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General Blog

Book Review- The Pleasures of Wine, By Gerald Asher


It must be difficult to write a wine book. There will be a number of strategies to approach the task to ensure success. As an avid reader of wine-themed books, I enjoy those which are written with authority on a topical subject. Authors with a particular passion for something that is new or unusual also capture many people’s interest. There are those that are written with great detail and a wide scope, so that they become essential references. And of course books written in a saucy or unconventional style or controversial stance will create a lot of attention. This is because the core subject matters of wine have been covered thoroughly over the years. Readers don’t really need to take on something that is a rehash of a subject dealt with many times over.

However, there is much to be said for writing that is elegant, sensitive and thought-provoking in the most gentle way. Such writing is timeless and can be read many times over without fear of being bored or finding it tiresome. Hugh Johnson is arguably the most well-known for this style. Gerald Asher is another writer who can do this. His book ‘The Pleasures of Wine’ is really a collection of selected essays put together in a volume that captures the true essence of wine, with is wonderful tastes, compatibility with food, its remarkable diversity, and the fascinating individuals who grow it and make it.

Gerald Asher - A Wine Authority
The author, born in London in 1932 began his wine career as a merchant eventually relocating to the U.S., settling in San Francisco in 1974 where he continued his success in the classic wine importing business. There, he became fully immersed in the wine culture, and made his name as a champion of Californian wine. Becoming a respected authority, he began writing about wine, and he has published a number of books, but is better known as the wine editor of ‘Gourmet’ magazine, a position he held for three decades until 2002, but continuing to contribute articles until the magazine ceased in 2009. Asher continues to write to this day.

‘The Pleasures of Wine’ is a collection of his essays, over 30, which cover the famous and classics, such as Corton Burgundy, Ducru Beaucaillou Bordeaux and Cote-Rotie. But he also has words on the more common and accessible such as Beaujolais Nouveau and Soave. Asher is not afraid to investigate the rare and individual such as Priorato and Franconia. There are a number of essays on Californian wine, and forays into Chile and Armagnac. What comes through in his writings on all of these subjects is his depth and breadth of knowledge. He has all the detail, but presents it sensitively, and in the right amount and at the right time. So the reader is drawn into the subject, deeper and deeper until they are at the heart of the matter. Readers will gain a true feeling about the facets of the subjects he expounds.

The author shows his upbringing and total immersion in wine with his expertise at wine and food experiences and matching, and often recounts meals at great restaurants, as well as good honest fare prepared and cooked at homes. His final essay ‘Simple Pleasures’ tells of how wine fits into his passions of life, and how simple it all really is. Many of the essays have a moral to the story, and generally entice you to have your own experiences, which need not be excessively expensive or hard to achieve.

While the book was published in 2002, and some of the detail and facts have changed, the essays and the book captures the spirit of excitement, interest and civility that wine can bring to one’s life. His writing style is truly elegant and graceful and a joy to read. It will suit novices and connoisseurs alike. I enjoyed it and will no doubt enjoy it many times over!

The Pleasures of Wine, By Gerald Asher
Chronicle Books LLC, San Francisco, California, 2002, ISBN 0-8118-3497-2
RRP USD$29.90
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