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United States

    Me

    Eric Asimov is The Times’s wine critic.

    I’m not a wine or food writer who tries to convince you that my job is far more difficult and unpleasant than you can imagine. I have no patience with that. How many people have the privilege of immersing themselves in what they care most deeply and passionately about?

    Since I was a teenager, I’ve been fascinated by eating and drinking, and, by extension, ingredients and cooking. In the most enlightened households and cultures, wine belongs on the table as part of a meal. It’s a staple, like bread, rice, potatoes or salt, and this is the basis of how I understand wine.

    Of course, wine can be so much more. Like food, wine has a social role to play. It brings people together. It can increase happiness, amplify a sense of well-being and even comfort sadness. By evoking these simple social and emotional responses, wine can be said to have a spiritual component.

    Wine is also a global commodity with ups and downs that reflect the state of the wine-drinking world’s economy. It runs the gamut from mass production to artisanal craftsmanship, and so offers insight at every level to successes and failures in human organization, determination and vision. The wine business, from agriculture to winemaking to sales and education, is rich with powerful personalities.

    Beyond this, wine offers culture and connoisseurship, while touching on art and philosophy. At its highest level, wine can bewitch and bewilder, transfix and inspire. Each year, new books about wine pour forth, with no end in sight, discussing and describing a beverage while using language that paradoxically struggles to articulate its appeal.

    Scientists are discovering that wine can be physically beneficial. Yet wine can be dangerous, too, and out-of-control consumption can be a menace. How societies balance the benefits and the dangers of alcohol is the subject of constant revealing debate.

    I find wine endlessly engaging – beer and spirits, too. Yet I don’t think of myself as a connoisseur – at least, not in the way the term is generally used to indicate a stuffy concern with old and expensive wines. Good wines all have their role, especially humble, everyday wines. Great wines occupy an exalted place because of the discussions they provoke and the context they provide, but they can never overshadow the daily pleasures of a good bottle.

    From grape to glass, wine is a wonderfully expansive topic. It hurts me to see it reduced so often to tasting notes, those comically over-specific efforts to capture aromas and flavors in a phrase. If you want to know whether a wine smells more like guava or jackfruit, I’m afraid I’m not your guy. Frankly, wine is greater and more interesting than that.

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