I’ve had this book ‘waiting in-line’ for a while now, but what a lovely introduction to the writings of Gerald Asher it is. Although the book was published only last year, the vast majority of the short essays were originally published in the 1980s and ’90s when Asher was a ‘house writer’ for the magazine Gourmet. Largely the text is in the original form and then post-scripted by ‘x is now owned by y‘ updates, only the very last entry hails from recent times – a piece on ‘Rutherford’ which was originally published in the World of Fine Wine in 2010.
Enclosed within the book’s 260 pages are 27 essays, split into three subject areas: France, Other European Wine Regions and California. I found a languid, easy writing style, though occasionally trying to fit too much into a sentence – I’m far from immune to that! The content is easy to dip into as even the individual essays have easy stopping-off points, so this is the perfect book to leave lying around the house or have in a travel bag. Personally I took the most pleasure from the last section on California; a fascinating if, in Europe (at least), much overlooked region – I learned a lot.
I have only one criticism; the format of the book leaves little room for exploring what the author has learned or how his perceptions have changed in the (often) twenty years since he wrote the original pieces – I’m sure that would have been as fascinating as the original words themselves!
I’ll leave you with a couple of snippets to whet your appetite:
- “There was a time when weekly shipments to the bars and cafés of Paris absorbed much of the production, but that demand seems to have disappeared along with the Art Nouveau décor to which a glass of Vouvray, it must be admitted, once added a shimmering dimension. Vouvray is a period wine with an intrinsic style that is not always in accord with present sensibilities. A white wine that needs a modicum of sweetness to be in balance and some age to show its quality meets resistance when the first duties of a modern white wine are to be dry and young”
- “In fact, Dry Creek Valley Cabernet Sauvignons remind me of Médoc wines in the once-upon-a-time before it became fashionable to edge Bordeaux closer to the engagingly forward fruit and blaze of flavour we normally expect of California Cabernets. If I’m saying that Dry Creek Cabernet Sauvignons are not typical of California, that might be why I have felt particularly at ease with Pedroncelli’s Cabernet Sauvignon when I first arrived, my palate still attuned to the more restrained style of European wines.”
Dry Creek Valley, 1990