you are with good friends and good food is a great place for a glass of wine.
If you were to mentor someone just starting out in the industry, what piece of advice would you give them?
EA: If you are asking about the wine-writing/journalism industry:
A. Make sure you love wine and love writing about it.
B. Never assume a damn thing.
C. Especially not the received wisdom about places you have not visited, people you have not met, wines you have not tried.
D. Question everything.
E. Do not try to establish your bona fides by being negative or cynical, or by staking out unexpected positions simply to draw attention to yourself. Legitimate enthusiasm is powerful.
F. Be as honest as you can be, but do not mistake your own opinions for facts.
G. Remember above all that, although you may often be in the company of people in the wine trade and the wealthy collectors that surround them, you are not one of them. Your responsibility is to your readers and to the truth, as far as you can make it out to be, not to the wine industry, nor to people with whom you may be friendly. If you are not comfortable with a bit of distance, this may not be the right job for you.
What do you believe to be some of the most pressing challenges in the industry’s near future? How could we go about solving them?
EA: Climate change, obviously, which requires a global effort to counter, though the wine industry can take on more of a leadership role. Sexism, racism and classism are often unacknowledged in the wine industry. As a start, we need far greater efforts to diversify both the industry and the audience for wine.
And which trends are here to stay?
EA: While the pendulum will always move, I think we do recognize that good wine in general is balanced, subtle and classical rather than exaggerated. I think we also recognize that the best agricultural methods are those that are both the kindest to the earth and that most resemble age-old practices, even if these methods are now facilitated by technology. And, though the number of natural wine producers and natural wines will always be small, their influence has been huge in raising awareness of egregious industrial practices both in the vineyard and in the winery.
What do you work towards in your free time?
EA: I’m trying to write a book. I should be working on that right now!
How did you first fall in love with wine?
EA: I fell in love with food and with anything that helped me to eat better and more pleasurably, which led directly to wine.
If wine wasn’t your career of choice, what would you be doing?
EA: Just to be clear, my career is not wine but journalism. If I weren’t writing about wine – and I am fully aware of how privileged I am to be doing so – I would be writing about something else, whether politics, sports, music, books or film. Or maybe playing guitar in a band.
Which fellow speaker are you looking forward to hearing from the most at MUST 2019?
EA: It’s a wonderful lineup of speakers, and I don’t want to single out just one. But I enjoy hearing Felicity Carter speak about anything; Rui Falcão, Pedro Ballesteros and Pedro Parra are brilliant in multiple languages; Simon Woolf wrote a great book on orange wines, and Paul Mabray will no doubt have unexpected things to say about the wine industry.
We hope you’ll join Eric Asimov and other 16 world-class speakers at the third edition of MUST – Fermenting Ideas, happening June 26th-28th in Cascais, Portugal.